Venetian Gardens (Pat Thomas Park)

Leesburg Florida

Leesburg Lightning
Former  Gondoliers / Anglers / Packers
Pirates / Braves
A's / Dodgers
When Venetian Gardens made its debut in 1937, the ballpark was immediately ushered into the Florida State League which had re-opened its doors a year earlier after an 8 year absence. The league which already included Daytona Beach’s eventually to be named Jackie Robinson Stadium, Deland’s Conrad Field, Gainesville’s Harris Field, Palatka’s Azalea Bowl, Sanford’s Memorial Stadium and St. Augustine’s Lewis Park, welcomed Leesburg’s Venetian Gardens and Orlando’s Tinker Field as its two new expansion franchises. Though half the league would hold Major League affiliations, this era of Venetian Gardens would not… operating instead as a co-op team. The first team to call this home would be named the Leesburg Gondoliers. They would last for 2 seasons and be quite successful. In 1937, they would land in 4th place with a 71-67 record and make the playoffs behind the incredible pitching performance of Jake Bunch who posted an amazing 23-10 record, pitching over 300 innings and finishing with a stellar 1.59 ERA. Johnny Beazley (4-3, 3.97) looked to be Leesburg’s first future superstar as he would go to the St. Louis and by his 2nd year… post an amazing 22-6 record for the Cardinals. Unfortunately timing was not on his side. That 22-6 record occurred in 1942 and by 1943 he was drafted. When he finally returned to the Major Leagues with the Cardinals after the war, he was never able to come close to regaining his 22 win form. The 4th place 1937 Gondoliers would lose within the 1st round, ending their playoff hopes.