Posts Tagged ‘Negro Leagues’

Gus Greenlee’s Field In Pittsburgh’s Hill District

March 25th, 2015

Greenlee Field was located at the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Junilla Street in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1932 until 1938 it was the home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League (the Crawfords joined the NNL in 1933).

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Intersection of Bedford Avenue and Julian Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Intersection of Bedford Avenue and Junilla Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Greenlee Field is important not just because it was the home field of arguably the greatest Negro League team of all time – the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords – but because it was the first major league ballpark owned and operated by an African American. Gus Greenlee, the owner of the Crawfords, began construction of Greenlee Field in 1931, the same year he bought the team. Greenlee, a WWI veteran, wore many hats. In addition to owning the Crawfords, he was a boxing promoter, nightclub owner (the Crawford Grill), and a pioneer in Pittsburgh’s numbers racket (an illegal lottery).

Gus Greenlee, Owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords (photographer unknown)

Gus Greenlee, Owner of the Pittsburgh Crawfords (photographer unknown)

Crawford Grill No. 1, which Greenlee opened in 1930, was located at the intersection of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue at 1401 Wylie Avenue. Crawford Grill No. 1 was destroyed by fire in 1951 and subsequently demolished to make way for the Civic Arena parking lot. Crawford Street was an important part of the Hill District and provided the inspiration for the team’s name, the Pittsburgh Crawfords. At the intersection of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue also stood the Pittsburgh Bath House and Recreation Center, which was the original sponsor of the then semi-professional Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Melon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Circa 2006

Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Circa 2006

The building in which Greenlee opened Crawford Grill No. 2, beginning in 1943, still stands in Pittsburgh’s Hill District at the intersection of Wylie Avenue and Elmore Street, just  a half mile southwest of the Greenlee Field site.

Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Historical Marker for Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Historical Marker for Crawford Grill No. 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In 1933, Greenlee founded the Negro National League and was instrumental in establishing the East-West Classic, an annual Negro League all-star game played in Chicago. During his tenure as owner of the Crawfords, which ceased after the 1938 season, Greenlee stocked his team with many future Hall of Fame players including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charlestown, Judy Johnson and James T. “Cool Papa” Bell. The 1935 Crawfords, which included the above Hall of Famers, except Paige, is considered by many to be the greatest Negro League team ever to play the game.

Historical Marker, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Historical Marker, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Greenlee Field’s home plate, and the entrance to its grandstand, was located near the intersection Bedford Avenue and Junilla Street.

Entrance to Greenlee Field on Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Associated Press Photo)

Entrance to Greenlee Field on Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Associated Press Photo)

After the 1938 season, Greenlee Field was demolished. Several images of the ballpark in its hey day can be viewed on line by searching “Greenlee Field” in the Teenie Harris Archives, Carnegie Museum of Art (Charles “Teenie” Harris was one of the founders of the semi-pro Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1926). Soon after demolition of Greenlee Field, the City of Pittsburgh began construction of the Bedford Dwellings housing project, which remains today at the ballpark’s former site.

Former Site of Greenlee FIeld, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Greenlee FIeld, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Greenlee Field’s left field corner was located at what is now the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Barnett Way. At the time of Greenlee Field, Watt Street intersected Bedford Avenue where what is now Barnett Way.

Former Site of Left Field Corner, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Left Field Corner, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Because Greenlee Field was built on a hill, the playing field was located several feet above street grade.

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking from Left Field Corner Toward Home Plate

Former Site of Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking from Left Field Corner Toward Home Plate

Just to the east of Watt Street (which no  longer runs through the site) was the Pittsburgh Municipal Hospital, which can be seen in some of the photos of Greenlee Field available in the Teenie Harris Archives.

Team Picture of 1937 Homestead Grays Taken at Greenlee Field With Hospital Visible Beyond Right Field Fence

Team Picture of 1937 Homestead Grays Taken at Greenlee Field With Pittsburgh Hospital Visible Beyond Right Field Fence (photo from diversity.appstate.edu and courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame Cooperstown)

A park known as “The Garden of Hope” now sits at the former site of the hospital.

Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking Toward Former Site of Center Field Corner from Left Field Corner

Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Looking Toward Former Site of Center Field Corner from Left Field Corner

Greenlee Field’s former infield site is accessible from Chauncey Drive.

Chauncey Drive, Former Site of First Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Chauncey Drive and Beford Avenue, Near Former Site of First Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Where Chauncey Drive makes a 45 degree turn is the approximate location of second base.

Chauncey Drive Intersection Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Intersection Where Chauncey Drive Makes a 45 Degree Turn, Bedford Dwellings, Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Chauncey Drive, Looking Toward Downtown Pittsburgh, Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field

Chauncey Drive, Looking West Toward Downtown Pittsburgh, Near Former Site of Second Base, Greenlee Field

Some buildings located along Bedford Avenue date back to Greenlee Field. Three row houses at the intersection of Junilla Street and Bedford Avenue are located across the street from what would have been the home plate grandstand.

Row Houses at 2500-04 Bedford Avenue, Dating Back to Time of Greenlee Field

Row Houses at 2500-04 Bedford Avenue, Dating Back to Time of Greenlee Field

Three townhouses located 2520-24 Bedford Avenue are located across the street from what was once left field.

2420-22 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2420-22 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The townhouse on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Watt Street (Watt Street was relocated after demolition of Greenlee Field) is now a market. With a little imagination, it is not hard to picture what Greenlee Field might have looked like standing at the entrance to that market.

2420 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Samba Market, 2420 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Just three blocks west of the former site of Greenlee Field, at the northwest corner of Somers Street and Bedford Avenue, was another Negro League ballpark, Ammons Field. The semi-pro Pittsburgh Crawfords played at this field, beginning in about 1926, as did the professional level Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays beginning in 1930. Ammons Field also is notable as the field where Josh Gibson first played baseball for the semi-pro Crawfords in 1928. For more information about Ammons Field and the history of the Crawfords, see James Bankes’ fine book The Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Historical Marker for Ammons Field

Historical Marker for Ammons Field

The City of Pittsburgh has paid tribute to Ammons Field and Josh Gibson with a historical marker. Located behind the Ammons Recreation Center at Bedford Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street is a youth baseball field dedicated to Josh Gibson.

Josh Gibson Field, Ammons Recreation Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Josh Gibson Field, Ammons Recreation Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

As noted in the informative website Agatetype.typepad.com, the actual location of the original Ammons Field utilized by the Crawfords was one block east of Josh Gibson Field, the current park. The former location of the modest grandstand and home plate is visible on the bluff beyond Josh Gibson Field’s left field fence.

Josh Gibson Field Looking Toward Former Site of Ammons Field Home Plate, Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Josh Gibson Field Looking Toward Former Site of Ammons Field Grandstand and Home Plate at Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Ammons Field Home Plate, Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Former Site of Ammons Field Grandstand and Home Plate, Somers Drive and Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and the former site of Greenlee Field, is located just two miles west of the former site of Forbes Field, and one and a half miles southwest of the former sites of Three Rivers Stadium and Exposition Park, as well as the Pirates current ballpark, PNC Park. If you are a fan of  the game and the history of the game, and you find yourself in Pittsburgh on a baseball trip, a stop at the former site of Greenlee Field and Ammons Field, is a must.

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Paterson New Jersey’s Hinchliffe Stadium – A Diamond In The Rough

September 10th, 2014

Hinchliffe Stadium is located at the intersection of Liberty Street and Maple Street in Paterson, New Jersey.

Entrance to Hinchiffe Stadium at Intersection of  Liberty and Maple Street

Entrance to Hinchliffe Stadium at Intersection of Liberty and Maple Street

The ballpark is set directly behind Paterson Public School No. 5, located at 430 Totowa Avenue, just three blocks northeast of the entrance on Maple Street to Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.

Paterson Public School No. 5, Paterson, NJ

Side View of Paterson Public School No. 5, Paterson, NJ

Hinchliffe Stadium is named after Paterson’s former Mayor John V. Hinchliffe (although the mayor himself once claimed that the stadium was named after his Uncle John, also once the mayor of Paterson).

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Northwest  Along Maple Street

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Northwest Along Maple Street

Constructed in 1931 and 1932, the ballpark was financed by the City of Paterson at a cost of approximately $250,000.

Panoramic Photo of Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Facing Maple Street

Panoramic Photo of Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Facing Maple Street

The ballpark was designed by Fanning & Shaw, a local architectural firm, in the Art Deco style.

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

The stadium’s exterior walls are constructed of poured concrete.

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Fronting Liberty Street

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Fronting Liberty Street

The exterior walls include many architectural flourishes such as clay tile roofing and plaster inlay plaques created by Paterson native Gaetano Federici.

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Exterior Fronting Liberty Street

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Exterior Fronting Liberty Street

Ownership of the ballpark was transferred from the city to the Paterson School District in 1963. In 1997 the school district closed Hinchliffe Stadium, unable to pay for its continued upkeep.

Entrance Gates to Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Entrance Gates to Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

In the last 20 years, the stadium’s structure has continued to deteriorate from neglect. Were this just another aging high school athletic stadium, Hinchliffe might already have been lost to time.

Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Windows Facing Jasper Street

Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Windows Facing Jasper Street

However, Hinchliffe’s rich history is what may just save it from demolition and ultimately what might ensure its restoration for future generations to appreciate.

Detail of Ticket Window Facing Jasper Street, Hinchliffe Stadium

Detail of Ticket Window Facing Jasper Street, Hinchliffe Stadium

Most notably, Hinchliffe is recognized as one of the last surviving ballparks where a significant number of Negro League games were played.

Inside Ticket Booth, Hinchliffe Stadium

Inside Ticket Booth, Hinchliffe Stadium

Starting in 1933, the Negro National League New York Black Yankees called Hinchliffe their home, continuing for 12 seasons until they departed at the end of 1945 (the Black Yankees played their home games at Triborough Stadium in 1937). Many Negro League greats played at Hinchliffe, including one 1934 contest between the Black Yankees and the Pittsburgh Crawfords featuring future Hall of Famers James “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, and Judy Johnson. Other Hall of Famers who played at Hinchliffe Stadium include Martín Dihigo, Monte Irwin, Buck Leonard, and Satchel Paige (note: it is unclear whether Paige actually played in a game at Hinchliffe). Hinchliffe also was home to the Negro National League New York Cubans in the mid 1930s.

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Booth From Inside Stadium

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Booth

Future Hall of Famer and Paterson native Larry Doby grew up playing at Hinchliffe Stadium, first as a star at Eastside High School playing both football and baseball, and later as a member of the Negro National League Newark Eagles, beginning in 1942.

Entrance of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Entrance of Hinchliffe Stadium (Interior) Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

In addition to Negro League baseball, Hinchliffe stadium hosted professional soccer (the New Jersey Stallions and New Jersey Eagles) and football (Paterson Giants, the Silk City Bears, the Paterson Panthers and the Paterson Nighthawks), as well as boxing and auto racing. Notable athletes who played at Hinchliffe include future football Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi playing for the Brooklyn Eagles in a game against the Panthers, Earl Clark playing for the Portsmouth Spartans in a game against the Giants, and Bill Dudley playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game against the Panthers. For more information about Hinchliffe’s rich history, see Hinchliffe’s Stadium’s application filed with National Trust For Historic Preservation Application which provided much of the history outlined above and Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand With Paterson Public School No. 5 in Background

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand With Paterson Public School No. 5 in Background

Thankfully, many historians and fans of the game have stepped in to help protect Hinchliffe including Brian LoPinto, founder of Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium, View of First Base Grandstand From Home Plate Grandstand

Hinchliffe Stadium, View of First Base Grandstand From Home Plate Grandstand

In 2004, Hinchliffe Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Scoreboard, Hinchliffe Stadium

Scoreboard, Hinchliffe Stadium

In 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. On July 22, 2014, the Hinchliffe Stadium Heritage Act sponsored by Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr., passed the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill would expand Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park – which sits just south of the ballpark – to include Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Toward Former Center Field With Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in Background

Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Toward Former Center Field With Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in Background

Even with all that has been done to help ensure Hinchliffe Stadium’s future, the current condition of the ballpark, and the passage of time, continue to  work against it.

Third Base Grandstand, Hinchliffe Stadium

Third Base Grandstand, Hinchliffe Stadium

The poured concrete structure that helped sustain the ballpark since it’s construction in the early 1930’s is crumbling, which will require extensive repair or replacement of the actual concrete.

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand Staircase

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand Staircase

An assessment of the stadium conducted by the City of Paterson concluded that although much of the concrete is salvageable, the cost of restoration and modernization could be as high as $44 million. The City of Greensboro, North Carolina, is facing a similar challenge as it grapples with how best to restore historic War Memorial Stadium which, like Hinchliffe, is constructed mainly of poured concrete.

Hinchliffe Stadium Bathroom

Hinchliffe Stadium Bathroom

Although the continued existence of Hinchliffe Stadium is not yet a certainty, the good news on many fronts suggests that the ballpark might just stand the test of time.

Houses Fronting Totowa Avenue, Paterson, NJ

Houses Fronting Totowa Avenue Near Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson, NJ

Restoration of the ballpark would be good news not only for the citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, but for baseball fans and historians far and wide. However, to paraphrase Nelson Wilbury, “it’s gonna take a whole lot of spending money to do it right.” If you are interested in helping preserve Hinchliffe Stadium, contact Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. And while you are at it, be sure to thank them as well.

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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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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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Rickwood Field – Baseball’s Time Capsule

September 19th, 2013

Rickwood Field, located at 1137 2nd St W, in Birmingham, Alabama, is a century-old time capsule of America’s National Pastime. It is recognized by the Historic American Building Survey as the country’s oldest surviving baseball park.

Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Constructed by Birmingham Barons owner Rick Woodward (hence the name), the first professional game  played there was a contest between the Barons and the Montgomery Climbers on August 18, 1910. This was approximately two years before the opening of Fenway Park, major league baseball’s oldest surviving ballpark.

Ridkwood Field, As Seen From 11th Street

Rickwood was the first concrete and steel minor league ballpark constructed in the United States. The stadium’s facade is truly remarkable for its unspoiled, vintage appearance, and would be worthy of a photo essay all its own.

Rickwood Field Third Base Side Grandstand

The first base side grandstand runs the length of the ballfield and wraps around behind right field.

Rickwood Field First Base Side Grandstand

Two historic plaques honor the history of Rickwood Field. The first plaque, erected by the Alabama Historical Commission in 1996, recognizes Rickwood Field’s placement on the National Register for Historic Places.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker

The second plaque, erected by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2010, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker Noting Opening Day 1910

The distinctive Mission style front entrance to Rickwood Field was added in 1928.

Mission Style Front Entrance to Rickwood Field

On the first base side of the ballpark, past the front entrance, is a sign welcoming visitors to a guided tour of the ballpark. Free pamphlets are available there for visitors to take along on their tour.

Rickwood Field's Self Guided Tour

The main entrance way to the ballpark appears much as it did in 1940.

Rickwood Field Front Entrance Turnstiles

A chalkboard listing the players for the day’s contest sits just to the right beyond the turnstiles.

Lineup From 2013 Rickwood Classic

Rickwood was home to the Southern Association (later Southern League) Birmingham Barons from 1910 until 1987.

Field of Dreams, Alabama Style

It also was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1920 until 1963. The Black Barons played in various leagues over the years including the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League, and the Negro American League.

Rickwood Field Tower

Notable players who called Rickwood Field their home included Hall of Famers Willie Mays (a native of Birmingham), Sachel Paige, Willie Wells, George Suttles, Bill Foster, Pie Traynor, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, and Burleigh Grimes.

Rickwood Field Third Base Dugout

During the design phase of Rickwood Field, Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack served as a consultant. The field and stadium were patterned after Forbes Field and Shibe Park. Both the Philadelphia Phillies (1911, 1920) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1919) held their spring training at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field View From the First Base Dugout

The distinctive cantilevered light stanchions date to 1936, when Rickwood became one of the first minor league facilities to host night baseball.

Louvered Windows at Rickwood Field

The steel and wood roof is a visual masterpiece. The supports for that roof, placed one per section, provide vintage obstructed views of the field.

Right Field Seating Rickwood Field

Rickwood Field currently has a seating capacity of 10,800. All of the original seating has long since been replaced.

Obstructed View At Rickwood Field Is Part of the Charm

The first base side grandstand, which wraps around to right field, was designed after Forbes Field, which had a similar wrap around, right field grandstand.

View From the Right Field Grandstand

The concrete outfield fence dating to 1928 sits behind the “newer” wooden fence. In 1948 Walt Dropo famously hit a home run over the wooden fence that hit the concrete fence on the fly.

Original Outfield Wall at Rickwood Field

Although long since replaced, at one time Rickwood Field could boast having wooden box seats and wooden row seats from the Polo Grounds, with wrought iron “NY” emblems at the end of each row. In the 1970s the seats were replaced and, for a time, could be purchased at nearby Legion Field in Birmingham.

Gambling Not Permitted at Rickwood Field

Because Rickwood Field offers so much to see, including the colorful outfield wall signage  and the recreated scoreboard, as well as so many great angles from which to photograph the ballpark, I have included a four minute video meant to capture the feel of the ballpark.

If you would like to see more photographs of Rickwood Field taken by a professional photographer, please visit Lou Dina at dinagraphics.com. As you can see from the picture below, Lou has an amazing eye for detail.

Today the Birmingham Barons play their home games at Regions Field. From 1988 until 2012, they played at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Once a year, since 1996, however, the Barons return to Rickwood Field to take part in the Rickwood Classic. Held typically on a Wednesday around the last week of May, the game is an official Southern League contest that helps insure professional baseball is still a part of Rickwood’s present and future.

Regions Field, Home of the Birmingham Barons

Friends of Rickwood has been the caretaker of Rickwood Field since 1992. If you are interested in reading more about their organization or how you can help insure the preservation of the ballpark, visit them at rickwood.com. Baseball fans owe that organization a debt of gratitude helping insure that Rickwood Field never becomes just another lost ballpark.

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J.P. Small Memorial Park – Jacksonville’s Oldest Ballfield

September 13th, 2013

Baseball has been played at 1701 Myrtle Avenue in Jacksonville, Florida, since 1912. Currently known as J.P. Small Memorial Park, the ball field has been the site of major league spring training, minor league games, Negro League games, and countless high school and college contests, as well as high school and college football.

J.P. Small Park, Jacksonville, Florida

From 1912 until 1926 it was known as Barrs Field, named in honor of local businessman Amander Barrs who spearheaded construction of the field. The first professional game played on that field was held on April 18, 1912, with the Jacksonville Tarpons defeating the Savannah Indians 4-1. To put that in perspective, the RMS Titanic sank just three days earlier on April 14-15 1912, and the Boston Redsox played their first professional game at Fenway Park just five days later, defeating the New York Highlanders 7-6 on April 20, 1912.

J.P. Small Park – Baseball Has Been Played On This Field Since 1911

In 1915 and 1916 it was the spring training home for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The Pittsburgh Pirates trained at Barrs Field in 1918 and the Brooklyn Dodgers trained there in 1919, 1920, and 1922.

Philadelphia Athletics Train at Barrs Field in 1916 (J.P. Smalls Park Negro League Museum)

In 1926 the field came under the ownership of the City of Jacksonville and the name of the ballpark was changed to Joseph H. Durkee Athletic Field.The original grandstand was constructed of wood, which was destroyed by a fire in 1934.

Grandstand at J.P. Smalls Parkk

The current grandstand was constructed in 1935. An exhibition celebrating the remodeled stadium was played in March 1935 between the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants.

J.P. Small Park Grandstand Constructed in 1935

In 1937 the city added an additional section to the grandstand along the third base side.

1937 Addition to Grandstand at J.P. Small Park

The minor league Jacksonville Tarpons played at Barrs Field, from the ballpark’s inaugural game in April 1912, through the 1917 season. The Jacksonville Scouts (later called the Indians) of the Florida State League played at Barrs Field in the early 1920s. Football also was played at Barrs Field, which for a time hosted University of Florida football games, including the very first game ever between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, on November 6, 1915.

Original 1935 Grandstand As Seen From 7th Street

In 1926 the Southern League Jacksonville Tars began play at newly renamed Durkee Field with future Hall of Famer Rube Marquard as their manager. The 1927 New York Yankees, featuring rs Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig also played at Durkee Field. On April 1st of that year the Yankees played a spring exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals, in which Ruth hit a ball into the overflow crowd in right field, for a ground rule double.

Field Entrance to 1937 Grandstand Addition

The Southern Negro League Jacksonville Red Caps (owned by the Jacksonville Terminal Station, hence the name) also played their home games at Barr Field, later Durkee Field. In 1938 the Red Caps attained major league status joining Negro American League and played at Durkee Field for one season before relocating to Cleveland. The Red Caps returned to Jacksonville for the 1941 and 1942 seasons.

Historic 1937 Dugout With Entrance to Clubhouse

In 1938 the Jacksonville Tars were a farm team for the New York Giants. In 1952 they became a farm team for the Milwaukee Braves, changing their name to the Jacksonville Braves.

Entrance to the Third Base Side Dugout (now boarded up)

In 1953 the Braves added Hank Aaron to their roster, becoming one of two teams to break the color line in the South Atlantic League.

Stairway From Third Base Dugout To Locker Room

The last year of professional play at Durkee Field was 1954. In 1955, the Jacksonville Braves moved to a newly constructed ballpark later renamed in honor of their owner Samuel Wolfson. Jacksonville’s minor league team played at Wolfson Park through the 2002 season. In 2003 they moved to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, constructed on the former site of Wolfson Park.

Bragan Field, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

In 1980 the City of Jacksonville renovated the ballpark and renamed it in honor of James P. Small, a longtime baseball coach at Stanton High School in Jacksonville.

Ticket Booths With Plaque Commemorating J.P. Small Memorial Park

J.P. Small Park also includes a Negro League Museum with information about the ballpark and the teams that played there.

Negro League Museum Display, J.P. Small Park

The museum also honors J.P. Small and his many years working with the youth of Jacksonville.

Museum Display Honoring J.P. Small

Installed in 2006, outside the ballpark is a statue of Buck O’Neil, honoring the historical significance of J.P. Small Park to the history of Negro League baseball.

Buck O’Neil Statute Outside J.P. Small Park

J.P. Small Park is currently the home of the Stanton College Preparatory School baseball team. The caretaker of the park, a wonderful man named Russell, was kind enough to give us a tour of the entire ballpark on our visit.

Locker Room, J.P. Small Park, With Russell, the Caretaker Of The Ballpark

J.P. Small Park is a baseball time capsule. Its rich history and its beautiful preservation make it a must-see for anyone who appreciates old ballparks. For more information about the history of the park be sure to read the National Register of Historic Places Application issued by the National Park Service, placing J.P. Smalls Stadium on the Historic Register.

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Durham Athletic Park – A Real Life Major Motion Picture Site

September 8th, 2013

Durham Athletic Park (often referred to with the acronym DAP) is located at the intersection of Washington Street and W. Corporation Street in Durham, North Carolina.

Durham Athletic Park, Former Home of the Durham Bulls

Home to minor league baseball beginning in 1926, for the first seven years of its existence the ballpark was known as El Toro Park. The ballpark was renamed Durham Athletic Park in 1933 after the stadium was acquired by the City of Durham. The original ballpark, which included a wooden grandstand, was destroyed by fire in 1939. A new steel and concrete grandstand was constructed and ready for the 1940 season.

Durham Athletic Park Turret Topped Building That Housed Ticket Booth

Although there were some years where minor league baseball was not played in Durham, the ballpark primarily was home to the Durham Bulls up through the 1994 season. Local Durham Negro League teams including the Eagles and the Rams also played at Durham Athletic Park.

Entrance Behind To Durham Athletic Park Behind Home Plate

Durham Athletic Park is perhaps the most famous minor league ballpark in the country, thanks to its use as the primary filming site for the movie Bull Durham, staring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and the late Trey Wilson. War Memorial Stadium, located in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina, 50 miles west of DAP, also was used for filming some of the scenes in Bull Durham.

View of DAP Grandstand From Home Team Dugout

For fans of Bull Durham, a visit to Durham Athletic Park is like walking through a movie set.

View Of DAP Grandstand From Behind Home Plate

The City of Durham recently completed a $4 million renovation of the ballpark. Although some things have changed, like the color of the grandstand wall that runs along the infield, which is now brown, not green, the ballpark is readily recognizable as the ballpark where Crash Davis helped tutor Nuke LaLoosh to become a major league pitcher.

Box Seats And General Admission At DAP

The home team dugout where many memorable scenes were filmed now has a protective fence in front of it.

DAP Home Team Dugout

The radio announcer’s booth, made famous by Garland Bunting, remains. In real life, Bunting was a North Carolina Revenue Agent.

DAP Radio Announcer's Booth

The press box remains as well.

Box Seats Behind Top Of Press Box, Durham Athletic Park

In the movie, the press box was visible directly behind home plate.

Press Box At DAP

The outfield signage has been removed, including the famous bull that blew smoke and moved its tail when hit by a home run ball. In addition, at least two of the buildings beyond the right field fence have been painted blue.

Buildings Behind Right Field Where Once Sat The Bull SIgn

Durham Athletic Park and the movie Bull Durham helped revive the popularity of minor league baseball in the United States. They also helped end the ballpark’s affiliation with a minor league team.

Concession Stand, Durham Athletic Park

The team soon found that the small stadium could no longer hold the crowds that came to see the Bulls.

Field Of Dreams, DAP Infield

Beginning in 1995, the Durham Bulls began play at newly constructed Durham Bulls Athletic Park (“DBAP”). Some of the iconic features of the DAP, such as the “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign are included in the new ballpark.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Current Home of the Durham Bulls

Thanks to the popularity of the movie Bull Durham and the forward thinking of the city of Durham, North Carolina, Durham Athletic Park is here to stay.

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War Memorial Stadium – Greensboro, North Carolina

September 5th, 2013

War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina, was opened in 1926. From 1930 until 2004, the ballpark was the home to a Greensboro’s minor league baseball teams.

War Memorial Stadium, Greensboro, South Carolina

The ballpark’s first minor league tenants were the Greensboro Patriots, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the years, the major league affiliated teams that made War Memorial their home included the Red Sox, the Pirates, and the Yankees, through 1968. The Greensboro Red Wings, a minor Negro Leagues team, also played at War Memorial in the late 1940’s. After a ten year absence, in 1979, professional baseball returned to War Memorial when the Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League began play. That team had the longest uninterrupted stretch of professional baseball at War Memorial, with the Hornets, later named the Bats, playing at the ballpark through the 2004 season.

War Memorial Stadium Concrete and Stucco Exterior

In 2005, Greensboro’s minor league team moved to a new stadium located just one mile west of War Memorial Stadium. The team changed its name as well, to the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

NewBridge Bank Park, Current Home of the Greensboro Grasshopers

War Memorial Stadium is dedicated “In Memory Of All Those Of Guilford County Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice In The World War.”

War Memorial Stadium Plaque Honoring Military Members Who Lost Their Lives

On either side of the main entrance to the stadium are large bronze plaques listing the names of people from Guilford County who died in World War I. The plaques also state: “They Served That Liberty May Not Perish From The Earth.”

Detail of War Memorial Stadium

Although professional baseball has left, the game is still played at War Memorial Stadium. These pictures of the ballpark were taken in July 2010 during the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League Classic Tournament.

Greensboro Bats Ticket Booth

In addition, the ballpark still hosts college baseball. It is the home field of both North Carolina A&T University and Greensboro College.

Main Entrance Under Grandstand, War Memorial Stadium

In July 2014, the Greensboro Yankees held a reunion at War Memorial Stadium. Ike Futch, an infielder for the Greensboro Yankees in 1961, was kind enough to send me pictures of the reunion.

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo Courtesy Ike Futch)

The Greensboro Yankees also gathered inside the clubhouse. Around the table (clock wise) Johnny Smith (bat boy in 1961), Rudy Serrett, Jeff and Laura Womack’s daughters (Dooley Womack’s grandchildren), Butch Cretara, Ike Futch, Dooley Womack, Chuck Boone, Art Lopez, Unknown Local Sports Writer, Brian Dunphy (Producer, Channel 8, Greensboro Community TV), Judie Paul, Attonia Lopez, and Ron Paul.

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo Courtesy  Ike

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo Courtesy Ike Futch)

The craftsmanship that went into building War Memorial is evident throughout the ballpark.

Concession Booths Under Grandstand, War Memorial Stadium

A covered grandstand constructed of steel and concrete anchors the ballpark.

Main Grandstand War Memorial Stadium

The view of the playing field from the grandstand harkens back to an earlier era.

Playing Field at War Memorial Stadium

War Memorial made a cameo appearance in the 1989 movie Bull Durham, which was filmed primarily at Durham Athletic Park. About midway through the movie the team bus pulls up to the front entrance of War Memorial.

Steel and Wood Construction of the Main Grandstand

In addition, the locker room scenes in Bull Durham supposedly were filmed inside War Memorial’s locker room, including the late Trey Wilson’s famous “lollygag” scene. Apparently the locker rooms at Durham Athletic Park, where much of the movie was filmed, were considerably smaller.

War Memorial Stadium Entrance to General Admission Seating

With it’s major tenant gone since 2005, War Memorial has fallen into disrepair

War Memorial Stadium General Admission

Although the field is still maintained, the stadium structure itself shows signs of neglect.

Entrance to Concourse, War Memorial Stadium

In recent years there has been talk about tearing down War Memorial Stadium. However, the City of Greensboro has decided to renovate the stadium as part of a revitalization plan for the area surrounding the ballpark.

Entrance From Concourse To Third Base Seating

Although some parts of the ballpark have been demolished, such as some of the stands along third base and near left field, the future certainly seems brighter now for the ballpark. Perhaps now, with the help of the City of Greensboro, War Memorial Stadium will not become just another lost ballpark.

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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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