Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Black Sox’

Baltimore’s Ballparks Found – Aerial Photos of Baltimore’s Lost Ballparks

November 17th, 2013

One of the more significant “unknowns” concerning Baltimore’ s lost ballparks has been the exact, former location of Maryland Baseball Park, which from 1921 to 1932 was the home ballpark of the Baltimore Black Sox. Newspaper accounts of the ballpark’s location offer little more than the ballpark’s general location at the intersection of Bush Street and Russell Street, near the Ridgely street car line. Because there is no known photographs of the ballpark, its actual location at the intersection of Bush and Russell remained a mystery.

Bernard McKenna, a professor at the University of Delaware, was convinced there had to be a photograph of the ballpark somewhere. His research led him to a website maintained by Johns Hopkins University. In 1927 the Maryland Port Administration arranged for aerial photographs to be taken of Baltimore, Maryland. Additional aerial photographs were taken in 1937. In 2011, Johns Hopkins University digitized these photographs and made them available on line.

Hidden in plain site within those aerial photographs were several of Baltimore’s Lost Ballparks, including the previously elusive Maryland Baseball Park. Below is a rundown of the photographs Mr. McKenna uncovered (as well as one provided by Larry Jendras, Jr.). Just click on the picture for a more detailed view of the image. Click on the ballpark name for more information about the various lost ballparks.

Maryland Baseball Park (also known as Maryland Park), home of the Baltimore Black Sox from 1921 to 1932, was located at the intersection of Bush and Russell Street on what is now 1801 Annapolis Road. Wheelabrator, a sold waste incinerator facility, now occupies the former site of Maryland Baseball Park.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Maryland Park Circa 1927 - intersection of Bush and Russell Streets and Annapolis Road (image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Bugle Field, home of the Baltimore Elite Giants from 1938 to 1949, was located at the the southwest corner Federal Street and Edison Highway. The Rockland Industries Building now sits in the footprint of the original grandstand.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Bugle Field Circa 1937 - Intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway (image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Westport Stadium, home of the 1950 Baltimore Elite Giants, 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). The site is now a vacant lot just north of Patapsco Arena. This aerial photograph, a USGS image, was provided courtesy of Larry Jendras, Jr.

USGS Image Of Westport Stadium Circa 1950 (Road to Left of Home Plate is Annapolis Road) (Thanks to Larry Jendras, Jr.)

Terrapin Park (later known as Oriole Park), located at the northwest corner of 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue, was home to the Federal League Baltimore Terrapins in 1914 and 1915, the International League Orioles from 1916 to 1944, and the Baltimore Elite Giants from 1938 to 1944. The Barclay School and the former E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co. Inc. Finishes Division, sit in the former location of the ballpark’s grandstand.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Oriole Park Circa 1937 (image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Terrapin Park was located directly across East 29th Street from American League Park, which was located at southwest corner of 29th and Greenmount. American League Park (also known as Oriole Park) was the former home ballpark of the 1901-02 American League Baltimore Orioles and the 1903-1914 International League Baltimore Orioles. The location of that ballpark is shown in the map below. American League Park was the home field where Babe Ruth played for the International League Orioles during his one season of professional baseball in Baltimore. 

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

Memorial Stadium, located at the northeast corner of Elerslie Avenue and 33rd Street, was built on the site of an earlier stadium constructed in 1922, known as Baltimore Stadium, Venable Stadium, and Municipal Stadium. Shown in the photograph below is Municipal Stadium, a large earthen ballpark that hosted college football as well as the International League Baltimore Orioles from 1944 to 1953.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Baltimore's Municipal Stadium Circa 1937 (image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

The 1937 aerial photograph reproduced below shows both Terrapin Park/Oriole Park and Municipal Stadium, located less than one mile apart. Also included in that aerial shot is the former site of American League Park, located one block south of Terrapin Park/Oriole Park, and the former site of Union Park, located four blocks south of Terrapin Park/Oriole Park at the intersection of 25th Street and Guilford Avenue. Union Park was the home to the 1890’s world champion National League Baltimore Orioles.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Oriole Park and Municipal Stadium Circa 1937 (image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Although all these ballparks are now lost to time, the Maryland Port Administration’s incredible photographs help the ballparks’ live on. Many thanks to Johns Hopkins University for putting these photographs on line, and thanks to Mr. McKenna for having found the images of the ballparks hidden within.

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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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Bugle Field – Home of the Baltimore Elite Giants

October 6th, 2013

Bugle Field was located in East Baltimore at the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway, just a few blocks south of Baltimore Cemetery and approximately one and a half miles off I-895.

1601 Edison Highway, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Site of Bugle Field

In 1912, Edward C. Lastner of the Simpson and Doeller Company (a company that printed can labels), with seed money provided by his employer, leased a cow pasture from Mrs. Carrie Snyder at what is now Edison Highway and Federal Street and constructed the ballpark. From 1912 to 1917, the ballpark, known as “Label Men’s Oval,” was home to a semi pro club known as the Label Men.

Label Men at Label Men's Oval, Edward C. Lastner in Inset and Wearing Straw hat (Sun Papers)

The Label Men at Label Men’s Oval Circa 1913, Edward C. Lastner in Inset and Wearing Straw hat (Sun Papers)

About 1924, the ballpark was purchased by Joe Cambria, a scout for the Washington Senators. Cambria christened his ballpark Bugle Field, after the Bugle Coat and Apron Supply Company, a company he owned. In addition to football, boxing, and wrestling matches, Cambria brought baseball teams he owned to Bugle Field, including the Bugle Coat and Apron Nine,  at first a member of the Baltimore Amateur League and later a semipro team, and  the Hagerstown Hubs (exhibition games), a minor league team that played in the Class D Blue Ridge League (see Brian McKenna’s SABR Biography of Cambria for additional information).

According to newspaper accounts of the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Afro-American, the Black Sox first began playing games at Bugle Field in 1930. On September 2, 1930, the first night game was played at Bugle Field, a contest between the Black Sox and the Bugles. In 1932, Cambria purchased an interest in the Black Sox and became their general manager. Cambria made Bugle Field the Black Sox’s home field starting in 1932 (that year the Black Sox were members of the East-West League). Previously, the Black Sox had played their home games at Westport Park and Maryland Baseball Park.The Black Sox played at Bugle Field in 1933 as well, as members of the Negro National League. By 1934, the Black Sox were playing under new ownership and the team disbanded later that same year.

In 1938 a new negro league team arrived in Baltimore, making Bugle Field their home park. The Baltimore Elite Giants (pronounced EE-lite) originated in 1918 in Nashville, Tennessee. They played their home games in Nashville through the 1935 season. The Elite Giants then moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1937, and Washington, D.C. , in 1937.

Baltimore Elite Giants Circa 1949 (Paul Henderson Photographer, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society and hendersonphotos.wordpress.com)

According to hendersonphotos.wordpress.com, the Elite Giant players in the above picture are:

Top row, left: Joe Black; Leroy Ferrell; Charles (Specs) Davidson; Lenny Pearson; Al Wilmore; Bob Romby; Johnny Hayes; Jim Gilliam; Jesse (Hoss) Walker;

Bottom row: Butch Davis; Silvester Rodgers; Henry Kimbro; Vic Harris; Henry Bayliss; Henry (Frazier) Robinson; Frank Russell; Tom (Pee Wee) Butts; Leon Day.

Baltimore Elite Giants Standing in Front of Bugle Field Scoreboard (Paul Henderson Photographer, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society and hendersonphotos.wordpress.com)

The Elite Giants played in the Negro National League from the time of their arrival in Baltimore in 1938, through the 1948 season. In 1949 the played in the Negro American League. The team brought Baltimore two league titles, the Negro National League championship in 1939, and the Negro American League championship in 1949.

Baltimore Elite Giants (Paul Henderson Photographer, courtesy of Maryland Historical Society and hendersonphotos.wordpress.com)

Elite Giant players of note include Hall of Famers Roy Campanella and Leon Day, Joe Black (1952 NL ROY), Junior Gilliam (1953 NL ROY), Lester Locket, and Bill Wright.

Hall of Famer Leon Day

The first two games of the 1949 Negro American League Championships were played at Bugle Field. After the Elite Giants went on the road to play the remaining games, the owners of the property began demolition of the ballpark in preparation for sale of the land. From newspaper accounts, it appears that the last sporting events held in Bugle Field were a exhibition by Daredevil Don Robey (automobile demolition) on September 30, 1949, and a Baltimore Soccer Club match on December 28, 1949.

Demolition of Bugle Field Commencing in Late September, early October 1949. The Third Base Grandstand Ran Parallel to Edison Highway

Demolition of Bugle Field Commencing in Late September, early October 1949. The Third Base Grandstand Ran Parallel to Edison Highway

A classified ad that ran in the Baltimore Sun on September 30 and October 1, 1949, announced the quick demise of Bugle Field:

“WRECKING BALL PARK – Used 2×4 to 8×8, 10, 60 foot Creosoted poles,

plus other lumber. Apply Bugle Field. See Mr. Reinhold PE 0371″

As shown in the Sanborn Map below, Bugle Field’s grandstand sat near the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway.

1936 Sandborn Map Showing Location of Bugle Field

The 1937 aerial view (thanks to Bernard McKenna) shows Bugle Field and its irregularly shaped outfield fence.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Bugle Field Circa 1937 (Thanks to Bernard McKenna) (Map Located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

The southwest corner of the Rockland Industries Building near the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway sits in the footprint of the original grandstand.

Rockland Industries Building, Former Site of Bugle Field Grandstand

The asphalt parking lot in front of Rockland Industries was once the gravel parking lot for Bugle Field.

Rockland Industries, Former Site of Bugle Field

The first base line to the right field corner ran parallel to Edison Highway.

Former Site of Bugle Field, First Base Side and Right Field Corner

Some references to Bugle Field identify its location as being the Intersection of Edison Highway and Biddle Street. However, Biddle Street, which runs parallel to Federal Street, sits four blocks south of the ballpark site. Beyond what was once right and center field is a line of trees that most likely mark the outer limits of the ballpark site.

Former Site of Bugle Field Looking from Former Right Field Corner Toward Center Field

The Sports Legends Museum, located next to Orioles Park at Camden Yards, includes a tribute to the Elite Giants, including a mock up of a bus similar to the type that Negro League players once road.

Sports Legends Museum Negro Leagues Display

In 1950, the Elite Giants moved their home games to Westport Stadium, which was located on Annapolis Road between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Patapsco Avenue. This should not be confused with Westport Park, which was located on Russell Street, and is where the Baltimore Black Sox played their home games from 1917 to 1920.

Bugle Field has been gone for more than half a century. No portion of the old ballpark remains at the site, nor does it appear that there are any buildings surrounding the site that date back to the days of Bugle Field. Even without any tangible ties to the old ballpark, its former site certainly is deserving of at least a Maryland historical marker noting the significance the area once had to Baltimore history and the history of baseball in the United States.

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Searching For The Baltimore Black Sox’s Lost Ballparks

August 4th, 2013

Just south of Camden Yards are two historic baseball sites, the exact location of which was unknown until November 2013.  The first was Maryland Baseball Park, located at the intersection of Bush Street and Russell Street, where the Baltimore Black Sox played from 1921 to 1932. The second was Westport Park, located two blocks south of Maryland Baseball Park at the intersection of Clare Street and Annapolis Road. Westport Park is where the Baltimore Black Sox played their home games from 1917-1920. (Note: there was a second Negro League ballpark in Baltimore known as Westport Stadium, located two miles south on Annapolis Road between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Patapsco Avenue, where the Baltimore Elite Giants played in 1950).

The 1913 Baltimore Black Sox

The Baltimore Black Sox began about 1913 as an independent team and in 1923 joined the Eastern Colored League. In 1929 they were associated with the American Negro League and from 1930-1931 they were once again an independent team.

Baltimore Black Sox 1924 (Photo Sports Legends Museum)

Bernard McKenna, a Baltimore baseball fan and ballpark historian, discovered an aerial photograph taken by the Maryland Port Administration (and digitized by Johns Hopkins University) showing the exact location of the Maryland Baseball Park. Up until Mr. McKenna’s discovery in November 2013, the exact location of Maryland Baseball Park was unknown, as there were no known photographs of the actual ballpark.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Maryland Park Circa 1927, Only Known Photograph of Ballpark (Thanks to Bernard McKenna) (Map Located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Maryland Baseball Park was located at the intersection of Bush and Russell Street on what is now 1801 Annapolis Road.

Intersection of Russell and Bush Streets Looking Southeast Toward Former Site of Maryland Park

Wheelabrator, a sold waste incinerator facility, now occupies the former site of Maryland Baseball Park.

1801 Annapolis Road, Former Site of Maryland Baseball Park, Home of the Baltimore Black Sox

The site is bounded to the northeast by Gwynn Falls Stream, which can be seen in the picture below as well as the 1927 aerial photograph of Maryland Baseball Park.

Looking East From Russell Street Down Gwynn Falls Stream Which Ran Parallel to Maryland Baseball Park's Left Field Foul Line

Maryland Baseball Park’s former left field foul line ran parallel to Gwynn Falls Stream.

Location of Maryland Baseball Park's Former Left Field Foul Line

Maryland Baseball Park’s former right field foul line ran parallel to Annapolis Road.

Looking South Down Annapolis Road Which Parallel's Maryland Baseball Park's Former Right Field Foul Line

Maryland Baseball Park’s former grandstand and infield once sat in the spot now occupied by the front entrance to the Wheelabrator facility.

Wheelabrator Baltimore Southwest Resource Recovery Facility, Former Site of Maryland Baseball Park

The distinctive smoke stack, with the words “Baltimore” and “RESCO” painted on its sides, dominates the site, providing an easy landmark for anyone trying to find the former site of Maryland Baseball Park.

Looking North on Annapolis Road From Westport Toward Former Site of Maryland Baseball Park

On the southwest corner of Russell and Bush Street is an Exxon gas station at 1800 Russell Street, which is located across the street from the former site of Maryland Park.

Southwest Corner Of Bush And Russell Streets, Former Site of Maryland Baseball Park

Behind the Exxon at 1701 Ridgely Street is a warehouse, which, according to city land records, was constructed n 1925. The building is the current home of DSI,LLC, a company that sells mechanical equipment. That building can be seen in the 1927 aerial photograph of Maryland Baseball Park.

1701 Ridgely Street

Several other buildings that date to the time of Maryland Baseball Park remain across Russell Street, catty-corner from the ballpark site. At 1925 Bush Street is the F.L. Anderson Company, built in 1914. According to Charles Underwood, Vice President of F.L. Anderson, land in that area was constructed on top of infill material from the great Baltimore fire of 1904. The building at 1645 Ridgely Street, located just northwest of F.L. Anderson, likewise dates to the early 1900s.

Intersection of Bush and Russell Streets, Just South Of Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The land on which Maryland Baseball Park was constructed was owned by the B&O Railroad. Newspaper advertisements of the day tout the ballpark’s easy access on the “Ridgeley Car Line.” Ridgeley Street is located northwest of the former ballpark site and can be seen in the 1927 photograph of Maryland Baseball Park.

The Black Sox were the ballpark’s major tenant. However, other sporting events, such as boxing and soccer, were played at the park. Notable games played at Maryland Baseball Park include games three and four of the 1924 Negro League World Series between the Hilldales and the Kansas City Monarchs.

1929 Baltimore Black Sox (Photo Sports Legends Museum)

As to the location of the Black Sox’s earlier ballpark, evidence uncovered by Mr. McKenna likewise suggests that Westport Park was located two blocks south of Maryland Baseball Park at the intersection of Clare Street and Annapolis Road.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Maryland Park and Westport Park, Circa 1927 (Map Located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Previously, it had been thought that Westport Park was located north of the intersection of Russell and Bush Streets. According to James Bready’s book  “Baseball in Baltimore,” Westport Park was located at 1701 Russell Street. A Holiday Inn Express now sits at that site. At the northeast corner of Bush and Russell Streets today is a BP Gas Station which sits directly south of the Holiday Inn. In actuality, Westport Park was located south of Maryland Baseball Park.

1701 Russell Street - Holiday Inn Express

Because there was no known picture of Westport Park, it was difficult to determine precisely where the ballpark actually sat. The same aerial photograph taken by the Maryland Port Administration, which shows the location of Maryland Baseball Park, also shows what remained at that time of Westport Park.

Maryland Port Administration Aerial View of Westport Park Circa 1927 (Thanks to Bernard McKenna) (Map Located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Home plate was near the northeast corner Claire Street and Annapolis Road.

Former Site of Westport Park, Northeast Corner of Claire Street and Annapolis Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Up until recently, the portion of the site that was once the first base side of the ballpark was occupied by the Westport Electrical Substation.

Westport Substation, Claire Road, Former Site of Westport Park's Right Field

The land is owned by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company and it is uncertain whether anything is planned for the site. Perhaps a neighborhood ballfield?

Westport Substation Sign

The shopping center at 1915 – 1921 Annapolis Road sits on what was once Westport Park’s left field corner.

Shopping Center at 1915-1921 Annapolis Road, former Site of Westport Park's Left Field

Houses that date to to the time of Westport Park are located just south of the site on Annapolis Road. The house at 2009 Annapolis Road was built in 1920, while the houses at 2011 and 2013 were built in 1900.

Row Houses located at 2009, 2011, 2013 Annapolis Road, Baltimore, Maryland

In 1932 the Black Sox joined the East West League and played their games at Bugle Field, home of the Baltimore Elite Giants. Bugle Field was located at the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway. In 1933-1934 the Black Sox were members of the Negro National League. Future Hall of Famer Leon Day, a Baltimore native, began his professional career with the 1934 Black Sox. According to Robert Leffler’s thesis “The History of Black Baseball in Baltimore 1913 to 1951,” Maryland Baseball Park became a junk yard in 1934.

Hall of Famer Leon Day

The Elites left Bugle Field after the 1949 season and played their home games at Westport Stadium in 1950 (not to be confused with Westport Park). Once located on Old Annapolis Road between Route 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway) and Patapsco Avenue, Westport Stadum subsequently was used as a NASCAR-sanctioned racetrack.

The Sports Legends Museum, located next to Orioles Park at Camden Yards a mile northeast of the old site of Maryland Baseball Park, includes a tribute to the Black Sox.

Sports Legends Museum Display About Baltimore Black Sox

A bus similar to the type that Negro League players once road is included in the Sports Legends Museum display.

Sports Legends Museum Negro Leagues Display

Westport Park and Maryland Baseball Park are both truly lost ballparks. Now, thanks to Mr. McKenna, we have photographs and know the exact location of each park. Both sites are worth a visit the next time you find yourself heading to or from an Orioles game at Camden Yards.

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