Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Buckeyes’

Erie’s Ainsworth Field – Baseball Archaeology In A Minor League Time Capsule

March 6th, 2015

Ainsworth Field is located at the intersection of Washington Place and West 24th Street in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

The ballpark was constructed in 1923 and given the direct and to the point name, “Athletic Field.”

Exterior, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Exterior, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

In 1947 the ballpark was rechristened Ainsworth Athletic Field. According to the dedication plaque, the ballpark was named in honor of J.C. Ainsworth, “In appreciation of his outstanding accomplishments as civic leader, physical director friend and counselor of the youth of this community.”

Dedicatoin Plaque 1947, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Dedicatoin Plaque 1947, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

After a renovation in 1980, the School District of Erie, Pennsylvania, rededicated the ballpark as, simply, Ainsworth Field.

Memorial Plaque, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Rededication Plaque 1980, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Minor league baseball was played at Ainsworth Field beginning in 1928, with arrival of the Central League Erie Sailors, who, as sailors are want to do, left after a brief stay, playing only one season at the ballpark.

Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

The Sailors reappeared on Erie’s horizon in 1938, this time as a Middle Atlantic League franchise. After two seasons, the call of the sea proved too strong once again and the Sailors shipped off after the 1939 season. The Sailors returned to the shores of Lake Erie twice thereafter, making Ainsworth Field their home once again from 1941 to 1942, and from 1946 to 1951.

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

A number of New York-Penn League franchise also called Ainsworth Field home, beginning in 1954 with the arrival of the Erie Senators. The Senators departed after the 1963 season. The Erie Tigers then played one season at the ballpark in 1967.

Gated Entrance to Field, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Gated Entrance to Field, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

From 1981 to 1987, Ainsworth Field was home to the Erie Cardinals, and from 1988 to 1989, the Erie Orioles played at the ballpark.

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field’s last year hosting a professional baseball club was in 1994, when the Erie Sailors drifted back to Erie for one final season, this time as a Frontier League affiliate.

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

In  1995, Erie inaugurated Jerry Uht Park, a new ballpark located two and a half miles northeast of Ainsworth Field. The Eastern League Seawolves, who relocated to Erie from Welland, Ontario, that year, have played at Jerry Uht Park ever since.

Jerry Uht Park, Erie, Pennsylvania, Home of the Erie Seawolves, Circa 2003

Jerry Uht Park, Erie, Pennsylvania, Home of the Erie Seawolves, Circa 2003

According to Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals, Ainsworth Field’s baseball history includes its use during the 1940s as a neutral site by the Negro American League Kansas City Monarchs.

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Other Negro League teams played at Ainsworth Field including the Homestead Grays in 1926, and the Negro American League Cleveland Buckeyes and the Negro National League Newark Eagles for one game in 1946.

First Base Dugout, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

The press box includes a tribute to Sam Jethroe, who lived in Erie and played at Ainsworth Field in 1946 as a member of the Cleveland Buckeyes, as well as Babe Ruth, who played an exhibition game at Ainsworth Field soon after it opened in 1923.

Press Box, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Press Box, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

In 2007, Signs of the Time, a documentary on umpiring and the origin of hand signals, was filmed at Ainsworth Field.

Third Base Dugout,  Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Third Base Dugout, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

The original entrance to Ainsworth Field used to be through through a concourse that ran underneath the grandstand. That entrance has been closed off and the ticket booths that were attached to the entrance removed.

Former Entrance to Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Former Entrance to Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

The entrances to the grandstand from the lower concourse have been cordoned off as well.

Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania, Showing Entrance from Grandstand to Lower Concourse Closed Off

Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania, Showing Entrance from Grandstand to Lower Concourse Closed Off

Entry to the ballpark now is through a gate just beyond the third base side of the grandstand.

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Today, the grandstand concourse is used for storage.

Entrance to Concourse Underneath Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Concourse Underneath Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Baseball Archaeology in Erie, Pennsylvania: a stroll through Ainsworth Field’s unlit concourse is like walking through a time capsule full of discarded pieces of ballpark history.

Stadium Office Located on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Stadium Office Located on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

The concourse under the grandstand wraps around the entire length of the structure.

Concourse Walkway Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Concourse Walkway Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Stadium player lockers are stored on the concourse, having been removed from the team locker rooms some indeterminable time long ago.

Team Lockers Stored on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Team Lockers Stored on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

A concession stand who’s best days are behind it waits patiently for someone to place an order.

Concessions Stand on Concourse, Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Concessions Stand on Concourse, Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania I

Ice Cream Anyone? Concessions Stand on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ice Cream Anyone? Concessions Stand on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Just past the concession stand are steel bleacher risers, removed during an earlier renovation of the ballpark.

Bleacher Risers Stored in Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Bleacher Risers Stored in Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

A tangle of stadium seats, presumably installed in 1980 and replaced in 2004, lie in ruin just beyond what was once a restroom.

Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Stadium Seats Stored on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Stadium Seats Stored on Concourse Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

The electrical room is located underneath the grandstand, presumably still providing some amount of power for the stadium.

Electrical Room Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Electrical Room Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

The entrance to the former equipment room includes a relic from the vagabond Erie Sailors.

Erie Sailors Bumper Sticker on Door To Equipment Room, Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie Sailors Bumper Sticker on Door To Equipment Room, Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Equipment Room Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

Equipment Room Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

One stadium relic that really ought to be on display somewhere, perhaps Jerry Uht Park, is a New York-Penn League Standings sign that dates back to the 1980s or early 1990s.

New York Penn Leqgue Standings Sign, Stored in  Concourse Walkway Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

New York Penn Leqgue Standings Sign, Stored in Concourse Walkway Underneath Ainsworth Field Grandstand, Erie, Pennsylvania

The good news is that baseball is still played regularly at Ainsworth Field. Three local high schools, the Central Tech High School Falcons, the East High School Warriors, and the Strong Vincent High School Colonels all have played their games at Ainsworth Field since 1995.

Storage Building, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Storage Building, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Since 1995, the Erie Glenwood League Baseball, an amateur league formed in the 1920s, has also played at Ainsworth Field.

Concessions Stand Located Beyond Third Base Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Concessions Stand Located Beyond Third Base Grandstand, Ainsworth Field, Erie, Pennsylvania

Ainsworth Field is an important part of Erie’s history, and the city does an admirable job of maintaining the field. In less than a decade, the ballpark will celebrate its 100th anniversary and it looks as if Ainsworth Field will still be standing when it reaches its centennial.

This blog about Ainsworth Field is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Quinn, a long-time Erie resident and fan of the game.

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Cleveland’s League Park Reborn – If You Renovate It They Will Come

August 26th, 2014

There is good news in Cleveland. The former site of League Park – once home to the National League Cleveland Spiders, the American League Indians, the National Football League Cleveland Rams, and the Negro American League Cleveland Buckeyes – has been preserved and the historical portions of the ballpark that remain have been restored or renovated.

League Park Renovation of Main Ticket Booth 2014

League Park Renovation of Main Ticket Booth 2014

In an earlier post about League Park I reported about what remained at the site as of 2009.

League Park Center Circa 2009

League Park Center Circa 2009

In August 2014, the City of Cleveland completed a renovation process, several years in the making.

Panoramic View of League Park Along Lexington Avenue

Panoramic View of League Park Along Lexington Avenue

The former ticket booth and team administrative offices located at the corner of 66th and Lexington has been restored to its turn of the century beauty.

Detail of Second Floor Window and Brick Renovation, League Park, Cleveland

Detail of Second Floor Window and Brick Work Renovation, League Park, Cleveland

In addition, along Lexington Avenue, the city has installed a forty foot high fence similar to the one that once stood along the back of right field at the time Shoeless Joe Jackson played for the Indians.

Recreation of Right Field Fence League Park Center, From Days When Joeless Joe Jackson Played Right Field

Recreated Right Field Fence League Park Center, From Days When Joeless Joe Jackson Played Right Field

The interior of the former ticket booth and administrative offices also has been renovated.

First Floor Renovation of League Park Main Ticket Booth and Offices

First Floor Renovation of League Park Main Ticket Booth and Offices

Inside the ballpark site is a plaza along the first base side of League Park that helps celebrate the history of the site.

Renovation of First Base Side Plaza

Panoramic Shot of First Base Side Plaza

On the wall where once sat the first base grandstand, the City has placed pictures of notable ballplayers who once played at League Park.

League Park First Base Grand Stand With Pictures of Notable Ballplayers

League Park First Base Grand Stand With Pictures of Notable Ballplayers

The plaza also includes a sidewalk with notable dates in the history of League Park.

League Park First Base Plaza Includes Notable Years in Ballpark's History

League Park First Base Plaza Includes Notable Years in Ballpark’s History

The Ohio Historical Marker that since 1979 sat along Lexington Avenue next to the former ticket booth and administrative offices has been renovated and relocated near the right field corner.

Renovated League Park Historical Marker

Renovated League Park Historical Marker

Located in place of the first base grandstands (a portion of which actually remained at the site until about 2002) is a new one story building.

New Building on Site of Former First Base Grandstand, Indian's Club House, and Dugout

New Building on Site of League Park’s Former First Base Grandstand, Indian’s Club House, and Dugout

The building, and plaza in front of it, mark the site of Cleveland’s dugout and a tunnel that once provided player access to the club house.

Circa 2003 Photo of First Base Grand Stand and Tunnel From Dugout to Club House

Circa 2003 Photo of League Park First Base Grand Stand and Tunnel From Dugout to Club House

The above photo from 2003 shows the location of the dugout steps and clubhouse tunnel.  The photograph below shows the clubhouse tunnel as it existed in 2009.

League Park Tunnel from Home Team Dugout to Club House

League Park Tunnel from Home Team Dugout to Club House

A metal railing now outlines the location of the clubhouse tunnel inside the building constructed on top of the first base grand stand.

Inside View of Building Constructed Atop Dugout and Club House Tunnel

Inside View of Building Constructed Atop Dugout and Club House Tunnel

The window at the center of the building, just to the left of the infield backstop in the picture below, marks the location of the clubhouse tunnel.

Former Location of First Base Grandstand as Seen From Field

Former Location of First Base Grandstand as Seen From Infield

The original infield, which by 2009 had been removed and replaced with just grass, is back in the form of turf.

League Park Infield Circa 2003

League Park Infield Circa 2003

Home plate sits in the same location as it once sat during the time of League Park.

Panoramic of League Park Turf Field

Panoramic of League Park Turf Field

Metal bleachers surround the infield backstop.

Bleachers and Backstop, League Park Field

Bleachers and Backstop, League Park Field

The entrance to League Park along 66th Street includes an iron gate placed in the same spot where countless fans once entered the ballpark during its heyday.

Entrance to League Park on 66th Street

Entrance to League Park on 66th Street

The City of Cleveland has done a wonderful job restoring the first base grandstand outer wall as well.

Renovated Wall Along First Base Side of League Park on 66th Street

Renovated Wall Along First Base Side of League Park on 66th Street

The brickwork of League Park’s outer wall is quite exquisite and was worth saving even apart from the historic nature of League Park.

Detail of League Park Brick Work, First Base Grandstand Outer Wall, 66th Street

Detail of League Park Brick Work, First Base Grandstand Outer Wall, 66th Street

Baseball once again will be played at the corner of Lexington and 66th. The City of Cleveland and the many baseball enthusiasts who helped encouraged League Park’s renovation have done a wonderful service not only for Cleveland fans, but also for fans of the game around the country. I always have felt that League Park was a historic site that any baseball fan traveling to Cleveland should see. Hopefully now with the park’s renovation,  fans from around the country will stop by the corner of Lexington and 66th to see the wonderful gem that is League Park. With apologies to W.P. Kinsella, “if you renovate it, they will come.”

And speaking of Shoeless Joe Jackson, on your visit to League Park, be sure to make a stop at the vacant lot just two blocks East of League Park at 7209 Lexington Avenue.

Vacant Lot at 7209 Lexington Avenue, Site of Shoeless Joe Jackson's Cleveland Home

Vacant Lot at 7209 Lexington Avenue, Site of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Cleveland Home

On that spot once sat the home of Mr. Jackson, the place where he lived during his time with the Cleveland Indians. If only he had never left Cleveland . . .

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