Posts Tagged ‘Camden Yards’

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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Posted in Maryland ballparks, Westport Park/Maryland Baseball Park | Comments (3)

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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Posted in Maryland ballparks, Memorial Stadium | Comments (18)