Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

A Drive Around Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium

February 3rd, 2015

In February 2001, the City of Baltimore began demolition of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. A fight over what to do with the 10 story memorial wall dedicated to the memory of those “who so valiantly fought and served in the World Wars” delayed completion of the task until the Spring of 2002.

The Barren Fields of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

The Barren Fields of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Circa May 2000

In January 2000, a year before demolition began, and several months before the stadium was stripped of its seating and signage, I took a drive around the ballpark, capturing on video the Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street.

The first half of the video is a drive around the outer perimeter, heading west on East 33rd Street, north on Ellerslie Avenue, east on East 33rd Street, and south on Ednor Road. The second half of the video is a drive around the ballpark in the same direction, but from inside the parking lot.

The former site of Memorial Stadium’s playing field is now a youth ball field, thanks to the efforts of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and other charitable groups and donors. A portion of the the lettering from the memorial wall has been placed near the south entrance to Camden Yards: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” I hope you enjoy the drive.

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Westport Stadium – Baltimore’s Last Negro League Ballpark

October 28th, 2013

Westport Stadium was Baltimore’s last Negro League ballpark. Located in Westport, a Baltimore neighborhood just south of the intersection of I-95 and I-295, the ballpark was the home field of the 1950 Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants. Previously, the Elite Giants had played their home games primarily at Bugle Field located in East Baltimore at the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway. Westport Stadium is not to be confused with Westport Park, where the Negro League Baltimore Black Sox played their home games from 1917-1920 and which was located two miles north at 1701 Russell Street (now a Holiday Inn Express).

Entrance to Westport Stadium on Annapolis Road (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

After the Elite Giants departed Westport Stadium in 1951, the field was used primarily for NASCAR events, although Negro League All Star Teams still occasionally played at Westport into the mid 1950’s and the Indianapolis Clowns played yearly exhibition games there until the early 1960s. Also, in May 1953, Willie Mays (then in the Army stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia) played in a double header at Westport Stadium for the Newport News Royals, who faced the Yokely Baltimore Stars. Laymon Yokely was a former Baltimore Black Sox and Elite Giant who barnstormed with his own semi-pro team.

For more information about Westport Stadium’s connection to NASCAR racing, see thevintageracer.com (and many thanks to Larry Jendras, Jr., for sharing his knowledge of Westport Stadium).

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

The stadium was located on a triangular shaped piece of property north of the intersection of Patapsco Avenue and Annapolis Road and just south of the Baltimore Washington Parkway (I-295).

USGS Image Of Westport Stadium (Road to Left of Home Plate is Annapolis Road)

The entrance to Westport Stadium was located on Annapolis Road, just north of what is now the Patapsco Arena. The actual ball field was located below grade level, at the base of approximately 25 to 30 rows of seats.

Patapsco Arena, Located Just South of Westport Stadium's Former Site

The entrance to Westport Stadium, like much if not all of the former ballpark, is buried under tons of landfill.

Former Location of Entrance to Westport Stadium

Westport Stadium’s NASCAR operations ceased in 1963 and the stadium eventually was filled in with sludge and debris from excavation from the Baltimore Harbor and the construction of Camden Yards.

Former Location of Left Field Corner Just Beyond Top of Earthen Berm

Westport Stadium was primarily an earthen stadium, much like Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium (also known as Baltimore Stadium, Venable Stadium, and Babe Ruth Stadium), which eventually became the site of Memorial Stadium. A portion of Westport’s earthen berm is still evident around the back side of Westport Stadium’s former site, near what was once the right field corner.

Pathway To Former Right Field Corner, Westport Stadium

The entire infield and outfield is now covered with asphalt placed on top of the landfill.

Looking North From Former Right Field Corner Toward Third Base

Railroad tracks are located behind the backside of the former ballpark, beyond what was once center field. A gravel parking lot for the ballpark was once located alongside those railroad tracks.

Looking Northwest Toward Former Location of Westport Stadium's Center Field

A two lane asphalt ramp now runs parallel to what was once the area behind left field.

Looking North Toward Westport Stadium's Former Left Field Corner

Home plate was located behind Westport Stadium’s main entrance on Annapolis Road.

Looking East From Annapolis Road Toward Former Location of Home Plate and Infield

Somewhere underneath the asphalt and landfill material is a lost ballpark, historic not only for its connection to Negro League baseball, but also for its connection to NASCAR’s early years.

The Remains of Westport Stadium Waiting To Be Excavated

The former ballpark remains buried, awaiting perhaps some future excavation or archaeological dig.  Until that time, it is still possible to gain an appreciation for Westport Stadium by simply walking around the site and seeing the earthen berm that sat just beyond the stadium’s right field corner.

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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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Union Park – Home of the World Champion National League Baltimore Orioles

February 19th, 2012

Union Park lasted as a major league venue for a mere nine seasons, from 1891 to 1899.  Known also as Oriole Park (III) and the Baltimore Baseball and Exhibition Grounds, the ballpark was home of the World Champion (1894-1896) National League Baltimore Orioles. Union Park was located at the corner of East 25th Street and and what is now Hunter Street in the Barclay section of Baltimore, just south of Harwood.

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

In the picture above, the houses immediately to the right of the grandstand are located on East 25th Street.  The houses on the right side of the picture, looming behind left center field, are located on Barclay Street.

Location of Union Park's Former Grandstand, Baltimore

Many of those houses remain at the site today, providing a point of reference for the ball field.

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

The back side of the building located at 321 East 25th Street, which currently houses the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, with its distinctive pitched roof, can seen in the 1897 photograph, immediately to the right of the grandstand.

Houses on East Side of Barclay Street, Baltimore

The houses on the east side of Barclay Street are visible in the 1897 photograph of Union Park, just behind the bleachers in left field.

Corner of East 24th Street and Barclay, Baltimore

In the above photograph – the corner of East 25th Street and Barclay –  the house to the left was built on what would have once been Union Park’s center field.

Former Site of Union Park Left and Center Field Bleachers, Baltimore

The houses on the west side of Barclay Street, looking toward East 25th Street, pictured above, sit in place of Union Park’s left and center field bleachers.

Former Right Field Corner of Union Park, Baltimore

Union Park’s right field was located at the corner of East 24th Street and Guilford Avenue, which is seen in the above photograph, looking on East 24th Street toward Guilford.  The brick buildings to the right of the picture along East 24th Street were constructed after the demolition of Union Park. Indeed, the buildings that line East 24th Street today sit in the southern most point of Union Park’s outfield.

A Sanford Insurance Map from 1901 shows the exact location of Union Park.

1901 Sanborn Insurance Map of Baltimore Showing Location of Union Park

According to the Sanborn map it appears that Guilford Avenue originally dead ended at 24th Street and that a portion of the first base grand stand actually sat in the middle of what is now Guilford Avenue.

Union Park, East 25th Street, Baltimore, circa 1895 (photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society)

The above photograph shows the entrance to Union Park on East 25th Street.  The brick building in the background, beyond the wooden ballpark, remains today at the site.  It is the same building mentioned above that was located just to the right of the Union Park grandstand, and sits at 321 East 25th Street.

Former Location of Entrance to Union Park, Baltimore

The red brick building at 321 East 25th Street is visible in the background of the above photograph.   To the right of that building is Falls Alley, which allows entrance into the former playing field from East 25th Street.

Building to the Right of Falls Alley, Gateway to Union Park's Former Playing Field

The row houses contructed on the site of Union Park’s former grandstand date to the early 1920s.

Former Site of Union Park Grandstand

Still remaining at the former site of Union Park is a short red brick wall with an iron gate entrance that once stood next to the Union Park grandstand.  Behind that gate was once a soda stand. That soda stand can be seen above in the 1895 photograph of Union Park, next to 321 East 25th Street.

Iron Gate Remaining from Time of Union Park, Baltimore

It is estimated that home plate sat behind the row house that currently sits at 303 East 25th Street.

Former Location of Home Plate, Union Park, Baltimore

The area that was once the infield is now a parking lot and a collection of brick garages –  an unceremonious use of such hallowed ground.

Former Location of First Base Grandstand, Union Park, Baltimore

Just to the right of the house at 321 East 25th Street, along the left field foul line, was a large, two-story billboard for “A.G. Spalding & Bros.” The billboard advertised Spalding bicycles and athletic equipment.

Union Park Billboard For A. G. Spalding & Bros

Although Union Park was wiped from the landscape over 100 years ago, the neighborhood surrounding the former site offers several clues to the ballpark’s location.  It certainly is worth a trip for any fans of the Baltimore Orioles (click Union Park Demise for a Baltimore Sun article about its impending demolition).

1897 Baltimore Orioles (Huggins and Scott Auctions image)

With the demolition 10 years ago of Memorial Stadium, there currently exists no baseball venue in Baltimore where the Orioles have won a World Championship.

For more baseball history located nearby, see John McGraw and St. Ann’s Catholic Church for pictures and information about where Orioles third baseman John McGraw married his second wife, Blanche Sindall. For pictures and information about American League Park – located just four blocks north Union Park and where McGraw played and managed the 1901-02 American League Baltimore Orioles, see The Orioles First American League Park. To see where McGraw and three of his Hall of Fame teammates are buried just a few miles west, see New Cathedral Cemetery, Final Resting Place of Four Oriole HOFs.

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Memorial Stadium – Time Will Not Dim the Glory of Their Deeds

February 12th, 2012

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, was the home of the American League Baltimore Orioles from 1954 through the 1991 season.

Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland (Pub. by D. E. Traub)

The National Football League  Baltimore Colts played at Memorial Stadium from 1953 through the 1983 season.

Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland (Photo by G.B. Smith/Pub. by Traub Co.)

Memorial Stadium was built on the site of an earlier stadium, known as Baltimore Stadium, Venable Stadium, and Municipal Stadium, which was constructed in 1922.

Baltimore Stadium (Pub. by James F. Hughes Co.)

The inaugural game played at the opening of Baltimore Stadium on December 2, 1922, was the Annual Football Game between the Third Corps Area, United States Army, and the Marines.

Souvenir Program for the First Game Played at Baltimore Stadium, Army v. Marines

Baltimore Stadium was primarily a football stadium, although the International League Orioles played their home games there after fire destroyed Oriole Park V in 1944. The Baltimore Elite Giants also played some of their home games at Baltimore Stadium in the late 1940s. For a time after the death of Baltimore native Babe Ruth, the structure was known as Babe Ruth Stadium Stadium.

Babe Ruth Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland (Pub. by   I & M Ottenheimer)

In 1949, construction began converting Municipal Stadium to Memorial Stadium.

Baby- Obstructed View of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

The stadium was dedicated “As a memorial to all who so valiantly fought and served in the World Wars with eternal gratitude to those who made the ultimate supreme sacrifice to preserve equality and freedom throughout the world.  Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” The last line is a quote from General John J. Pershing, who was the first chairperson of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Memorial Plaque of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

An unofficial name for Memorial Stadium was the Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street.

The View from Right Field Bleachers, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

The seating in the upper reaches of the stadium and throughout the uncovered, outfield bleachers, was bench seating.

Right Field Bleachers, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

The press box was located behind home plate between the upper and lower decks.  Steel camera decks were located to the right and left of the press box.

The Press Box, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

When not in use by the media, they provided an excellent view of the proceedings below.

First Base Side Seating Bowl, Memorial Stadium

Once the Orioles departed after the end of the 1991 season, Memorial Stadium hosted other sport teams including the minor league Bowie Baysox in 1993 and 1994 (partial season), the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League in 1994 and 1995, and the National Football League Baltimore Ravens in 1996 and 1997.

Inaugural Preseason Game, Baltimore Ravens at Memorial Stadium

The Ravens’ two seasons at Memorial Stadium would be the final professional sports games ever played there.

The Sun Sets and the Lights Go Up at Memorial Stadium

The Baltimore sports world turned its attention 30 blocks south of Memorial Stadium, to where where the Maryland Stadium Authority had constructed the city’s new stadia.

The View of the Baltimore Skyline From the Top Row of Memorial Stadium

Once the Ravens departed, there was nothing to do but wait for Memorial Stadium’s demolition.

The Barren Fields of Memorial Stadium

In May 2000, the Maryland Stadium Authority gave Baltimore sports fans one last chance to visit the stadium and its playing field.

They Used To Play Baseball Here, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

By that time, workers already had marked items, including signage, which was to be removed prior to demolition.

Section 40 Upper Deck, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

Ultimately, the lockers from the players’ dressing rooms were removed and sold as part of an auction held by the Babe Ruth Museum.

Memorial Stadium Locker Room with Young Fans Sitting in the Locker of Cal Ripken, Jr.

The majestic light stanchions were torn down and sold for scrap.

Right Field Light Stanchion, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

Astroturf, presumably used on the sidelines and the areas around the Raven’s grid iron, was rolled up and left in piles outside the stadium.

Astroturf From the Ravens Stay at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

The end game for Memorial Stadium wasn’t pretty.  A valiant fight by preservationists held off destruction of the stadium’s front facade and memorial plaque while the city debated whether a portion of the structure was worth saving.

Almost Gone, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

Ultimately, the preservationists and those who care about history lost, and the remaining portion of Memorial Stadium met the wrecking ball.

A Sad View, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

One of the last vestiges of Memorial Stadium was the outfield scoreboard.  If my wife would have let me, I would have bought it and moved it to my back yard. Whether the neighbors would have complained became a moot point.

Only the Scoreboard Remained, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

Which brings us to what was built in the place of Memorial Stadium.  First was a much-needed youth center in the form of the Harry and Janette Weinberg Family Center at Stadium Place.

The Harry and Janette YMCA at Stadium Place, former site of Memorial Stadium

Inside the YMCA’s gymnasium is signage from Memorial Stadium’s Ring of Honor which once graced the facade between the upper and lower decks.

YMCA Gymnasium at Former Site of Memorial Stadium

The names of prominent Orioles and Colts ring the gymnasium. At an autograph show in 2006, Frank Robinson signed autographs beneath his Ring of Honor sign.

Oriole Hall of Famer Frank Robinson Standing Beneath the Ring of Honor Sign Bearing His Name

For several years after Memorial Stadium’s demolition, all that marked the lost ballpark was a home plate placed in the approximate location of the original.

Young Orioles’ Fan Standing at the Site of Home Plate, Memorial Stadium

In 2010, that changed, thanks to the vision, talent, and generosity of Cal Ripken, Jr., and his brother Bill Ripken.  The Ripkens, with the help of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, and other charitable groups and donors, constructed a youth ball field on the former site of Memorial Stadium.

Memorial Field at Former Site of Memorial Stadium

A plaque placed behind home plate notes:   “This is the very site where so many where so many Baltimore legends once played and represented our city with pride.  In 2010, the Cal Ripken, Sr., Foundation dedicates this field creating a safe, clean place for kids to play, learn and grow.”

Plaque Honoring Memorial Stadium, at Stadium Place

A separate plaque honors the vision and contributions that Cal Ripken, Sr., made to baseball.

Plaque Honoring Cal Ripken, Sr, at Stadium Place, former site of Memorial Stadium

The playing surface of Memorial Field is AstroTurf Game Day grass.

Artificial Playing Surface Marks the Former Playing Surface of Memorial Stadium

The Ripkens’ vision and generosity has brought baseball (and football) back to the playing field at the former site of Memorial Stadium.

It’s Good to be Home, the Former Site of Memorial Stadium

In the former location of right field and the seating bowl along first base is housing for senior citizens.

Senior Citizen Housing Located on the Former Site of Memorial Stadium’s Right Field

In deep center field, a goal post once again stands in the approximate location of the northern most goal post of Memorial Stadium.

A Goal Post Rises Again on the Former Site of Memorial Stadium

The Baltimore Orioles also have done their share to commemorate Memorial Stadium by constructing a plaza in honor of the ballpark, complete with some of the lettering from the orginal stadium plaque, which says “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

Memorial Stadium Plaque Reborn at Camden Yards

An urn that once was encased in the wall of Memorial Stadium is on display next to the Memorial Wall at Camden Yards.

Urn Containing Earth From United States Military Cemeteries on Display at Camden Yards

A separate granite plaque at Camden Yards also commemorates the memory of Memorial Stadium.

Camden Yards Granite Plaque Commemorating Memorial Stadium

The Sports Legends Museum (located next to Camden Yards in Baltimore) likewise includes displays honoring the memory of Memorial Stadium.

Original Memorial Stadium Dedication Plaque

The original 1954 Memorial Stadium corner stone is located in a display in the basement of  the Sports Legends Museum.

Memorial Stadium Corner Stone

The museum also includes a variety of items from Memorial Stadium, including signage and stadium seats.

Memorial Stadium Display at Sports Legends Museum

One final tribute to Memorial Stadium can be found at the Cal Ripken baseball Academy complex in Aberdeen, Maryland.  One of the many youth baseball fields is named in honor of Memorial Stadium

Memorial Stadium Plaque at the Ripken Academy, Aberdeen, Maryland

Once again, the Ripken Brothers have done a fine job keeping the memory of Memorial Stadium alive and giving young baseball fans a chance to play in the shadow of Memorial Stadium.

Memorial Stadium Located at the Ripken Academy in Aberdeen, Maryland

While Memorial Stadium has joined the every-growing list of lost ballparks, its memory lives on, not only at the site of the former ballpark, but in locations in and around Baltimore.  I even have a few stadium seats from Memorial Stadium lined up in my basement, awaiting the next game.

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