This beautiful Arkansas city of over 35,000 is known for a plethora of things to do, from a peaceful soak in mineral hot springs to a leisurely hike in the nearby national park. However, the city has a not-so-quiet past with a deep history, including Babe Ruth and Al Capone.
Hot Springs is the birthplace of springtime baseball, with a historic presence of America’s favorite pastime. Visitors can stand at home plate where Ruth hit her historic 573-foot circuit. The ball landed inside the Arkansas Alligator Farm and was the first shot over 500 feet in baseball history, occurring on March 17, 1918.
Ruth wasn’t the only player with a Hot Springs record as Boston Red Sox pitcher Smoky Joe Wood on March 28, 1913, pitched five scoreless innings at famed Whittington Park against the Pirates. He retired Honus Wagner twice in that game.
Baseball history began in Hot Springs as a spring training destination in 1886, when manager Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs) took his team to a warmer climate for training. . The players spent time in the mineral waters of the mountain. It was believed that the hot springs would boil alcoholic germs in players while also getting them in shape for the season. They also hiked the mountains and played baseball.
Other teams began to follow in the footsteps of White Stockings training at Hot Springs. Although the famous Whittington Park no longer exists, visitors to the Hot Springs Baseball Trail can stand where The Babe and other famous players once stood. You can see the remains of the stands where fans would watch these historic players. The white plaque that marks the spot where Ruth hit her historic circuit is in a parking lot.
It’s easy to follow the baseball track by downloading the app. In the App Store or Google Play, search for “Hot Springs baseball tour” and begin your journey through the beginnings of baseball. Visit hotspringsbaseballtrail.com.
Hot Springs, the city known as America’s premier beach resort, was also where the most infamous gangsters came to relax and vacation. It’s hard to believe walking down the historic central avenue that it was the mecca of gambling, smuggling and prostitution in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. At that time, the street was lined with clubs like the Southern Club and the Ohio Club. The Ohio Club continues to be Arkansas’ oldest bar. The Southern Club is now the wax museum and features many artifacts from the club’s gaming history. These are two of the places where many have left their mark, including Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bugs Moran, and Bonnie and Clyde.
The Gangster Museum of America is a great place to learn about the era of illegal acts and gangster visits. The visit is entertaining and steeped in history. Visitors will walk through a variety of galleries to hear the stories and experience high-tech audiovisuals in the Felony Theater. Take a spin on the Southern Club roulette wheel and enjoy memories of the Hot Springs gangster era. Visit tgmoa.com.
The Arlington hotel also offers a history of these days. This is where Capone’s suite is located, where he stayed on his visits to town. It overlooks the action on Central Avenue and the hot springs. An exhibition of memorabilia and the history of the hotel can be found in the lobby. The Arlington Hotel has hosted activities, big balls, politicians, actors, gangsters, sports legends and more. Visit arlingtonhotel.com/history.
Hot Springs is found in the Ouachita Mountains and is widely known for its healing springs and Hot Springs National Park. For more information on places to stay, eat and more, visit hotsprings.org.