Yale University Athletics announced on Monday, April 19, that historic Yale Field, which has hosted the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams, will be named George H.W. Bush ’48 Field in honor of one its most accomplished alumni, George Herbert Walker Bush, who captained the Yale baseball team in his senior season. An in-person field dedication ceremony will take place when health and safety protocols allow.
The forthcoming naming ceremony will feature Yale University President Peter Salovey and Victoria M. “Vicky” Chun, Thomas A. Beckett Director of Athletics. Yale leadership will be joined by and will recognize all former Yale baseball student-athletes in attendance. The day will welcome all current and former student-athletes, families, friends and fans of Yale.
“It is fitting that Yale will honor President George H.W. Bush in this way,” said Salovey. “He was a distinguished student-athlete at Yale, and he remained a supporter of Yale athletics and was a champion of student-veterans throughout his life. He exemplified dignified service and leadership to this country. His legacy will continue to inspire generations of students at Yale.”
In conjunction with the field dedication, Yale is renaming the baseball clubhouse “Jim Neil ’76 Clubhouse,” recognizing the generosity of Nikki Zollar and Bill Von Hoene ’76 in honor of Bill’s teammate and best friend Jim Neil.
“George H.W. Bush is synonymous with Yale Baseball and Yale Athletics. It is truly fitting that our baseball field be named after one of our greatest student-athletes and 41st U.S. President,” said Chun. “President Bush is a wonderful example of what Yale student-athletes are capable of, and his name on our field will inspire current and future Bulldogs for years to come. I would also like to thank the Nikki Zollar and Bill Von Hoene families for their gift to honor Jim Neil.”
Bush started his Eli career as a first baseman in 1945, after serving his country as a naval aviator during World War II — the youngest in the U.S. at that time. After remarkable service to his country, he returned to the baseball diamond and the classrooms of Yale.
He went on to earn a degree in economics in less than three years, and was elected captain of the baseball team in his senior season. Bush helped his teams to two College World Series, in 1947 and 1948.
After graduation, Bush began working in the Texas oil business, and, in 1966, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, launching his career in public service. He served as ambassador to the United Nations and to China, and then as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Under President Ronald Reagan, he served two terms as vice president. In 1988, Bush was elected the 41st President of the United States.
Bush always remained staunch in his support of Yale. In 2017, less than a year before his death, he welcomed the baseball team, fresh off an Ivy League Championship and a program-record 34 wins, to his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. He presented presidential pins to the team.
Yale Field, once an apple orchard and farm, was purchased by Yale in 1882 and turned into a playing surface at the turn of the 20th century. In 1927, Yale began construction of a true stadium, which housed 12,000 fans and held its first game in 1928. Most of that original grandstand stood in its original form until 1993, when Yale began a renovation that year.
The Yale ball field is no stranger to legends, as Major League Baseball teams played in New Haven just before Bush’s tenure during World War II. All-time greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams have all made appearances.
In addition to play at Yale Field, Ruth also visited in 1948 to present a copy of his autobiography to then-captain George Bush. It was one of the Babe’s last public appearances.
Bush Field Renovation
Over the past year, a major project was completed at Bush Field to restore and recreate the exterior facade of the building. The goal was to reinstate the original look and intention of the historic stadium while also completing repairs to stabilize the exterior. In addition to the major exterior transformation, interior renovations took place to upgrade team storage areas, stadium signage and restrooms. These renovations have reestablished Bush Field as a great home for Yale Baseball for years to come.