Posts Tagged ‘American Association’

Ocala’s Gerig Field – A Former Spring Training Minor League Gem

November 29th, 2015

Gerig Field was located in what is now the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Complex, located at 1510 NW 4th Street in Ocala, Florida. The ballpark was constructed  in 1936 at a cost of approximately $100,000 with funds from the Works Progress Administration. Gerig Field was named in honor of John Jacob Gerig, the then-mayor of Ocala who was instrumental in gaining the funding needed to construct the ballpark.

Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

At the time of its construction, Gerig Field was part of a sports complex known as Recreation Park, which also included softball and football fields. Recreation Park was built on the former site of the Ocala Fairgrounds. The land where Gerig Field was constructed had been a transient camp established on the fairgrounds during the Great Depression.

Infield, Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Infield, Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

In July 1993, the grandstand was demolished. However, the field remains at the site to this day.

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

The American Association Milwaukee Brewers were the first professional baseball team to make Gerig Field their spring training home, training there from 1939 to 1941. The Texas League Tulsa Oilers (a Chicago Cubs affiliate) trained there also in 1940 and 1941. Both teams ceased operations in Ocala once the country entered World War II. In 1940 and 1941, the Ocala Yearlings of the Florida State League played their home games at Gerig Field.

Entrance to Baseball Fiels at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, Former Site of Gerig Field

Entrance to Baseball Fiels at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, Former Site of Gerig Field

After World War II, baseball returned to Gerig Field in 1948 with the arrival of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons. At that time the Barons were an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Thus began a 23 year affiliation between the Red Sox and Ocala, Florida. As an example, in 1958, the Red Sox brought the following minor league affiliates to train at Gerig: the Southern Association Memphis Chicks (short for Chickasaws), the Eastern League Allentown Red Sox, the Carolina League Raleigh Capitals, the Midwest League Waterloo Hawks, and the New York- Pennsylvania League Corning Red Sox. In 1953, the Barons became an affiliate of the New York Yankees and in 1957 an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. At the request of the Red Sox, the Barons ceased training at Gerig Field after the 1959 spring season.

Detail of Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

Detail of Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

During the time that the minor league Red Sox were training in Ocala, the major league team trained at Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida (through 1958), Scottsdale, Arizona (1959 to 1965), and Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida (beginning in 1966). The Red Sox’s minor league clubs continued to train in Ocala until 1971, when the organization moved its entire minor league operation to Chain of Lakes Park. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who played for the Raleigh Capitals in 1958, was one of the many Red Sox farm hands to train at Gerig Field.

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

An adjoining practice field – known now as Pinkney Woodbury Field – remains at the site. Pinkney Woodbury was a Ocala resident and community activist who encouraged the construction of youth playgrounds and athletic fields in the western section of Ocala.

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Former Spring Training Practice Field Adjacent to Gerig Field

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Former Spring Training Practice Field Adjacent to Gerig Field

Surrounding Pinkney Woodbury Field along the first and third base lines is a white painted fence built of Ocala limerock that is original to the spring training site.

Ocala Limerock Fence Located along the Third Base Side of Pinkney Woodbury Field in Ocala, Florida

Ocala Limerock Fence Located along the Third Base Side of Pinkney Woodbury Field in Ocala, Florida

The limerock fence that parallels the first base side of Pinkney Woodbury Field is a remnant of Gerig Field, as it a portion of the fence that ran along the ballpark’s left field foul line.

Gerig Field's Right Field Foul Line Fence Constructed of Ocala Limerock

Gerig Field’s Limerock That Ran Along the Left Field Foul Line

When first constructed, limestone fence once encircled perimeters of both Gerig Field and the adjacent practice field (Pinkney Woodbury Field). The portion of the fence that remains at the site terminates just beyond Pinkney Woodbury Field’s  first base and third base grandstands.

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone  Fence, Third Base Grandstand,  Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone Fence, Third Base Grandstand, Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone  Fence, Third Base Grandstand,  Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone Fence, First Base Grandstand, Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field, like Gerig Field, is a throwback to early Florida ballpark construction.

Main Entrance Gate, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Main Entrance Gate, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

The first base and third base grandstands at Pinkney Woodbury Field match the limerock fence that surrounds the field.

Third Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Third Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field also includes a distinctive concrete concession stand located behind home plate.

Concession Stand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Concession Stand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Covered, concrete block dugouts sit just beyond the first and third base grandstands.

Third Base Dugout, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Third Base Dugout, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field is used for local school teams, as well as youth baseball leagues.

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Scoreboard, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Scoreboard, Ocala, Florida

The building that once housed the Gerig Field’s player clubhouse also remains at the site.

Building That  Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Building That Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

The clubhouse was located in the left field corner of Gerig Field. The limestone fence once intersected the northern most side of clubhouse.

Building That  Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Building That Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

In 2010, the former clubhouse was renovated and is now used as a Senior Activity Center.

Plaque Dedicating Former Gerig Field Player Clubhouse as the Barbara Gaskin Washington Senior Advisory Center.

Plaque Dedicating Former Gerig Field Player Clubhouse as the Barbara Gaskin Washington Senior Activity Center.

Although Gerig Field is long gone, the site is still very much worth a visit for fans of the history of the game. The ball field where many former major league and minor league players once trained remains at the site. Likewise, Pinkney Woodbury Field is a wonderful gem that harkens back to early days of Florida spring training.

Center Field Fence Looking Toward Infield, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Center Field Fence Looking Toward Infield, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

For more information about the history of Gerig Field and baseball in Ocala, Florida, be sure to read the excellent article by Carlos Medina on ocala.com, from which much of the factual information for this blog was obtained.

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Posted in Florida ballparks, Gerig Field | Comments (0)

Bears And Mile High Stadium in Denver CO

August 18th, 2015

Bears Stadium was located at 2755 West 17th Avenue, in Denver, Colorado. Constructed in 1947, the ballpark was the home of the Western Association Denver Bears beginning in 1948. From 1949 to 1951, the Bears were an affiliate of the Boston Braves, and from 1952 to 1954, they were an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1955, the Bears joined the American Association, where the team remained through the 1992 season, with the exception of 1963 to 1968 when the team played in the Pacific League.

Bears Stadium, Denver, Colorado (Postcard Dexter Press Inc., Published by Sanborn Souvenir Co.)

Bears Stadium, Denver, Colorado (Postcard Dexter Press Inc., Published by Sanborn Souvenir Co.)

The team’s major league affiliation changed every few years, beginning with the New York Yankees from 1956 to 1958, the Detroit Tigers from 1960 to 1962, the Milwaukee Braves from 1963 to 1964, the Minnesota Twins from 1965 to 1969, the Washington Senators from 1970 to 1971, the Texas Rangers in 1972 and 1982, the Houston Astros from 1973 to 1974, the Chicago White Sox in 1975 and from 1983 to 1984, the Montreal Expos from 1976 to 1981, the Cincinnati Reds from 1986 to 1987, and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1988 to 1992. In 1984, the team changed its name to the Denver Zephyrs in honor of a passenger train of the same name that ran between Chicago, Illinois, and Denver, Colorado, beginning in the 1930s. In 1993, with the arrival of the Major League Colorado Rockies, the Zephyrs moved to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Aerial Photo of Mile High Stadium With Denver, Colorado in Background (Postcard Sanborn Souvenir Co., Made by Kina Italia, Photo by William P. Sanborn)

Aerial Photo of Mile High Stadium With Denver, Colorado in Background (Postcard Sanborn Souvenir Co., Made by Kina Italia, Photo by William P. Sanborn)

Beginning in 1960 the ballpark was expanded with additional bleacher seating to house fans of the American Football League Denver Broncos.

Mile High Stadium Configured for Baseball (Postcard Plastichrome, Distributed by G.R. Dickson)

Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado,  Configured for Baseball (Postcard Plastichrome, Distributed by G.R. Dickson)

In 1968, the City of Denver purchased the ballpark, added portions of an upper deck, and renamed the venue Mile High Stadium. In 1970, the Broncos joined the National Football League. Additional seats were added during the 1970s, including a section in left field that could be moved to accommodate either baseball or football.

Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado (Postcard by Plastichrome, Distributed by G.R. Dickson Co.)

Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado (Postcard by Plastichrome, Distributed by G.R. Dickson Co.)

In 1993, the MLB expansion Colorado Rockies began play at Mile High Stadium. That season the Rockies set the all-time MLB home attendance record of 4,483,350.

Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, Circa 1998

Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, Circa 1998

In 1996, the Rockies moved two miles northeast of Mile High Stadium to the newly constructed Coors Field, leaving the Broncos as the sole permanent tenant of Mile High Stadium.

Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, Circa 1998

Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, Circa 1998

The Broncos played at Mile High Stadium through the 2000 season. In 2001 the team moved to newly constructed Invesco Field at Mile High, which was built adjacent to Mile High Stadium, directly to the south.

Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High, Located South of Former Site of Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High, Located South of Former Site of Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

In 2012, the football stadium was renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Former Site, Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Colorado Sports Hall of Fame at Sports Authority Field, Former Site, Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

A plaque located in the north parking lot of Sports Authority Field commemorates the history of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium.

Plaque Honoring Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Plaque Honoring Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Placed there by the Society for American Baseball Research and the Colorado Rockies, the plaque reads:

“As you look to the north from this spot you are viewing the land upon which stood Bears Stadium. From 1948 to 1994, it was the home of professional baseball in Denver. The Denver Bears (later renamed the Zephyrs in 1985) played at Bears Stadium (later renamed Mile High Stadium) through 1992. When Major League Baseball arrived in Denver in 1993, Mile High Stadium housed the Colorado Rockies for two seasons until Coors Field was completed in 1995. The precise location of home plate is indicated by a commemorative landmark approximately 500 ft. to the north of this plaque.”

Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Former Site of Home Plate, Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

A grass berm sits along the north and west side of the parking lot. That area is where the first and third base grandstand of Bears Stadium once stood.

Former Site of Center Field, Looking Towards Home Plate, Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Former Site of Center Field, Looking Towards Home Plate, Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

One additional landmark at the site is the former Hotel VQ, which is located at 1975 Mile High Stadium Circle just beyond the former site of left field. Built in 1982, the building is being converted to micro apartments.

Hotel VQ, Located Beyond Former Site of Left Field, Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Hotel VQ, Located Beyond Former Site of Left Field, Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

For almost half a century, baseball was played in what is now the north parking lot of Stadium Authority Field. Thanks to SABR and the Colorado Rockies, the site is well marked and certainly worth a visit. Many thanks to Jason Papka for providing the recent pictures of the site.

Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Former Site of Bears Stadium and Mile High Stadium, Located Just South of Downtown Denver, Colorado

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Toledo’s Swayne Field And Its Century-Old Outfield Wall

May 8th, 2015

Swayne Field was located at the intersection of Monroe Street and Detroit Avenue in Toledo, Ohio. The ballpark opened on July 3, 1909, as the home of the American Association Toledo Mud Hens. The ballpark was named after Noah Swayne, Jr., who purchased the land for the ballpark and leased it to the team.

Postcard “Toledo Ball Park, Toledo, Ohio” (Published by Harry N. Hamm, Toledo, Ohio)

Toledo’s American Association franchise played at Swayne Field through the 1955 season, with the exception of 1914 and 1915 when the team relocated to Cleveland and played at League Park to keep the Federal League from establishing a team in that city. As a replacement for the city baseball fans, the Southern Michigan League Mud Hens played at Swayne Field in 1914.

Toledo’s team was known primarily as the Mud Hens, although the team changed names twice, beginning with the Toledo Iron Men from 1916 to 1918 and the Toledo Sox from 1952 to 1955. Many great ballplayers passed through  future Hall of Famer Casey Stengel who managed the team from 1926 to 1931.

Swayne Field Postcard (Publisher not stated)

Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio, Showing 12,000 Interested Baseball Fans (No Postcard Publisher Stated)

Negro League baseball was played at Swayne Field, including the Negro National League Toledo Tigers in 1923, the Negro American League Toledo Crawfords in 1939 (featuring future Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston), and the United States League Toledo Cubs in 1945 (featuring future Hall of Famer Norman “Turkey” Stearnes). Swayne Field also was the site of many Negro League exhibition games over the years.

Professional Football also was played at Swayne Field. The Ohio League Toledo Maroons played at Swayne Field from 1909 to 1921 and the National Football League Toledo Maroons played there in 1923.

"Wayne Field Base Ball Park Toledo Ohio" Postcard With Error in Name (Published by Boutelle, Toledo, Ohio)

“Wayne Field Base Ball Park Toledo Ohio” Postcard With Error in Name (Published by Boutelle, Toledo, Ohio)

The ballpark was demolished in 1956 to make way for Swayne Field Shopping Center and what was then the largest Kroger store store in the country.

Location of FIrst Base Grandstand, Infield, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Save-A-Lot Grocery Store, Former Koger Store and Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

A McDonald’s Restaurant sits in the former site of right field, just as a different McDonald’s sits in the former site of left field at Baltimore’s old American League Park. St. Ann’s Catholic Church is visible behind Swayne Field’s former right field corner, just as a different St. Ann’s Catholic Church is visible a few blocks from Baltimore’s old American League Park.

Former Site of Right Field, Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Former Site of Right Field, Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

The building that comprises the Swayne Field Shopping Center is located in what was once left and center field.

Location of Left Field Grandstand, Left Field, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Location of Left and Center, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Home plate and the grandstand behind home plate was located mid block on Monroe Street between Detroit Street and former Toledo Terminal Railroad tracks. A Sherwin-Williams store now marks the spot.

Location of Infield Looking Toward Home Plate, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Location of Infield Looking Toward Home Plate, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

First base ran parallel to Monroe Street. Some of the buildings dating to the time of Swayne Field remain near the site on Monroe Street.

Center Field Looking Toward First Base Foul Line, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Center Field Looking Toward First Base Foul Line, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Most remarkable, however, is that a portion of Swayne Field’s original concrete wall remains at the site.

Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner From Detroit Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner From Detroit Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

The concrete wall once enclosed the the ballpark along Detroit Street (the first base foul line) around to Council Street (left and center field).

Swayne Field Opening Day 1909 (Bryan Postcard Company, Bryan, Ohio)

Swayne Field Opening Day 1909 (Bryan Postcard Company, Bryan, Ohio)

The portion of the wall that remains today was once part of the left center field wall, and is located behind the shopping center, parallel to Council Street.

Original Outfield Wall, Center Field, Intersection of Detroit Street and Council Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Concrete Outfield Wall at Intersection of Detroit Street and Council Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

The structure is over one hundred years old and in desperate need of repair.

Hole In Original Left Field Wall (Looking Toward Council Street) Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Hole In Original Left Field Wall (Looking Toward Council Street) Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

How historically significant is the Swayne Field wall? As an actual ballpark relic, the Swayne Field wall is one year older than both Rickwood Field, the oldest former professional ballpark still standing, which opened in August 1910, and the 1910 renovation of League Park in Cleveland (League Park’s ticket house may date to 1909). The wall is three years older than Fenway Park, the oldest Major League ballpark still standing, which opened in 1912. The wall is five years older than the somewhat famous Washington Park Wall, a relic of Brooklyn’s Federal League Tip Tops ballpark, which was constructed in 1914, and Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, home for the Federal League Chicago Whales. The wall is six years older both Bosse Field, the third oldest professional ballpark still in continuous use, built in 1915, and the remnants of Braves Field, which opened in 1915. Athough Forbes Field was constructed in 1909, the same year as Swayne Field, the outfield wall that remains at the Forbes Field site was built in 1946.

Brooklyn's Washington Park Wall, A Relic of the Federal League Brooklyn Tip Tops, Built in 1914

Brooklyn’s Washington Park Wall, A Relic of the Federal League Brooklyn Tip Tops, Built in 1914 (photo circa 2006, note: a portion of the wall has since been demolished)

All that is left of the Swayne Field wall closest to the left field corner are some of the concrete pillars.

Concrete Pillars From Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Center Field, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Concrete Pillars From Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Center Field, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Concrete Pillars of Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Concrete Pillars of Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Out beyond what was once the left field corner is a brick building that dates back to the time of Swayne Field and is now Burkett Restaurant Supply.

Industrial Building (Currently Burkett Restaurant Supply), Beyond Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Industrial Building (Currently Burkett Restaurant Supply), Beyond Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

After Swayne Field was demolished, Toledo was without a minor league affiliate from 1956 to 1964. In 1965, the Mud Hens returned to the area, playing in what was then called Lucas County Stadium, a converted race track at the Lucas County Fairgrounds, ten miles southwest of Swayne Field in Maumee, Ohio. Lucas County Stadium was subsequently renamed Ned Skeldon Stadium after the person  who helped bring minor  league baseball back to the Toledo area.

Ned Skeldon Stadium, Toledo, Ohio

Ned Skeldon Stadium, Toledo, Ohio

In 2003 the Toledo Mud Hens left Ned Skeldon Stadium and returned to downtown Toledo, playing in brand new Fifth Third Field located just two miles southeast of the Swayne Field site.

Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio, Home Of The Toledo Mud Hens

Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio, Home Of The Toledo Mud Hens

On the Fifth Third Field club level is a display dedicated to the memory of Swayne Field.

Swayne Field Display, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

Swayne Field Display, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

Included in the display is a piece of the original Swayne Field Wall.

Swayne Field Display, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

Swayne Field Display With Piece of Original , Outfield Wall, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

If you are a fan of the game and the history of baseball, a stop at Swayne Field Shopping Center is a must, if for no other reason than to see a ballpark relic that is over one hundred years old. There are not many professional baseball stadium structures in the United States older than the Swayne Field wall. The portion that remains is located at the corner of Detroit Street and Council Street.

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Posted in Ohio ballparks, Swayne Field | Comments (1)

Bush Stadium Apartments – There’s No Place Like Home

April 17th, 2015

Bush Stadium was located at 1510 Stadium Way, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Constructed in 1931, the ballpark originally was known as Perry Stadium, named after the family responsible for its construction.

Entrance to Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Entrance to Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1942, the ballpark was renamed Victory Field in recognition of the country’s entrance into World War II. In 1967 the City of Indianapolis purchased the ballpark and renamed it Owen J. Bush Stadium, in honor of Donnie Bush, a part owner and President of the Indianapolis Indians, as well as a former major league player and Indianapolis native.

"Entrance to Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana" Postcard (Craft Greeting Card Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, Publishers)

“Entrance to Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana” Postcard (Craft Greeting Card Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, Publishers)

The ballpark was constructed by Osborne Engineering, an architectural and engineering firm responsible for designing many major league ballparks. In 1995, because of its cultural significance and its Art Deco design, Bush Stadium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Stadium Flats, Bush Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Stadium Flats, Bush Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

The ballpark was the home of the American Association Indianapolis Indians from 1931 to 1962, and from 1969 to 1996. In 1963, the ballpark was the home of the International League Indianapolis Indians, and from 1964 to 1986 it was the home of the Pacific Coast League Indianapolis Indians.

View of Former Bush Stadium Infield and Grandstand, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

View of Former Bush Stadium Infield and Grandstand, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Bush Stadium also hosted many seasons of Negro Leagues baseball. According to Philip Lowery’s Green Cathedrals, the ballpark was the home field of the Negro National League Indianapolis ABC’s in 1931, the Negro Southern League Indianapolis ABC’s in 1932, the Negro American League (NAL) Indianapolis Athletics in 1937, the NAL in 1938 and 1939, the NAL Indianapolis Crawfords in 1940, the NAL Indianapolis Clowns in 1944 and 1946 to 1955, and the NAL Kansas City Monarchs from 1957 to 1961. In 1933 the ballpark was used as a neutral site for the Negro National League Chicago Cole’s American Giants and in 1943 the Washington-Homestead Grays and the NAL Birmingham Black Barons played game five of the Negro World Series at the stadium.

Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1987, Bush Stadium was used as the backdrop for the filming of the movie Eight Men Out.

Cast of the movie Eight Men Out (Photo by  Bob Marsak, Still Photographer on Eight Men Out)

Cast of the movie Eight Men Out (Photo by Bob Marsak, Still Photographer on Eight Men Out)

Bush Stadium Postcard (designed and published by Vic Pallos)

Bush Stadium Postcard (designed and published by Vic Pallos)

In July 1996, the Indians moved two miles southeast to Victory Field, located in White River State Park near downtown Indianapolis.

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Like Bush Stadium in it’s day, Victory Field is considered one of the finest minor league ballparks in the country.

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Like so many abandoned ballparks before it, once Bush Stadium’s major tenant departed, the future did not look bright. For a time Bush Stadium was transformed into a midget car dirt track raceway and later a parking lot for the United States Government’s Cash for Clunkers program.

Fiew of Former Grandstand, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

View of Former Grandstand, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Luckily for fans of the game, the City of Indianapolis, and some concerned citizens, spearheaded an effort to save the ballpark from demolition through re-purposing.

Signs Located at Former Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Signs Located at Former Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 2011, the City embarked upon a project to turn the former ballpark into an apartment complex, based upon an idea originally proposed by Indiana Landmarks Chairperson John Watson, who ultimately brought the project to fruition.

Sign at Former  Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sign at Former Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 2013, Stadium Lofts opened, followed by Stadium Flats, constructed by Core Redevelopment.

The Next Phase - Sign Showing Planned Development of Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Next Phase – Sign Showing Planned Development of Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Portions of the stadium’s exterior brick and limestone wall, and the grandstand wood roof, have been preserved, along with light stanchions and a portion of the outfield wall.

Exterior of Center Field Wall at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Exterior of Center Field Wall at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Exterior of Outfield Wall, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Exterior of Outfield Wall, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Light Stanchions, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Light Stanchions, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In the former center field corner is slated to be constructed a building with office, medical, and commercial space.

Interior of Outfield Wall at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Interior of Outfield Wall, Right Field Corner, at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Bush Stadium Postcard

Bush Stadium Postcard (American GeoGraphics, Bloomington, Indiana)

Also preserved is the original infield area and a portion of the outfield. The base paths are delineated with a red stamped-concrete walkway.

View of Former Grandstand, from Left Field Corner, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

View of Former Grandstand, from Left Field Corner, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Although Bush Stadium,as it once was may now be a lost ballpark, a distinct portion of it lives on.

Scoreboard at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Scoreboard at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Kudos to the City of Indianapolis for not simply bulldozing the historic ballpark and instead coming up with a use that celebrates the stadium’s history and preserves a significant portion of the ballpark fans of the game to enjoy – or to live in (apartments range in cost from between $600 and $1,300 a month).

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Bosse Field – The Third Oldest Professional Ballpark In Continuous Use

March 30th, 2015

Bosse Field is located at 23 Don Mattingly Way in Evansville, Indiana (Don Mattingly was born in Evansville, Indiana, and attended Reitz Memorial High School). The ballpark is owned and maintained by the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, a public school corporation serving Evansville, Indiana, and Vanderburgh County.

Front Entrance to Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Front Entrance to Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

The ballpark was constructed in 1915 with the backing of Evansville’s then-Mayor Benjamin Bosse.

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Under Construction, 1915

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Under Construction, 1915

The City of Evansville rewarded the mayor’s efforts by naming the field after him.

Plaque Honoring Construction of Bosse Field, in 1915, Evansville, Indiana

Plaque Honoring Construction of Bosse Field, in 1915, Evansville, Indiana

That same season, Bosse Field began hosting professional baseball. In 1915 the ballpark was the home of the Central League Evansville River Rats.

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Exterior of First Base Grandstand

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Exterior of First Base Grandstand

Bosse Field was renovated in 1930 and again in 1958. Both renovations are marked with historical plaques located just inside the front gates.

Plaque Honoring 1930 Renovation of Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Plaque Honoring 1930 Renovation of Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Plaque Honoring 1958 Renovation of Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Plaque Honoring 1958 Renovation of Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

On June 17, 2015, Bosse Field will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Exterior of Center Field Wall and Parking Lot

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Exterior of Center Field Wall and Parking Lot

In the 100 years since Bosse Field first opened, professional baseball has been played at the ballpark for 70 of the 100 seasons.

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Exterior of Left Field Wall and Third Base Grandstand

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana, Exterior of Left Field Wall and Third Base Grandstand

Bosse Field is the third oldest professional baseball stadium in continuous use in the United States. The two older professional ballparks in continuous use are Boston’s Fenway Park (opened 1912) and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (opened 1914 as Weeghman Park, home field of the Federal League Chicago Federals).  

Exterior Third Base Grand Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Exterior Third Base Grand Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, which opened in 1910, is recognized by the Historic American Building Survey as the country’s oldest surviving ballpark. However, professional baseball departed Rickwood after the 1987 season, with the exception of one day a year when the Birmingham Barons (beginning in 1996) return to Rickwood Field to play an official Southern League contest in what is known as the Rickwood Classic.

Exterior of First Base Grand Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Exterior of First Base Grand Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

The Evansville River Rats departed Bosse Field after the 1915 season and were replaced in 1916 by the Central League Evansville Evas, who played at Bosse Field through 1917. From 1919 to 1942, seven different Three-I League teams played at Bosse Field: the Evansville Black Sox in 1919, the Evansville Evas from 1920 to 1923, the Evansville Little Evas in 1924, the Evansville Pocketeers in 1925, the Evansville Hubs from 1926 to 1931, the Evansville Bees from 1938 to 1942, and the Evansville Braves from 1946 to 1957. In 1921 and 1922, Bosse Field was also home to the National Football League Evansville Crimson Giants.

Main Entrance to Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Main Entrance to Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

With the arrival of the Evansville Bees in 1938, Boston’s National League franchise (then known as the Boston Bees) began an affiliation with Bosse Field that ran for the next  two decades. After a three year absence during World War II, the Evansville Braves arrived at Bosse Field in 1946. When the Boston franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1953, the Braves continued to play in Evansville through the 1957 season.

Plaque Honoring Robert Coleman, Manager of the Evansville Braves, Circa 1954, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Plaque Honoring Robert Coleman, Manager of the Evansville Braves, Circa 1954, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Because of World War II travel restrictions, from 1943 to 1945, the Detroit Tigers relocated their spring training home from Henley Field in Lakeland, Florida, to Bosse Field.

Ticket Window , Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Ticket Window Turned Beer Concession Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

When the Evansville Braves departed after the 1957 season, Bosse Field was without a professional team until 1966 with the arrival of the Southern League Evansville White Sox, who played at Bosse Field through the 1968 season. The American Association Evansville Triplets called Bosse Field home from 1970 to 1984. The Triplets were affiliates of the Minnesota Twins in 1970, the Milwaukee Brewers from 1971 to 1973, and the Detroit Tigers from 1974 to 1984. At least three future Hall of Famers played minor league baseball for Evansville at Bosse Field, including Chuck Klein (Evansville Hubs in 1927), Hank Greenburg (Evansville Hubs in 1931), and Warren Spahn (Evansville Braves in 1941) .

Plaques Honoring History of Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Plaques Honoring History of Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Since 1995, the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League (Independent League, not affiliated with Major League Baseball) have played their home games at Bosse Field.

Concession Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Concession Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

In addtiion to being one of the oldest ballparks in the country, it is also one of the most photogenic.

Panoramic Photo of Bosse Field Taken From Third Base Grandstand, Evansville, Indiana

Panoramic Photo of Bosse Field Taken From Third Base Grandstand, Evansville, Indiana

The renovations the ballpark over the years have not destroyed in any way the 100 year old charm of Bosse Field.

Entrance to Grandstand Behind Third Base,  Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Entrance to Grandstand Behind Third Base, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

It is a wonderful park to visit, both as a piece of American history, and as a place to watch a ballgame. The ballpark has been wonderfully maintained by the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, as well as the Evansville Otters.

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

The shape of the park is reminiscent of New York’s Polo Grounds and Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.

Panoramic View of Bosse Field Taken from Third Base Grandstand, Evansville, Indiana

View of Bosse Field Taken from First Base Grandstand, Evansville, Indiana

View of Bosse Field  From Third Base Grandstand, Evansville, Indiana

View of Bosse Field From Third Base Grandstand, Evansville, Indiana

The seats located underneath the circular grandstand are made of wood. There is no plastic seating to be found anywhere within the grandstand.

View of First Base Grand Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

View of First Base Grand Stand, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

The ballpark’s foul territory is expansive, a product of the age of its design. Prior to 1938, the foul area behind home plate was even larger. That year home plate was moved closer to the grandstand.

Third Base Dugout, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Third Base Dugout, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Third Base Dugout, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Third Base Dugout, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

The bullpens are located in expansive foul territory near the left field and right field corners.

Bullpen, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Bullpen, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

The outfield dimensions are currently 315 feet down the left and right field corners and 415 feet to dead away center field, as set by an outfield fence that was installed in the early 1950s.

View of Bosse Field From Center Field, Evansville, Indiana

View of Bosse Field From Center Field, Evansville, Indiana

The outfield was once considerably larger, based upon the distance to original outfield wall, which is located some 30 to 40 beyond the current outfield fence.

Original Center Field Brick Wall, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Original Center Field Brick Wall, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

In 1991, Hollywood came to Bosse Field. The ballpark was used as the home field for the fictional Racine Belles in the movie A League of Their Own, which was released in 1992.

Press Box, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Press Box, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Remnants of that movie are scattered throughout Bosse Field in the form of painted advertising signs.

Racine Belles Signage, A League of Their Own, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Racine Belles Signage, A League of Their Own, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

A League of Their Own Signage, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

A League of Their Own Signage, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Additional remnants of the movie of include painted sectional and direction signage.

Section Directional SIgnage, A League of Their Own, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Section Directional SIgnage, A League of Their Own, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Bosse Field is a national treasurer. Although the ballpark is considerably less famous than its ballpark peers Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, it should be considered on equal footing for anyone interested in the history of ballparks in the United States.

Light Stanchion, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Light Stanchion, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

For anyone who collects ballparks, Bosse Field is a must. Here’s hoping it will be around in 2115 to celebrate its 200th anniversary.

Exit from Right Field, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

Exit from Right Field, Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana

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Fort Myer’s Terry Park – Over 100 Years of Baseball History

February 24th, 2015

Terry Park is located at 3410 Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers, Florida. The ballpark hosted major league spring training for over 50 years, from the early 1920s to the late 1980s. The earliest professional baseball activity at the site was in 1914 when the American Association Louisville Colonels held spring training on the grounds of the Fort Myers Yacht and Country Club, owned by Dr. Marshall Terry and his wife Tootie MacGregor Terry. The Colonels also played exhibition games against the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Browns that year (although the baseball field used by the Colonels was not the same field that would become Terry Park).

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 1918, Lee County began holding its annual fair on the country club property and, in 1921, Dr Terry donated to the county the land on which the country club was built. That same year the county officially named the property “Terry Park.” See Terry Park 100 Year Anniversary Book, Lee County Parks for a detailed history of the property and Terry Park. In 1923, Lee County convinced Connie Mack to bring his Philadelphia Athletics to Fort Myers for spring training. The county utilized plans provided by Mack in designing the ballpark and field, which opened in 1925. The Athletics departed Terry Park after the 1936 season. The Cleveland Indians subsequently trained at Terry Park in 1941 and 1942.

Ty Cobb, Thomas Edison, and Connie Mack at Terry Park (Photo From Collection of Edison and Ford Winter Estates)

Ty Cobb, Thomas Edison, and Connie Mack at Terry Park (Photo From the Edison and Ford Winter Estates Collection)

A fire started during an amateur baseball game destroyed Terry Park’s grandstand in 1943. In hopes of bringing Major league spring training back to Terry Park, the county and the City of Fort Myers in 1954 constructed a new 2,500 concrete and steel grandstand. In 1955 the Pittsburgh, Pirates moved their spring training to Terry Park. The Pirates departed after 1968, and the following year the Kansas City Royals made Terry Park their home. The Royals trained at Terry Park until 1987. In March 1990, the Minnesota Twins used Terry Park as the spring training grounds for its minor league players while Lee County Stadium was being built.

Terry Park Postcard "Pittsburgh Pirates WInter Home" (Lustercrome, Tichnor Bros. Boston)

Terry Park Postcard “Pittsburgh Pirates Winter Home” (Lustercrome, Tichnor Bros. Boston)

Although the baseball complex is still known today as Terry Park, the stadium itself was renamed Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium in 1972, after a local baseball enthusiast and government administrator.

Terry Park Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

During his long career of service to the City of Fort Myers, Pigott was Director of both City of Fort Myers Parks and Recreation and Lee County Parks and Recreation, as well as the Superintendent of Terry Park.

Park T. Pigott Historical Plaque, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Park T. Pigott Historical Plaque, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Pigott also was instrumental in bringing both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals to Terry Park for spring training.

Park T. Pigott Historical Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Park T. Pigott Historical Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park also was home to the Florida State League Fort Myers Palms from 1926 to 1927, and the Fort Myers Royals from 1978 to 1987. In 1989 and 1990 it was the home to the Fort Myers Sun Sox of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park includes three practice fields named after Hall of Famers who played at Terry Park for three of the teams that trained there: Connie Mack, Roberto Clemente, and George Brett.

Connie Mack Field at Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Connie Mack Field at Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Practice Field Bleachers Behind Main Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Practice Field Bleachers Behind Main Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Once professional baseball departed, Terry Park was used primarily for youth, American Legion, and high school baseball.

Outfield Wall, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Concrete Block Outfield Wall, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 1965, Terry Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, in 2004 the grandstand was demolished after Hurricane Charley damaged the structure.

Left Field Line Looking Toward Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Left Field Line Looking Toward Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Although some of the girders installed in 1955 remain, the structure bears little resemblance to the historic grandstand it replaced.

Grandstand Interior, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand Interior, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

During the 2004 renovation, the dugouts also were replaced, as well as some, if not all, of the outfield wall.

View of Grandstand from Behind First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand from Behind First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The good news is that baseball is still played at Terry Park. The stadium is used year round for amateur and college baseball.

Sign Welcoming Players to Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Sign Welcoming Players to Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In February and March each year, over 100 teams travel to Terry Park for the The Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic.

First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers boasts a proud history of major league spring training. Three other facilities nearby once held or currently hold spring training in Fort Myers. From 1993 to 2011, the Boston Red Sox held their spring training at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

Since 2012, the Red Sox have trained at Jet Blue Stadium, located in Fort Myers 14 miles southeast from City of Palms Park.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Current Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

The Minnesota Twins also train in Fort Myers, at Hammons Stadium, located just seven miles west of Jet Blue Stadium.

Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Minnesota Twins

Hammons Stadium, Fort Myers, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Minnesota Twins

If you are attending spring training at either of these stadiums in Fort Myers, take a moment to visit Terry Park as well. It is a beautiful park full of baseball history. And chances are you might catch an amateur or college game while you are there. For additional photos of Terry Park (including many vintage photos), see naplesnews.com.

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The Rockpile – Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium

January 30th, 2015

War Memorial Stadium was a multi-use sports facility located at 285 Dodge Street in Buffalo, New York. The name of the venue changed over time, from Roesch Memorial Stadium (named after former Buffalo Mayor Charles Roesch) in 1937, to Grover Cleveland Stadium (in honor of the former President, Chief Justice, and Buffalo Mayor) from 1937-38, to Civic Stadium from 1938 to 1960, and finally to War Memorial Stadium from 1960 to 1987. Although it was a stadium of many names, Buffalo residents often referred to the ballpark as “The Old Rockpile.”

Buffalo Civic Stadium (Photocrome postcard, Metrocraft, Everett MA)

Buffalo Civic Stadium (Photocrome postcard, Metrocraft, Everett MA)

The derivation of the nickname Rockpile is not readily ascertained (believe me, I looked), but  perhaps it is a reference either to the condition of the stadium in its later years or the impressive wall constructed of large stones that once surrounded portions of the stadium as well as Masten Park (located directly west of the stadium). The stone wall was once part of the boundary for Prospect Reservoir. The stadium was built on top of the former reservoir site.

Stone Wall along Masten Avenue, western boundary of Masten Park, Buffalo, New York

Stone Wall along Masten Avenue, western boundary of Masten Park, Buffalo, New York. A Similar Wall Once Surrounded Portions of War Memorial Stadium

Although the stadium was completed as a Works Project Administration initiative in 1937, it did not have a professional sports tenant until 1940 with the arrival of the American Football League Indians, who played at Civic Stadium through the 1941 season. Football returned to the stadium in 1946 with the arrival of the Buffalo Bills of the All-American Football Conference, who played at Civic Stadium through the 1949 season. The Bills returned to War Memorial Stadium in 1960 as an American Football League franchise, after the stadium underwent a major renovation. In 1970 the Bills switched to the National Football League and played through the 1972 season at War Memorial.

War Memorial Stadium (Linen Postcard, Photo by Fitzgerald)

Civic Stadium, Buffalo, New York (Linen Postcard, Photo by Fitzgerald)

Professional baseball arrived at War Memorial Stadium about the same time professional football returned to venue at the beginning of the 1960s. With the closing and demolition of Offermann Stadium after the in 1960 season, the International League Buffalo Bisons moved to War Memorial Stadium the following year. The Bisons departed War Memorial during the 1970 season when the franchise was transferred to Winnipeg. The Bisons returned to War Memorial in 1979 as an AA Eastern League franchise. In 1985, the Bisons returned to AAA status as an American Association franchise, playing three full seasons at War Memorial Stadium before departing for a new ballpark, Pilot Field, after the end of the 1987 season.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1983 baseball Hollywood style arrived at War Memorial Stadium. The ballpark used as a primary location for filming of the movie The Natural.

Movie Lobby Card Depicting Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photo copyright Tri-Star Pictures)

Movie Lobby Card Depicting Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photo copyright Tri-Star Pictures)

War Memorial Stadium’s distinctive vintage features provided an almost eerie back drop for the movie.

War Memorial Stadium (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

War Memorial Stadium (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

For additional information about the filming of The Natural at War Memorial Stadium, and at other locations in and around Buffalo, New York, see forgottenbuffalo.com.

Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photographer unknown)

Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photographer unknown)

War Memorial was demolished in 1988 and the City of Buffalo constructed in its place a youth sports complex. In 1997 the site was renamed the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion in honor of a former Buffalo resident.

Football Scoreboard at Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

Football Scoreboard at Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

Although the stadium structure is long gone, fortunately for fans of the game, the City of Buffalo preserved two of the four distinctive entrance gates, both located on the eastern side of the former ballpark site.

Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The entrance at the northwest corner of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue was considered War Memorial Stadium’s main gate. During the years that the stadium was configured for baseball, the Best and Jefferson entrance was located just beyond center field.

Steel Gates, Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Steel Gates at the Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium, Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

A similar entrance at the southwest corner of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue also remains at the site. The gate was located behind what was once the left field corner. The left field grandstand was located just to the right of the entrance.

Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

An entrance gate (now demolished) behind the right field corner of War Memorial Memorial was located near the intersection of Best Street and Peach Street.

War Memorial Stadium Exterior Best Street Near Peach Street (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

War Memorial Stadium Exterior, Best Street Near Peach Street (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

The City of Buffalo constructed on Best Street a new gated entrance with ticket windows near the location of the original gate.

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion at  Best Street Near Peach Street

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion at Best Street Near Peach Street

A new gated entrance on Dodge Street sits behind what would have been War Memorial Stadium’s home plate.

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion (looking Toward Dodge Street).

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion (looking Toward Dodge Street).

Home plate itself was located in what is now the turf football field, at approximately the 15 yard line on the field’s north end. It is unfortunate that the city did not place a marker where home plate once sat, or where the original goal posts once sat, for that matter.

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward Left Field

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Left Field

Much of the former infield is now part of the running track that surrounds the northeast end of the turf football field.

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward  Home Plate

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Home Plate

Metal bleachers placed along side the football field sit near what was once the western most portion of the stadium structure.

Bleachers, Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Former Site of First Base Grand Stand

Bleachers, Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Former Site of First Base Grand Stand

Concession stands and storage facilities sit in the approximate location of a facilities building that sat just to the west of War Memorial Stadium.

Concession Stands and Storage Areas, Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

Concession Stands and Storage Areas, Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

The right field foul line ran parallel to what is now the running track.

War Memorial Stadium Former Right Field Foul Line Corner, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward Right Field Corner (New York' State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Armory in Background).

War Memorial Stadium Former Right Field Foul Line Corner, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Right Field Corner (New York’ State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Armory in Background).

The youth baseball infield  at the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion sits in what was once War Memorial Stadium’s right field.

Baseball Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Former War Memorial Stadium Outfield

Baseball Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Former War Memorial Stadium Outfield

The current left field of the youth baseball diamond was once War Memorial Stadium’s left field.

War Memorial Stadium Former Center Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward Home Plate

War Memorial Stadium Former Left/Center Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Home Plate

The two preserved entrances to War Memorial Stadium loom large over the current youth baseball outfield.

Backside of Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Backside of Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Backside of Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Backside of Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Directly to the west of the former site of War Memorial Stadium is Masten Park. The park, like the stadium, was built on top of Prospect Reservoir.

Masten Park, Buffalo, New York

Masten Park, Buffalo, New York

A swimming pool dating to the time of War Memorial Stadium sits just beyond the eastern boundary of Masten Park.

Masten Park Swimming Pool, Buffalo, New York

Masten Park Swimming Pool, Buffalo, New York

The stone wall that once surrounded Prospect Reservoir terminates just prior to the Dodge Street entrance near the turf football field.

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion From Dodge Street

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion From Dodge Street

In addition to the stone wall, Masten park boasts several distinctive concrete stairways into the park which date back to the time of War Memorial Stadium.

Masten Park, Steps to Dodge Street, Buffalo, New York

Masten Park, Steps to Dodge Street, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Buffalo Bisons moved to a new downtown ballpark on Washington Street, built just two miles southwest of War Memorial Stadium.

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bisons

Coca-Cola Field (originally known as Pilot Field) includes a wonderful museum with many displays dedicated to the history of War Memorial Stadium.

War Memorial Stadium Display at the Buffalo Baseball Museum

War Memorial Stadium Display at the Buffalo Baseball Museum, Coca-Cola Field

The museum’s curator, John Boutet, has spent the last 25 plus years acquiring mementos and pieces of War Memorial Stadium, as well as Offermann Stadium, to help educate fans about Buffalo’s rich baseball history.

Buffalo Baseball Historian John Boutet With War Memorial Stadium Sign at Buffalo Baseball Museum

Buffalo Baseball Historian John Boutet With War Memorial Stadium Sign at Buffalo Baseball Museum

The museum includes a wooden stadium chair from War Memorial Stadium, painted grey, which resembles the seats once used at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

War Memorial Stadium Seat on Display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

War Memorial Stadium Seat on Display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

An authentic War Memorial Stadium turnstile sits at the entrance to the museum.

War Memorial Stadium Turnstile on display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

War Memorial Stadium Turnstile on display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

The museum includes memorabilia of famous Buffalo Bisons, including the uniform once worn by Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.

Johnny Bench's Buffalo Bison Locker at Buffalo Baseball Museum

Johnny Bench’s Buffalo Bisons Locker at Buffalo Baseball Museum

The City of Buffalo has done an admirable job paying homage to memory of historic War Memorial Stadium. A visit to the former site is worth the trip if only to stand in front and take a pictures of the once-grand War Memorial Stadium entrances preserved by the city. For an excellent site devoted to the memory of War Memorial Stadium, with many vintage photographs of the ballpark, visit Rockpile Buffalo. And if you haven’t already, be sure to visit the Buffalo Baseball Museum on the concourse at Coca-Cola Field.

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Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium

January 28th, 2015

Professional baseball was played at the corner of East Ferry and Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York, for 72 years beginning in 1889, through the end of the 1960 season.

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Originally known as new Olympic Park (old Olympic Park housed Buffalo baseball teams from 1884 to 1888 at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and Summer Street), in 1907 the ballpark was renamed Buffalo Base Ball Park. The original wooden ballpark structure was raised in 1924 and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, and renamed Bison Stadium. In 1935 the ballpark was renamed Offermann Stadium, in honor of Frank J. Offermann, the recently-deceased former owner of the Buffalo Bison.

Entrance to Offerman Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

Entrance to Offermann Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

The site’s primary tenant was the International League Buffalo Bison, who played there from 1889 to 1960. According to Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals, Major league baseball also was played at this site for one year in 1890 when the Buffalo Bison of the Players League played their home games at new Olympic Park. The Negro National League New York Black Yankees played games at Offermann Park as a neutral site in the 1940s. The Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns played some games at Offermann (neutral site) from 1951 to 1955. Professional football also was played at the site, including National Football League Buffalo franchises (the All-Americans from 1920 to 1923, the Buffalo Bisons from 1924 to 1925, and 1927 to 1929, and the Buffalo Rangers in 1926).

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark was located directly behind what is now the Bethel AME Church (formerly Covenant Presbyterian Church), with home plate near the back of the church at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark faced Southeast towards the intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. Center field was located on the northwest corner of that intersection. After the ballpark was demolished in 1962, Woodlawn Junior High School was constructed on the site. To see an aerial photograph of Offermann Stadium from 1956 click here (fixbuffalo.blogspot.com).

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts now occupies the site.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offerman Stadium.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offermann Stadium.

In 2012, John Boutet of the Buffalo Sports Museum spearheaded a drive to place a historical plaque at the site. The plaque notes that Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron all played baseball at Offermann Stadium. Babe Ruth played one of his first professional games at what was then Buffalo Base Ball Park, pitching in 1914 for the International League Baltimore Orioles.

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offerman Stadium

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offermann Stadium

The former site of right field was located at the northeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Right Field

The former site of left field was located at the southwest corner of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Left Field

The area behind what was once the ballpark’s home plate is now a parking lot for the school.

Former Site of Offerman Stadium Infield

Former Site of Offermann Stadium Infield

In addition to Bethel AME Church, many other structures surrounding the ballpark date to the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium. The houses in the photograph below sat just beyond the ballpark’s center field fence.

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the intersection Masten Avenue and Ferry Street sat beyond the ballpark’s left field corner.

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Building at 78 East Ferry Street ran parallel to third base.

Brick Building Located on Ferry Street, Near Former Site of Third Base Line

NFTA Metro Building Located on Ferry Street, Sat Parallel to Former Site of Third Base Line

In 1961, the Buffalo Bison moved ten blocks south from Offermann Stadium to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Bison (American Association) moved two miles southwest to Pilot Stadium, later renamed Coca-Cola Field

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field includes a wonderful museum – The Buffalo Sports Museum – featuring memorabilia from and information about Offermann Stadium, as well as Buffalo’s other ballparks. It certainly is worth a visit if you haven’t been there already.

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offerman Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offermann Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

The City of Buffalo boasts a rich baseball history, much of it taking place years ago at the intersection of  East Ferry and Michigan Avenue. Although the ballpark is long gone, enough of the neighborhood that existed at the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium remains to give anyone with an interest in the National Pastime with a sense of where the ballpark once stood. The former ballpark site is located just three miles north of Coca-Cola Field and for fans of the game it certainly is worth the trip.

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Posted in New York ballparks, Offermann Stadium | Comments (0)

The Coop Has Flown – Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

May 15th, 2014

Cooper Stadium (“the Coop”) was a minor league baseball ballpark located at 1155 West Mound Street, in Columbus, Ohio.

Night View, Red Bird Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Postcard C.T.Art Colortone, Curt Teeich & Co, W.E. Ayres, Columbus, Ohio

Christened Red Bird Stadium when it was opened on June 3, 1932, the ballpark originally was home to the American Association Columbus Red Birds. The Red Birds were the top minor league affiliate of Branch Rickey’s St. Louis Cardinals. 

Red Bird Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Home of Columbus Base Ball Team, Postcard C.T.Art Colortone, Curt Teeich & Co, W.E. Ayres, Columbus, Ohio

Notable St. Louis Cardinal farm hands who played at Red Bird Stadium include Paul “Daffy” Dean, Joe Garagiola, Harvey Haddix, Max Lanier, Enos Slaughter, Harry Walker, and Sammy Baugh (Football Hall of Fame quarterback for the Washington Redskins).

Exterior, Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

When the Red Birds departed Columbus after the 1954 season, local businessman and former Red Bird clubhouse boy Harold Cooper brought an International League franchise to Columbus in 1955. 

Ticket Windows, Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

The new team was named the Columbus Jets and the ballpark was renamed Jets Stadium in honor of its new tenant. For the first two seasons, the Jets were an affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics. From 1957 to 1970 they were an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Cooper Stadium Dedication Plaques

The name “Jets” was a nod to the city’s notable connections with aviation history, including the Wright Brothers and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Stadium Break Between First Base Grandstand and Souvenir Shop, Cooper Stadium

Professional baseball was not played in Columbus from 1971 to 1976. In 1977, Mr. Cooper, then a Franklin County Commissioner,  brought baseball back to Columbus and a newly-renovated Franklin County Stadium, which opened as the home of the Columbus Clippers. 

1930s Era Concession Stand, Cooper Stadium

The Clippers were an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first two seasons at Franklin County Stadium and, from 1979 to 2006, were the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees. In 2007 and 2008, the Clippers were an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. 

Entrance From Concourse to Sections 107-109, Cooper Stadium

Renovations to the stadium included the addition of sky boxes and a new press box above the grandstand roof.

Mesh Screening Behind Home Plate, With View of Sky Boxes Above Grandstand Roof, Cooper Stadium

The 1930s metal bracing for original grandstand roof was left intact and incorporated into the renovations.

1930's Metal Roof Crossbars, Cooper Stadium

The concourse behind the first and third base sides remained largely in tact as well.

Concourse, Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

The original wooden grandstand seats were replace with yellow-painted steel and aluminum seats.

Seats Behind Home Plate, Cooper Stadium

In 1984, the ballpark was renamed Cooper Stadium, in honor of Mr. Cooper, who also served as President of the International League from 1978 to 1990.

View of Infield, Cooper Stadium, From Behind Home Plate

The dugouts at Cooper Stadium were true dugouts, placing the players on the dugout bench at eye level with the playing surface.

Cooper Stadiums Truly Dug Out Dugout

Fans sitting in the box seats along the first and third base sides of the stadium were likewise close to the action.

Columbus Clipper Frank Menechino in the On Deck Circle, Cooper Stadium

Cooper Stadium was located along I-70 and I-71, sandwiched between a residential neighborhood to the north, and Greenlawn Cemetery to the south.

Columbus Clipper Will Nieves Lights Up the Scoreboard at Cooper Stadium

Once inside the stadium, however, the view was almost bucolic, with trees surrounding the outfield fence

Columbus Clippers Take On The Louisville Bats at Cooper Stadium

The final game at Cooper Stadium was played on September 1, 2008.

Cooper Stadium Post Game

The Columbus Clippers moved to a new ballpark located three miles northeast, closer to downtown Columbus.

View of Columbus Skyline Beyond Left Field, Cooper Stadium

The new ballpark, Huntington Park, opened on April 18, 2009.

Banner At Cooper Stadium Advertising Huntington Park Ballpark Opening 2008

After the Clippers departed, Cooper Stadium sat vacant for several years while a local development company negotiated with the city of Columbus to purchase the ballpark site. Arshot Investment Corporation currently is in the process of converting the Cooper Stadium site into a multi-use Sports Pavilion and Automotive Research Complex (SPARC). In April 2014, demolition of Cooper Stadium began, with the removal of the first base grandstand.

First Base Grand Stand, Cooper Stadium, Now Demolished

However, the third base grandstand of Cooper Stadium is being preserved and incorporated into a portion of the paved half-mile race track. Thus, Cooper Stadium will follow in the footsteps of Westport Stadium in Baltimore, the former home of the Baltimore Elite Giants, which in the 1950s was converted into Baltimore’s first NASCAR-sanctioned racetrack.

Westport Stadium (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

SPARC will also include a technology center, lodging, conference and exhibition space, and restaurants.

Cooper Stadium at Night

Although Cooper Stadium is now a lost ballpark, like Braves Field in Boston a portion of it remains, repurposed, allowing future generations the opportunity to experience at least a portion of what made Cooper Stadium a great place to watch a ballgame. Thanks to Arshot for having the vision to keep a part of Cooper Stadium, and baseball history, alive in Columbus, Ohio.

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Payne Park – Spring Training In Sarasota From John McGraw to Tony LaRussa

January 23rd, 2014

Payne Park was located at the southeast corner of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, Florida. The stadium was part of a 60 acre park named in honor of Calvin Payne, a Sarasota winter resident  who donated the land to the city in 1923. From 1924 to 1988, the ballpark was the spring training home of four major league teams.

Payne Park, Sarasota, Florida (Sarasota County Government, scgov.net/History/Pages/PaynePark.aspx

John McGraw’s New York Giants were the first team to train at Payne Park. John Ringling (of Ringling Brothers Circus), who was a friend of McGraw’s and a Sarasota resident, convinced McGraw to bring his team to Florida.

Payne Park Postcard (M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

McGraw was so enamored with Sarasota that he invested in local real estate with the hopes of constructing  a housing development  known as Pennant Park on Sarasota Bay. When the Florida real estate bubble burst in 1927, McGraw left Sarasota and the following season his Giants trained in Augusta, Georgia.

Sarasota's "Payne Park" Home of the Chicago White Sox (West Coast Card Distributors, Sarasota FL, Mirror-Chrome Card, H.S. Crocker, Inc.)

From 1929 to 1932, the American Association Indianapolis Indians held spring training at Payne Park. In 1933 the Boston Red Sox moved their spring training operations from Savannah, Georgia, to Sarasota. The Red Sox trained at Payne Park for the next 25 years, until 1958, with the exception of the war years, 1943 to 1945.

Aerial View of Payne Park Circa 1960s (Photo Courtesy of Payne Park Tennis Center)

Once the Red Sox departed, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a few spring training games at Payne Park during the 1959 season, although they also continued to train at their facility in Vero Beach. The Chicago White Sox arrived at Payne Park in 1960, training there until 1988. In 1979, Tony LaRussa began his first of eight seasons training at Payne Park as manager of the Chicago White Sox. LaRussa eventually would win 2,728 games as manager, third on the all time list and just behind fellow former Payne Park resident John McGraw (2,763).

Payne Park, Sarasota County, Florida

Sarasota constructed a new ballpark two miles northeast of Payne Park to replace what was considered, after 65 season, to be an antiquated facility. Ed Smith Stadium, located at 2700 12th Street, opened in 1989 as the new spring training home for the White Sox, where they trained until 1997. Both the Cincinnati Reds (1998-2009) and the Baltimore Orioles (1991) trained there as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, Pre-Renovation (Circa 2004)

After the Reds departed Sarasota in 2009, the Orioles returned, moving into a completely refurbished ballpark in 2010.

Ed Smith Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Baltimore Orioles, Post-Renovation 2013

Payne Park was demolished in 1990. Sarasota constructed a tennis center on a portion of the former ballpark site.

Payne Park Tennis Center, Located on Former Site of Payne Park

Although the ballpark itself is gone, the player’s clubhouse, located at the intersection of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard, was preserved and is used today as offices and a clubhouse for the tennis center.

City of Sarasota Employee Health Center Located in a Portion of the Former Payne Park Clubhouse

In 2011, the City of Sarasota Employee Health Center was opened in a section of the building.

Payne Park Tennis Center Offices and Clubhouse

The tennis center  includes a memorial wall inside the clubhouse that tells the history of the site.

Interior of Payne Park Tennis Center

Included in the display are pictures of the ballpark and the players who called it their home.

Payne Park Tennis Center Wall of Fame Honoring Former Ball Field

Also included is a blueprint for the redevelopment of Payne Park, which shows the former location of the ballpark, and the tennis center that replaced it.

Blue Prints for Construction of Payne Park Tennis Center

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, seen to the left in the postcard below, once dominated the Sarasota skyline surrounding the ballpark .

"Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla." (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

Built in 1925 by John Ringling, the landmark, along with the old Sarasota County Courthouse tower (both seen in the postcard above), once dominated the skyline.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn

The hotel was purchased in 1962 by Arthur Allyn, Jr., co-owner of the Chicago White Sox, to house the team during spring training.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, Now a County Administrative Building

The former hotel (seen behind the larger office building to the right in the picture below) is useful in determining where the ballpark once sat.

Former Site of Payne Park, Approximate Location of Third Base Foul Territory, With former Terrace Park Hotel in Background

In 1972, Sarasota County purchased the building. It currently is used as a Sarasota County administration building.

Plaque Commemorating the Sarasota Terrace Hotel (Now the Sarasota County Administration Center)

Payne Park’s former infield, and a portion of the outfield, is covered by 12 regulation-size tennis courts (there are four rows of three courts each).

Former Site of Payne Park, Looking Toward Approximate Location of Home Plate

The former site of home plate is located in what is now the second row of tennis courts closer to Adams Lane.

Former Site of Payne Park, Infield between First and Second Base

The former outfield is encircled by two roads that date back to the time of Payne Park.

Parking Lot Adjacent to Payne Parkway that was Once On-site Parking for Payne Park

The first is Payne Parkway, which straddles the right field corner.

Payne Parkway, Looking South, From Right Field Corner

The second is Laurel Street, which intersects Payne Parkway and runs behind what was once center field, terminating at the former left field corner.

Termination of Laurel Street at Payne Park's Former Left Field Corner

A grass field occupies what was once the deepest part of center field.

Payne Park - Former Site of Center Field

Just to the east of Payne Park was once a mobile home park which opened in the 1920s.

"General View of Sarasota Trailer Park Alongside Baseball Park, Sarasota, Florida" (Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

Although the trailer park is now gone, one vestige remains – the Payne Park Auditorium, formerly known as the Sarasota Mobile Home Park Auditorium. Constructed in 1962, it  is located just beyond what was once center field at 2062 Laurel Street. The auditorium was built as a meeting place for mobile home park residents.

Payne Park Mobile Park and Auditorium

At the intersection of Adams Lane and East Avenue is a historic maker for Payne Park.

Sarasota County Historical Commission Plaque Honoring Payne Park

Behind the historical marker is a small outline of a ball field set in pavers.

Baseball Diamond at Payne Park

The sign is located in what was once a parking lot behind third base. Although Payne Park is long gone, it is still possible to play ball where some of baseball’s greatest stars once trained. You just need racket, not a bat and glove, in order to play.

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Posted in Florida ballparks, Payne Park | Comments (4)

The Six Different Ballparks Known As Oriole Park

December 30th, 2013

Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. Now over 20 years old, it helped usher in the era of “retro ballparks” that swept both major league and minor league ballparks over the past two decades.

Oriole Park (VI) at Camden Yards, Home of the Baltimore Orioles

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is actually the sixth Baltimore baseball park known as Oriole Park. The first five were located about three miles north of Camden Yards in the Harwood and Abell neighborhoods of Baltimore (for a more detailed view, click on the map below). Here is a rundown of Oriole Park I through V.

Locations of Oriole Park I through V, In The Harwood and Abell Sections of Baltimore – Atlas of the City of Baltimore, Maryland Topographical Survey Commission 1914 (mdhistory.net)

The first Oriole Park was the home of the American Association Baltimore Orioles from 1883 to 1889. Also known as Huntington Avenue Grounds and American Association Park, it was located at the southeast corner of what is now East 25th Street and Barclay Street. First base paralleled Greenmount Avenue, right field paralleled East 25th Street, left field paralleled Barclay Street, and third base paralleled East 24th Street. An apartment building and row houses now mark the site.

Site of Oriole Park I, Left Field Corner, East 24th Street and Barclay Street, Baltimore

Oriole Park II was the home of the American Association Baltimore Orioles from 1890 to 1891, and was located at the southwest corner of what is now Greenmount Avenue and East 29th Street. First base paralleled Barclay Street, right field paralleled East 28th Street, left field paralleled Greenmount Avenue, and third base paralleled East 29th Street. A McDonald’s Restaurant and row houses now mark the site.

Southwest Corner of East 29th Street and Barclay Street in Baltimore, Former Site of Oriole Park II and IV

Oriole Park III, also known as Union Park and the Baltimore Baseball and Exhibition Grounds, was the home of the American Association Baltimore Orioles in 1891 and the National League Baltimore Orioles from 1892 to 1899. It was located at the southeast corner of what is now Guilford Avenue and East 25th Street. First base paralleled Guilford Avenue, right field paralleled East 24th Street, left field paralleled Barclay Street, and third base paralleled East 25th Street.

Union Park, Baltimore, Home of the National League Orioles, circa 1897 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The site is now occupied by row houses and a parking lot. The distinctive pitched-roof house just to the right of the third base grand stand remains at the site.

Back Side of 321 East 25th Street, Former Site of Union Park, Baltimore

Oriole Park IV, also known as American League Park, was the home of the American League Baltimore Orioles from 1901 to 1902, and the Eastern League and the International League Orioles from 1903 to 1915. It was located at the southwest corner of Greenmount Avenue and East 29th Street on the same site as Oriole Park II. The ballpark was the home field for Babe Ruth during his one season playing professional baseball in Baltimore for the Eastern League Orioles.

American League Park (Photo – Babe Ruth Museum)

A McDonald’s Restaurant and row houses now mark the site.

Former Site of American League Park, Baltimore

Oriole Park V, also known as Terrapin Park, was the home of the Federal League Baltimore Terrapins from 1914 to 1915, and the International League Orioles from 1916 to 1944. It was located at the northwest corner of what is now Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street, across the street from the site of Oriole Park II and IV. First base paralleled East 29th Street, right field paralleled Greenmount Avenue, left field paralleled East 30th Street, and third base paralleled Vineyard Lane.

Terrapin Park (Later Known As Oriole Park)

The site now is occupied by row houses, the Barclay Elementary School, and Peabody Heights Brewery.

Former E.I. Dupont Finishes Division Building, East 29th Street, Baltimore, Site of Oriole Park V

All five original Oriole Parks are located less than a mile west of the Baltimore Orioles previous home, Memorial Stadium, which was located at the northeast corner of East 33rd Street and Ellerslie Avenue.

Memorial Plaque of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

Prior to the construction of Memorial stadium, it was the site of Municipal Stadium, which was constructed in 1922. The site is now occupied by a youth baseball field, a retirement village, and a YMCA.

Memorial Field at Former Site of Memorial Stadium

Baltimore has made it easy for baseball fans to visit these former sites by putting them so close together. The rest is up to you.

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Posted in Maryland ballparks, Oriole Park, Oriole Park I, Oriole Park II, Oriole Park III, Oriole Park IV, Oriole Park V, Oriole Park VI/Camden Yards, Terrapin Park/Oriole Park V, Union Park/Oriole Park III | Comments (3)

Kansas City Municipal Stadium – Muehlebach, Ruppert, and Blues

November 11th, 2013

Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium was the primary sports venue for the city for 50 years. Opened in 1923, the ball field was home to both major league and minor league baseball, as well as Negro League baseball and professional football.

Entrance to Kansas City Municipal Stadium on Brooklyn Avenue (Photo Courtesy Austin Gisriel)

At first a single-deck stadium, from 1923 to 1937 the ballpark was known as Muehlebach Field, named after George Muehlebach, owner of the American Association Kansas City Blues who played there. Municipal Stadium was located at the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and 22nd Street, just five blocks southwest of the Blues previous home, Association Park (at 20th Street and Prospect Avenue), which is now a public park.

The Negro National League Kansas City Monarchs, formed in 1920, also played their home games first at Association Park and then, beginning in 1923 at Muelebach Field. The first Negro League World Series was played at Muehlebach Field in 1924, pitting the Monarchs against the Eastern Colored League Hilldale Club.

1924 Negro League World Series, Muehlebach Field, Kansas City, Missouri (Library of Congress DIvision of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

In 1937, the Blues became an affiliate of the New York Yankees and the Muehlebach Field was renamed Ruppert Stadium, after New York Yankees owner Jack Ruppert. The Monarchs, who were an independent Negro League team from 1932 to 1936, and members of the Negro American League beginning in 1937, continued to play their home games at Ruppert Stadium.

Kansas City Municipal Stadium (Postcard Tetricolor Card, Pub. by J. E. Tetirick)

Ruppert Stadium was renamed Blues Stadium in 1943, and in 1954 was renamed Municipal Stadium with the departure of the Kansas City Blues for Denver, Colorado, and the relocation of the American League Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City for the start of the 1955 season. The stadium, which now was owned by the city (hence the name “Municipal Stadium”) underwent a major renovation, including addition of a second deck and expanded seating. The scoreboard from Braves Field in Boston (sold after the Braves departed for Milwaukee in 1953) was moved to Kansas City and installed in right field.

Entrance to Kansas City Municipal Stadium Facing Brooklyn Street (Postcard W.C. Pine Co., Dexter)

Starting in 1963, Municipal Stadium was the home field for the American Football League Kansas City Chiefs (the Chiefs joined the National Football League in 1970). The Chiefs played there through the 1971 season.

Kansas City Municipal Stadium (Postcard Tetricolor Card, Pub. by James Tetirick)

The Kansas City Athletics departed for Oakland after the 1968 season and, in 1969 the American League Kansas City Royals began play at Municipal Stadium. The Royals departed Municipal Stadium after the 1972 season for Royals Stadium (renamed Kauffman Stadium in 1994), a brand new ballpark located six miles southeast of Municipal Stadium.

Kauffman Stadium - Current Home of the Kansas City Royals Since 1973

Municipal Stadium was razed in 1976. At the intersection of 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue is a small public park dedicated to the memory of Municipal Stadium.

Park at Intersection of 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue, Former Site of Kansas City Municipal Stadium

The actual ballpark site is now a residential community with single family housing.

Plaque Honoring Kansas City Municipal Stadium at Intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and 22nd Street, Kansas City

Municipal Stadium’s right field ran parallel to Brooklyn Avenue.

Looking North Down Brooklyn Avenue Paralleling Right Field Wall Toward Former Center Field Corner of Kansas City Municipal Stadium

The first base line ran parallel to 22nd Street.

Looking West on 22nd Street Along Former First Base Line of Kansas City Municipal Stadium Toward Home Plate (With Lincoln College Preparatory Academy Located Just behind Trees)

Several buildings that date back to the time of Municipal Stadium remain at the site, including a distinctive red brick, two story home that sits directly across the street from what was once the right field entrance to Municipal Stadium.

Park At Intersection of 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue Honoring Memory of Kansas City Municipal Stadium

Two other buildings of note are the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy at  2111 Woodland Avenue which sits just behind what was once the third base grandstand, and Lincoln Junior High School on 23rd Street, the back side of which sits across the street from what was once the first base grandstand.

Red Brick House Located Just South of Main Entrance (Former Right Field Corner) Kansas City Municipal Stadium Site at Intersection of 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue

The Negro League  Baseball Museum at 1616 East 18th Street in Kansas City is located less than a mile northeast of the former site of Municipal Stadium. In addition to telling the history of the Negro Leagues, the museum includes several artifacts from the ballpark. For people visiting the museum, a stop at the intersection of 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue to see where the game once was played is a must.

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Louisville’s Parkway Field and Cardinal Stadium

October 31st, 2013

Parkway Field was located at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and South Brook Street in Louisville, Kentucky.

Parkway Field, Louisville, Kentucky (Postcard Publisher Kyle Co., Louisville KY)

Constructed in 1923 on land purchased from the University of Louisville, Parkway Field was the home ballpark of the Minor League American Association Louisville Colonels from 1923 until 1956. An earlier incarnation of the American Association Louisville Colonels played major league baseball in that city from 1885 to 1891 (they were the Louisville Eclipse from 1882-1884), when the American Association was considered a major league. Hall of Famer Honus Wagner was one notable Louisville player from that era.

View From Behind Home Plate Toward Right Field

The Colonel’s played for over three decades at Parkway Field, its final season being 1956. In 1952 the University of Louisville had begun playing its home games at Parkway Field and, in 1953, the University repurchased the land and ballpark. The University continued to play baseball there up through the 1997 season.

The University’s football team likewise played at Parkway Field. Notable alumni, Hall of Famer, Johnny Unitas, played all four years of his college career at Parkway Field, from 1951 to 1954.

Parkway Field Looking Down First Base Line Toward Home Plate

Parkway Field’s grandstand was torn down in 1961 and replaced by wooden dugouts and a chain link backstop. The original brick left and right field walls remained on site for another 40 years, until they were demolished in 2004.

Third Base Side Dugout, Parkway Field

The ballpark hosted several Negro League teams including the National Negro League Louisville White Sox in 1931, the Negro Southern League  Louisville Black Caps in 1932, the Negro American League Louisville Buckeyes in 1949, and the Negro American League Louisville Black Colonels in 1954.

Parkway Field, Left Field Wall

Famous Colonels who played at Parkway Field include Hall of Famers Billy Herman, Earle Combs, and Pee Wee Reese. In 1946, Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson played his first professional playoff game at Parkway Field, when the Louisville Colonels hosted the Montreal Royals in the first three games of the Junior World Series.

Detail of Left Field Wall, Parkway Field (With Parkway Behind Fence)

Other Hall of Famers who played at Parkway Field include Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig,  who barnstormed there in 1928, and Satchel Paige.

Parkway Field, Right Field Wall

Although nothing from the original stadium remains at the site, the field itself is still used as an athletic field, home to University’s intramural soccer and football programs.

Detail of Right Field Wall, Parkway Field

Some of the green-painted bricks that were once a part of Parkway Field’s outfield wall were reused in construction of the University’s new baseball stadium, Jim Patterson Stadium. Located a mile south of Parkway Field, at the intersection of 3rd Street and Central Avenue, the stadium includes a plaque noting the historical significance of those bricks.

Bricks From Parkway Field Reused at Jim Patterson Stadium (photo: Bkell from en.wikipedia commons)

In 1957 the American Association Louisville Colonels moved to Fairgrounds Stadium. The ballpark is located on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds, one and a half miles southeast of Parkway Field at the intersection of KFEC Gate 4 Drive and Circle of Champions.

Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky Looking Toward Felt Field

Fairgrounds Stadium – Later Renamed Cardinal Stadium

After the American Association folded in 1962, professional baseball departed Louisville. In 1969 professional baseball returned to Fairground Stadium when the Colonels joined the International League, playing there through the 1972 season. Notable Colonels who played at Fairgrounds Stadium include Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Carlton Fisk, as well as Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant, and Cecil Cooper.

Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky

Fairgrounds Stadium almost became a major league venue in 1964 when Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, staged an unsuccessful campaign with Major League Baseball to move his team to Louisville.

Entrance To Cardinal Stadium

The University of Louisville’s football team played at the stadium since its opening in 1957 and at the end of the 1972 season, with the departure again of professional baseball, Fairgrounds Stadium underwent a major renovation to accommodate primarily football.

View From the Left Field Stands Towards Home Plate, Cardinal Field

In 1982 professional baseball returned to Louisville. Fairground Stadium was renamed Cardinal Stadium with the arrival of the St. Louis Cardinal’s affiliate, the Louisville Redbirds, who played in the newly reformed American Association. That same year the Louisville became the first minor league team to draw 800,000 fans in one season (aided no doubt by the ballpark’s 30,000 seats). The following year, the Redbirds broke the minor league home attendance record by bringing in over one million fans.

View From the Third Base Stands, Cardinal Stadium

In 1999, the team changed its name to the Riverbats when it became an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. That season would be the last for professional baseball at Cardinal Stadium.

Right Field Pavilion, Cardinal Stadium

The University of Louisville baseball team continued to play at Cardinal Stadium through the 2004 season.

Left Field Scoreboard, Cardinal Stadium

The Louisville Bats now play their home games at Louisville Slugger Field, a 14,000 seat stadium located in downtown Louisville, three and one half miles north of Parkway Field.

Louisville Slugger Field – Current Home of the Louisville Bats

Although Cardinal Stadium remains standing, its days are clearly numbered. In 2013 the grandstand seating areas were deemed unsafe and condemned. The city currently is debating  the stadium’s fate, which looks to be eventual demolition of the facility.

Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum

Louisville has a long, rich history of professional baseball. For people interested in seeing for themselves where the game once was played, Louisville is certainly worth a visit, When searching out the locations of Parkway Field and Cardinal Stadium, be sure also to stop by the Louisville Slugger Factory and have your picture taken next to the “world’s largest bat.” The history of that company, and its ties to Louisville and major league baseball, warrants a post all unto itself.

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Posted in Cardinal Stadium, Kentucky ballparks, Parkway Field | Comments (10)

Bloomington’s Metropolitan Stadium – MIA At The MOA

October 18th, 2013

Metropolitan Stadium was located in Bloomington, Minnesota, 15 miles south of Minneapolis and just south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport off I-494.

Metropolitan Stadium "Home of the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings" (Post Card Dexter Press, copyright Northern Minnesota Novelties)

The ballpark was home to the American Association Minneapolis Millers from 1956 until 1960, the American League Minnesota Twins from 1961 to 1981, and the National Football League Minnesota Vikings from 1961 to 1981. Prior to construction of Metropolitan Stadium, the Minneapolis Millers played their home games at Nicollet Park and the Minnesota Twins played at Griffith Stadium as the Washington Senators, prior to the franchise relocating to Minnesota after the 1960 season.

Metropolitan Stadium Circa 1957 (Plastichrome Post Card by Colour Picture Publishers and St. Marie's Gopher News Co.)

Once construction was completed on the Hubert H. Humphre Metrodome in 1982, the Twins and the Vikings both relocated to the new stadium for their respective 1982 seasons.

Looking Toward Right Field from Killebrew Drive (Prior To Construction of Raddison Blu Hotel)

Metropolitan Stadium was demolished in 1985 and is now the site of the Mall of America, a megamall built on the footprint of the  old stadium, covering over 96 acres.

Metropolitan Stadium After Its Expansion to 42,000 Seats (Plastichrome Post Card by Colour Picture Publishers and St. Marie's Gopher News Co.)

Home plate was located near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Lindau Lane.

Mall of America, Looking Toward Former Third Base Foul Line From Lindau Lane

Within the Mall of America, Metropolitan Stadium’s  former field is now subsumed by an enclosed amusement park known as Nickelodeon Universe. A marker for home plate is located near the entrance to the Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge (which for roller coaster enthusiasts is the shortest Gerstlauera Euro-Fighter roller coaster in the world).

Home Plate Marker, Metropolitan Stadium - Located Next To Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge

Prior to Nickelodeon Universe, the Mall of America amusement park was known as Camp Snoopy, a homage to former St. Paul resident and Peanuts creator Charles Schultz.

Home Plate Looking Down Former Third Base Line (Former Camp Snoopy Configuration)

As part of the change over from Camp Snoopy to Nickelodeon Universe, the amusement park was completely redone and all references to Peanuts characters were removed.

View of Home Plate Looking Towards Pitchers Mound (Camp Snoopy Configuration)

With the change from Camp Snoopy to Nickelodeon Universe, “Blockhead Stadium” – like Metropolitan Stadium – is now just another lost ballpark.

Mall of America's Camp Snoopy Blockhead Stadium - Now Just Another Lost Ballpark

One of the most popular attractions at the Mall of America, next to Nickelodeon Universe, is the Lego Imagination Center, which resides in what was once right field.

Mall of America Lego Imagination Center, Former Location of Right Field

Former Minnesota Twins first baseman, third baseman, and outfielder Harmon Killebrew is twice honored at the former site of Metropolitan stadium. Killebrew Drive, named in his honor, is an east-west road south of the mall that runs parallel to the former third base foul line.

Looking Toward Right Center Field from Killebrew Drive

In addition, Killebrew’s 522 foot home run off California Angels pitcher Lew Burdette is commemorated in Nickelodeon Universe near the Log Chute.

Harmon Killebrew's Historic Home Run Marker at Mall of America - Located Near The Log Chute

A red stadium seat that once marked the spot where the home run landed in Metropolitan Stadium’s left field upper deck on June 3, 1967,  hangs on the wall above the ride.

All By Myself - The Harmon Killebrew Home Run Red Stadium Seat

With an estimated 40 million annual visitors to the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium is perhaps the most visited lost ballpark site in the country. Located just 11 miles south of the Twins current ballpark, Target Field, Metropolitan Stadium’s former site certainly is worth a visit. Of course, if you live in Minneapolis, or if you are just passing through, chances are you’ve already been. So on your next visit, be sure to look for the home plate marker at the feet of Sponge Bob Square Pants and the lone red chair perched above the Log Chute.

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Nicollet Park – Home Of the Minneapolis Millers

October 16th, 2013

Nicollet Park was a minor league ballpark in Minneapolis, Minnesota, located approximately two and one half  miles south of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Entrance to Nicollet Park (Hennepin County Library – The Minneapolis Collection)

The distinctive Tutor building that was the main entrance to Nicollet Park (shown in the photograph above) was located behind the former right field corner at the intersection of 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue.

Wells Fargo Bank at the Intersection of Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street, Looking Toward Former Right Field Corner

Home plate was located at the corner of Blaisdell Avenue and 31st Street. The ballpark faced northeast.

Aerial View of Nicollet Park (Courtesy of Baseball Bugs)

A Wells Fargo Bank is located in the area that was once right and center field. The former infield is now the bank’s parking lot.

Wells Fargo Nicollet-Lake Office, 3030 Nicollet Avenue, Former Location of Infield Looking Toward Right Field Corner

Located near the former infield is a Minnesota Historical Marker celebrating the 60 years, from 1896 to 1955, that baseball was played at the site.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

The historical marker notes that Nicolett Park enjoyed one of the longest running ground leases for a sports venue, running from 1896 until 1951, when the property was purchased by Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis. The bank building that now occupies the site was originally constructed in 1957.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

Beyond the left field fence that ran parallel to Lake Street were several one story brick commercial buildings, since demolished and replaced by a four story apartment building constructed in 1981.

Blaisdell Avenue and West Lake Street Looking Toward Former Left Field Corner

Nicolett Park was home to the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League (1896 -1899), the American League (1900 – in 1900 the American League was a minor league), and the American Association (1902 – 1955). The American Association Millers won nine pennants, including one in its last season of play in 1955. From 1908 to 1911, Nicollet Park was also home to the Minneapolis Keystones, an independent, barnstorming black ball club. The Keystones were not a formal negro league team, having played over a decade before the formation of the Negro National League.

Nicollet Avenue and West Lake Street, Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field

Notable Minneapolis Millers who played at Nicollet Park include future Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. Dandridge, a standout Negro League  player for the Newark Eagles, played for the Millers at the end of his career, from 1949 to 1952. Mays played for the Millers at the beginning of his career, in 1951, for only 35 games (in which he batted .477, hit height home runs, scored 38 runs, and drove in 30). Williams played for Minneapolis as a 19 year old in 1938. That season he led the American Association in home runs, batting average, and RBI. Other future Hall  of Famers who played for the Millers include Roger Bresnahan (1898-1899), Jimmy Collins (1909), Rube Waddell (1911-1913), Orlando Cepeda (1957), and Carl Yastrzemski (1959-1960). Babe Ruth played in at least two exhibition games (1924 and 1935) at Nicollet Park as well.

Minneapolis Miller Ted Williams in 1938

According to Lawrence Ritter’s Lost Ballparks, it was at Nicolett Park that General Mills (a Minneapolis company) first used the slogan “Breakfast of Champions” in a sign on the outfield fence. The advertising billboard was installed at the park in 1933 following the Miller’s pennant winning season of 1932. Nicollet Park is also the setting for what is perhaps just baseball folklore, when Minneapolis Miller Andy Oyler (a former Baltimore Oriole) purportedly hit the shortest home run in professional baseball. The story goes that a ball off the bat of Oyler got stuck in the mud in front of home plate and before the opposing team could retrieve the ball, Oyler had scored on an inside  the park home run.

Across from the former left field corner, at the intersection of Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue, is Champions Bar and Grill which dates back to the last few years of Nicollet Park’s existence.

Champions Bar and Grill Dates to the 1950’s And the Time of Nicollet Park

Champions appears to be the only building located next to the ballpark site that remains from the time of Nicollet Park. The historical marker placed in the Wells Fargo parking lot is the only clue that there once was a ballpark located in this nondescript city block south of downtown Minneapolis.

Postscript: Thanks to Rubin Latz for sharing his picture of  a foul ball caught by his father at Nicollet Park on April 28, 1946. The baseball was manufactured by Wilson and is stamped “Affiliate of the American Association.”

Foul Ball Caught at Nicollet Field on April 28, 1946

On that April day, the Minneapolis Millers played a double header against their cross town rivals, the St. Paul Saints. According to Stew Thornley’s  “Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History,” a record crowd of 15,761 fans attended the game, with some 5000 fans standing on the field. Twenty-four doubles were hit during those two games, with the Saints victorious in both games.

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Griffith Stadium And The Site Of D.C.’s First Nationals Park

October 9th, 2013

Baseball was played in Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Georgia and Florida Avenues for 70 years, beginning in 1891, up through the end of the 1961 season.  The original ballpark, called Boundary Field because it was located on Boundary Road (now Florida Avenue) at the District of Columbia’s former city limits, was home in 1891 to the Washington Senators of the American Association, and from 1892 to 1899 to the National League Washington Senators.

With the beginning of the American League in 1901, the American League Washington Senators began play at American League Park (I) which was located in Northeast Washington at the intersection of Florida Avenue, H Street, and Bladensburg Road in what is now the Trinidad Neighborhood (thanks to alert reader Geoffrey Hatchard).

American League Park (I) (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

In 1904, the American League Washington Senators moved to the Boundary Field location, making it their new home ballpark. Known also as Nationals Park, the park was constructed almost entirely of wood.

Fire Destroys American League Park (II) on March 17, 1911 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Fire Destroys American League Park (II) on March 17, 1911 (Harris & Ewing Photograph, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

A fire  on March 17, 1911 (caused by a plumbers lamp), destroyed the grandstand and a new concrete and steel stadium was built in its place.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

The new ballpark was also known as Nationals Park,  up until 1920 when the venue was renamed Griffith Stadium in honor of Clark Griffith , the Washington Senator’s manager turned owner.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

The Senators played at Griffith Stadium up through 1960, when, after the season ended, the team relocated to Minnesota. The 1961 expansion Washington Senators played at Griffith Stadium in 1961, moving to D.C. Stadium (later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) in 1962.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Griffith Stadium also served as home field for the Negro National League Homestead Grays from 1940 until 1948, that team splitting their home games between Washington and Pittsburgh. The National Football League Washington Redskins likewise played at Griffith Stadium from 1937 until 1960.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Home plate at Griffith Stadium was located near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and V Street, N.W.

Aerial View of Griffith Stadium (image historypressblog.net)

Howard University Hospital now occupies the site, the main hospital building sitting in the approximate footprint of Griffith Stadium.

Howard University Hospital, Former Site of Griffith Stadium

Signs posted in front of Howard University Hospital along Georgia Avenue honor the memory of Griffith Stadium.

Plaque Honoring Memory of Griffith Stadium

The reverse side of the above sign recognizes significant moments in the ballpark’s history.

Plaque Honoring Memory of Griffith Stadium

Home plate is marked with a batter’s box inside the hospital’s main entrance.

Griffith Stadium Home Plate Marker Inside Howard University Hospital (picture courtesy Erik Cox Photography)

Griffith Stadium Home Plate Marker Inside Howard University Hospital (picture courtesy Erik Cox Photography)

First base paralleled Georgia Avenue, angling away from Georgia Avenue toward U Street.

Approximate location of Griffith Stadium Right Field Grandstand

A ticket booth as well as the grandstand entrance once sat at the site.

Postcard of Griffith Stadium Right Field Grandstand Entrance (copyright 1968 John F. Cummings)

Several row houses that sat in the shadow of the right field grandstand remain at the site along U Street.

Row Houses Along U Street Near What Was Once Griffith Stadium’s Right Field Grandstand

Right field to the center field corner paralleled U Street.

Former Location of Right Fied Corner (far) to Center Field Fence (near)

Buildings that once sat in the shadow of the right field fence still remain at the site as well along U Street.

Row Houses  Along U Street That Once Sat in the Shadow of Griffith Stadium’s Right Field Fence

Griffith Stadium’s center field fence was infamous for its quirky indentation at the center field corner. Behind that fence sat several row houses, which the ball club unsuccessfully had attempted to purchase from their owners. Two of those row houses remain at the site.

Row Houses Facing 5th Street That Once Sat Behind Center Field Fence

In addition to those row houses was a large oak tree that actually spread across the top of the center field fence. Although that tree is now gone, there is a smaller tree at the site today, planted in approximately the same spot.

Tree On Right Sits in Approximate Location of Large Oak Tree That Once Hung Over Griffith Stadium’s Center Field Fence

Griffith Stadium’s left field fence and bleachers paralleled 5th Street. That area is now a parking lot that runs along the back side of Howard University Hospital.

Former Site of Griffith Stadium’s Left Field Bleachers

Third base ran parallel to what is now an alley between the hospital and buildings that front W Street.

Former location of Griffith Stadium’s third base and left field grandstands

Across the alley paralleling third base are several hospital buildings that date from the time of Griffith Stadium, including the College of Medicine.

Howard University’ College of Medicine Building

Several other buildings that sit near the former site have a connection with the ballpark as well. The row house at 434 Oakdale Place  is the spot where Mickey Mantle’s famous 565 foot home run off Senator’s pitcher Chuck Stobbs on April 17, 1953, landed. Ten year old Donald Dunaway, who was attending the game and watched the ball sail over his head, found the ball in the backyard of the row house.

434 Oakdale Place (two story row house to left of three story house) – Where Mickey Mantle’s 565 Home Run Landed

Another building of note is the Wonder Bread Factory that was located at 641 S Street, N.W., just two blocks south of Griffith Stadium. The smell of bread baking at the factory often filled the air during games. The building today retains its original facade and serves the local art community by providing exhibition space.

Old Wonder Bread Factory Located Two Blocks South of Griffith Stadium Site

Given the ballpark’s location in the Nation’s Capitol, Griffith Stadium played host to many of the nation’s famous Americans. Presidents from William Howard Taft to Richard Nixon (then Vice President) threw out ceremonial first pitches to start the baseball season.

Walter Johnson Greeting President Calvin Coolidge (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

No baseball player best epitomized the Senators of the Griffith Stadium era than Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, who not only pitched for the team for over 20 years, but also was a radio announcer for the Senators after he retired from baseball. Upon his death in 1946, the team placed a memorial to Johnson at Griffith Stadium.

Walter Johnson Memorial at Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

That memorial, a small piece of Griffith Stadium, resides today near the athletic fields at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland.

Walter Johnson Memorial Located at Walter Johnson High School (on right side of photograph)

When Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, stadium seats were shipped to Orlando, Florida, and installed in Tinker Field, which at the time was the Spring Training home of Calvin Griffith’s Minnesota Twins. Those relics of Washington, D.C., baseball remain at Tinker Field, which is located next door to the Citrus Bowl.

Seats from Griffith Stadium, Installed in 1965 at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida

Although Griffith Stadium has been a lost ballpark since its demolition in 1965, there still is much to see at the site today. Inside the hospital’s main entrance on Georgia Avenue is a small museum in one of the conference rooms that honors Griffith Stadium and significant events from its history. In a corridor just beyond the conference room is the actual location of home plate, which is marked on the hallway floor along with the outline of the batters box.

The former site of Griffith Stadium is located only three and a half miles north of the Washington Nationals current ballpark – the new Nationals Park, and is well worth a visit for any of the team’s current fans who are interested in experiencing a little of D.C.’s baseball past.

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Baltimore’s First American League Park – Original Home of the Future New York Yankees

August 23rd, 2012

The southwest corner of East 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, is the site of two former major league baseball fields.

Intersection of Greenmount Avenue and East 29th Street, Baltimore, Maryland

From 1890-1891, the site held Oriole Park (II) (the second Oriole Park according to Phillip Lowry and his excellent book Green Cathedrals) and was home to the American Association Baltimore Orioles.

Southwest Corner of East 29th Street and Barclay Street in Baltimore, Former Site of Two Former Major League Ballparks

A second ballpark – American League Park – was constructed on that site (also known as Oriole Park IV) (the fourth, according to Mr. Lowry) and was home to the American League Baltimore Orioles for the 1901 and 1902 seasons.

American League Park (Photo - Babe Ruth Museum) Entrance on Greenmount Avenue (Near 29th Street)

American League Park should not be confused with Terrapin Park, which was located across 29th Street from American League Park at the northwest corner of East 29th Street and Greenmount. Terrapin Park was home to the Federal League Baltimore Terrapins in 1914 and 1915, the International League Orioles from 1916 to 1944, and the Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants from 1938 to 1944 (see Terrapin Park/Oriole Park). The 1914 map below (with thanks to Bernard McKenna) shows the locations of both parks.

Atlas of the City of Baltimore, Maryland Topographical Survey Commission 1914 (mdhistory.net)

In 1903, Baltimore’s American League franchise was sold to New York interests and became the New York Highlanders, and later the New York Yankees. The Eastern League Baltimore Orioles (the league was renamed the International League in 1911) took over American League Park for the 1903 season.

Opening Day April 26, 1909, at Oriole Park (Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

The ballpark was also where Babe Ruth, playing for the International League Orioles in 1914, played for Baltimore during his one year of professional minor league baseball.

A Sanborn Insurance Map shows the location of much of the ballpark in 1901.

1901 Sanborn Insurance Map of Baltimore Showing Location of American League Park

A McDonald’s now stands at the site, its restaurant and drive through covering the left field corner and the parking lot behind it covering much of the infield.

Former Site of American League Park, Baltimore - Note the building on the corner is the same building in the above vintage picture of American League Park

Home plate was once located in the southeast corner of East 29th Street and Barclay. No, that is not a young Babe Ruth standing in the approximate location of home plate, it is actually SABR Bob Davids Chapter President Bruce Brown.

Former Site of American League Park's Home Plate

The first-base line ran parallel to Barclay.

American League Park's First Base Line Ran Parallel to Barclay Street (Seen Here Looking South)

The third-base line ran parallel to East 29th Street.

Former Site of American League Park Baltimore, Looking Across Left Field Toward Home Plate/First Base

Two-story row houses fronting both sides of Llchester Road, constructed after the demise of American League Park, cover the remaining portion of the ballpark site.

Back Side Of Houses Facing Llchester Road Located In Former Center Field

The perimeter of the park ran from East 29th Street to the north, to Greenmount Avenue to the east, to East 28th Street to the South and to Barclay Street to the west.

Greenmount Avenue Looking South From Former Left Field Corner Toward Center Field

Six blocks south of the former ballpark site is St. Ann’s Catholic Church (at the corner of Greenmount Avenue and East 22nd Street) which is where former Orioles John McGraw married his second wife, the former Blanche Sindall. The church’s Gothic spiral is visible down Greenmount.

The Steeple Of St. Ann's Church Visible Down Greenmount Avenue (just beyond red traffic light)

The areas surrounding the Harwood section of Baltimore includes several former ballpark sites. To the northwest is the former site of Memorial Stadium, home of the American League Baltimore Orioles from 1954 to 1991. It is located less than a mile from old American League Park – four blocks north on Greenmount and five blocks east on 33rd Street. Four blocks to the south is the former site of Union Park (East 25th and Barclay), home of the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s (see Union Park). If you consider yourself a true fan of Baltimore baseball, be sure to make the effort and visit these former sites. You can even stop for a hamburger and fries and consume them while siting in a booth located in American League Park’s former left field.

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