Posts Tagged ‘Negro National League’

Hamtramck Stadium – Detroit’s Diamond in the Rough

March 16th, 2019

Hamtramck Stadium is located at 3201 Dan Street in Hamtramck, Michigan, one block east of  Joseph Campau Avenue.

Entrance, Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark was constructed by John Roseink in 1930 on land owned by the Detroit Lumber Company. Roesink was owner of the Detroit Stars, a member of the National Negro League.  Hamtramck Stadium also was known as Roesink Stadium.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Located in the Veterans Park, the city of Hamtramck, Michigan, took over ownership of the ballpark in the early 1940s.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The State of Michigan placed a historic marker near one entrance to Veterans Park, at the northeast corner of Joseph Campau Avenue and Berres Street.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium is on the National Trust for Historic Places. If you approach the ballpark from Dan Street, the historic marker is located two blocks west on Joseph Campau Avenue.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

It is remarkable that Hamtramck Stadium still exists, given the fate of so many lost ballparks around the country. The distinctive grandstand of Hamtramck Stadium appears almost to hover over the playing field.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium, at least the portion nearest the grandstand, has not been used for baseball since the 1990s. The grandstand currently is not open to the public.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The history of Hamtramck Stadium is rich and much of the factual history recounted here is from the websites Detroit: the History and Future of the Motor City and Hamtramck Stadium: Historic Negro League Ballpark

Back of Ticket Booth, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

When Hamtramck Stadium opened in 1930, it featured a 12-foot high outfield fence, box seating, and right field bleachers.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The grandstand that remains is constructed of steel beams and girders supporting a mostly wooden floor and ceiling structure.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first game played was on May 10, 1930, when the Detroit Stars hosted the Cuban Stars. The Cuban Stars won that 13-inning contest 6-4.

Access Ramp to Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark’s grand opening was held a day later, on Sunday May 11, 1930, and the Detroit Stars defeated the Cuban Stars 7 to 4. Former Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch, with over 9,000 fans in attendance that day.

Grandstand Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The Detroit Stars played only two seasons at Hamtramck Stadium, as the team’s league, the Negro National League, folded half way through the 1931 season.

Ball field, as Seen From Center Grandtand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

However, those two years were remarkable. Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium has determined that 18 members of baseball’s Hall of Fame played at the ballpark.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

They include Negro League players Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Wells, and Mules Suttles.

Grandstand Railing, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Portions of the grandstand were renovated by the city in the 1950s and again in the 1970s.

Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

On June 28, 1930, the first night baseball game in the state of Michigan was played in Hamtramck Stadium using a portable lighting system. The Detroit Stars faced the Kansas City Monarchs with a crowd of over 10,000 people in attendance.

Baseball Field Light Stanchion, Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan – Editor Note: this is not a light stanchion from the first night game

Hamtramck Stadium is one of the last surviving Negro League baseball parks. Others include Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama and Hinchcliffe Stadium in Patterson, New Jersey.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

A third stadium, West Field in Munhall, Pennsylvania, recently was demolished in 2015, although the field remains and the site still hosts local and high school baseball and football.

Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Rickwood Field is still utilized as a baseball park by the city of Birmingham and hosts a minor league game once every year, known as the Rickwood Classic. Effort is underway to preserve and restore Hinchcliffe Stadium, which, like Hamtramck Stadium, is listed on the National Trust for Historic Places.

Grandstanp Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Concession stands and additional storage buildings located along the third base side of the stadium were constructed by the city of Hamtramck in the 1950s.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Those buildings now include murals that help tell the story of the ballpark.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Fun Fact: Right Field is located adjacent to the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Line. Those old enough to remember “We’re An American Band” will recognize the railroad from which the band Grand Funk Railroad got its name.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The following video of Hamtramck Stadium includes a walk through the grandstand and a drive around the stadium.

Hamtramck Stadium was home to the city’s 1959 Little League World Series champions, featuring local legend Art “Pinky” Deras, considered one of the greatest Little League World Series players.

Concession Stand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Three years ago, members of the former Navin Field Grounds Crew banded together to form the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew. Their interest in the historic ballpark helped bring renewed attention to the history of Hamtramck Stadium, and helped begin the process of restoring this once-proud ballpark.

Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew Members Tom Derry and Elaine Rucinski, with Calvin Stinson at Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

In the northern-most point of Hamtramck Stadium’s center field is a second baseball diamond used and maintained by Hamtrack Public Schools.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Like Hamtramck stadium, this smaller ballpark has a certain old-school charm, with its tall, fenced backstop and rustic light stanchions.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Also worth visiting is Keyworth Stadium, located in the same complex, Veterans Park, just north of Hamtramck Stadium.

Exterior Wall, Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Public Schools owns Keyworth Stadium, and hosts athletic events such as local soccer and football, as well as other community events.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The stadium was constructed in 1936 as Michigan’s first Works Progress Administration project.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first event held at the stadium was a rally featuring President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his second campaign for President in October 1936.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Keyworth Stadium’s grandstands are a bit rough around the edges, and certain sections are cordoned off by chain link fence. However, the fact that the stadium remains a living part of the city of Hamtramck is a testimony to city and its appreciation of such historic places.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

hamtramckstadium.org, with the help of assistance of the Piast Institute, Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, and Detroit’s own  Jack White, have launched campaign to help restore Hamtramck Stadium. The campaign began in early 2019 and has set a goal of raising $50,000. Anyone interested in contributing can contact patronicity.com for more information, and to make a donation. Opportunities such as this to help reclaim a historic, almost lost ballpark, are rare, and truly are worth the effort.

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Posted in Michigan ballparks | Comments (0)

Toledo’s Swayne Field And Its Century-Old Outfield Wall

May 8th, 2015

Swayne Field was located at the intersection of Monroe Street and Detroit Avenue in Toledo, Ohio. The ballpark opened on July 3, 1909, as the home of the American Association Toledo Mud Hens. The ballpark was named after Noah Swayne, Jr., who purchased the land for the ballpark and leased it to the team.

Postcard “Toledo Ball Park, Toledo, Ohio” (Published by Harry N. Hamm, Toledo, Ohio)

Toledo’s American Association franchise played at Swayne Field through the 1955 season, with the exception of 1914 and 1915 when the team relocated to Cleveland and played at League Park to keep the Federal League from establishing a team in that city. As a replacement for the city baseball fans, the Southern Michigan League Mud Hens played at Swayne Field in 1914.

Toledo’s team was known primarily as the Mud Hens, although the team changed names twice, beginning with the Toledo Iron Men from 1916 to 1918 and the Toledo Sox from 1952 to 1955. Many great ballplayers passed through  future Hall of Famer Casey Stengel who managed the team from 1926 to 1931.

Swayne Field Postcard (Publisher not stated)

Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio, Showing 12,000 Interested Baseball Fans (No Postcard Publisher Stated)

Negro League baseball was played at Swayne Field, including the Negro National League Toledo Tigers in 1923, the Negro American League Toledo Crawfords in 1939 (featuring future Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston), and the United States League Toledo Cubs in 1945 (featuring future Hall of Famer Norman “Turkey” Stearnes). Swayne Field also was the site of many Negro League exhibition games over the years.

Professional Football also was played at Swayne Field. The Ohio League Toledo Maroons played at Swayne Field from 1909 to 1921 and the National Football League Toledo Maroons played there in 1923.

"Wayne Field Base Ball Park Toledo Ohio" Postcard With Error in Name (Published by Boutelle, Toledo, Ohio)

“Wayne Field Base Ball Park Toledo Ohio” Postcard With Error in Name (Published by Boutelle, Toledo, Ohio)

The ballpark was demolished in 1956 to make way for Swayne Field Shopping Center and what was then the largest Kroger store store in the country.

Location of FIrst Base Grandstand, Infield, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Save-A-Lot Grocery Store, Former Koger Store and Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

A McDonald’s Restaurant sits in the former site of right field, just as a different McDonald’s sits in the former site of left field at Baltimore’s old American League Park. St. Ann’s Catholic Church is visible behind Swayne Field’s former right field corner, just as a different St. Ann’s Catholic Church is visible a few blocks from Baltimore’s old American League Park.

Former Site of Right Field, Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Former Site of Right Field, Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

The building that comprises the Swayne Field Shopping Center is located in what was once left and center field.

Location of Left Field Grandstand, Left Field, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Location of Left and Center, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Home plate and the grandstand behind home plate was located mid block on Monroe Street between Detroit Street and former Toledo Terminal Railroad tracks. A Sherwin-Williams store now marks the spot.

Location of Infield Looking Toward Home Plate, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Location of Infield Looking Toward Home Plate, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

First base ran parallel to Monroe Street. Some of the buildings dating to the time of Swayne Field remain near the site on Monroe Street.

Center Field Looking Toward First Base Foul Line, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Center Field Looking Toward First Base Foul Line, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Most remarkable, however, is that a portion of Swayne Field’s original concrete wall remains at the site.

Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner From Detroit Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner From Detroit Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

The concrete wall once enclosed the the ballpark along Detroit Street (the first base foul line) around to Council Street (left and center field).

Swayne Field Opening Day 1909 (Bryan Postcard Company, Bryan, Ohio)

Swayne Field Opening Day 1909 (Bryan Postcard Company, Bryan, Ohio)

The portion of the wall that remains today was once part of the left center field wall, and is located behind the shopping center, parallel to Council Street.

Original Outfield Wall, Center Field, Intersection of Detroit Street and Council Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Concrete Outfield Wall at Intersection of Detroit Street and Council Street, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

The structure is over one hundred years old and in desperate need of repair.

Hole In Original Left Field Wall (Looking Toward Council Street) Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Hole In Original Left Field Wall (Looking Toward Council Street) Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

How historically significant is the Swayne Field wall? As an actual ballpark relic, the Swayne Field wall is one year older than both Rickwood Field, the oldest former professional ballpark still standing, which opened in August 1910, and the 1910 renovation of League Park in Cleveland (League Park’s ticket house may date to 1909). The wall is three years older than Fenway Park, the oldest Major League ballpark still standing, which opened in 1912. The wall is five years older than the somewhat famous Washington Park Wall, a relic of Brooklyn’s Federal League Tip Tops ballpark, which was constructed in 1914, and Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, home for the Federal League Chicago Whales. The wall is six years older both Bosse Field, the third oldest professional ballpark still in continuous use, built in 1915, and the remnants of Braves Field, which opened in 1915. Athough Forbes Field was constructed in 1909, the same year as Swayne Field, the outfield wall that remains at the Forbes Field site was built in 1946.

Brooklyn's Washington Park Wall, A Relic of the Federal League Brooklyn Tip Tops, Built in 1914

Brooklyn’s Washington Park Wall, A Relic of the Federal League Brooklyn Tip Tops, Built in 1914 (photo circa 2006, note: a portion of the wall has since been demolished)

All that is left of the Swayne Field wall closest to the left field corner are some of the concrete pillars.

Concrete Pillars From Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Center Field, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Concrete Pillars From Original Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Center Field, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Concrete Pillars of Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Original Concrete Pillars of Outfield Wall, Looking Toward Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Out beyond what was once the left field corner is a brick building that dates back to the time of Swayne Field and is now Burkett Restaurant Supply.

Industrial Building (Currently Burkett Restaurant Supply), Beyond Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

Industrial Building (Currently Burkett Restaurant Supply), Beyond Left Field Corner, Former Site of Swayne Field, Toledo, Ohio

After Swayne Field was demolished, Toledo was without a minor league affiliate from 1956 to 1964. In 1965, the Mud Hens returned to the area, playing in what was then called Lucas County Stadium, a converted race track at the Lucas County Fairgrounds, ten miles southwest of Swayne Field in Maumee, Ohio. Lucas County Stadium was subsequently renamed Ned Skeldon Stadium after the person  who helped bring minor  league baseball back to the Toledo area.

Ned Skeldon Stadium, Toledo, Ohio

Ned Skeldon Stadium, Toledo, Ohio

In 2003 the Toledo Mud Hens left Ned Skeldon Stadium and returned to downtown Toledo, playing in brand new Fifth Third Field located just two miles southeast of the Swayne Field site.

Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio, Home Of The Toledo Mud Hens

Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio, Home Of The Toledo Mud Hens

On the Fifth Third Field club level is a display dedicated to the memory of Swayne Field.

Swayne Field Display, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

Swayne Field Display, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

Included in the display is a piece of the original Swayne Field Wall.

Swayne Field Display, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

Swayne Field Display With Piece of Original , Outfield Wall, Fifth Third Field,Toledo, Ohio

If you are a fan of the game and the history of baseball, a stop at Swayne Field Shopping Center is a must, if for no other reason than to see a ballpark relic that is over one hundred years old. There are not many professional baseball stadium structures in the United States older than the Swayne Field wall. The portion that remains is located at the corner of Detroit Street and Council Street.

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Posted in Ohio ballparks, Swayne Field | Comments (1)

Bush Stadium Apartments – There’s No Place Like Home

April 17th, 2015

Bush Stadium was located at 1510 Stadium Way, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Constructed in 1931, the ballpark originally was known as Perry Stadium, named after the family responsible for its construction.

Entrance to Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Entrance to Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1942, the ballpark was renamed Victory Field in recognition of the country’s entrance into World War II. In 1967 the City of Indianapolis purchased the ballpark and renamed it Owen J. Bush Stadium, in honor of Donnie Bush, a part owner and President of the Indianapolis Indians, as well as a former major league player and Indianapolis native.

"Entrance to Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana" Postcard (Craft Greeting Card Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, Publishers)

“Entrance to Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana” Postcard (Craft Greeting Card Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, Publishers)

The ballpark was constructed by Osborne Engineering, an architectural and engineering firm responsible for designing many major league ballparks. In 1995, because of its cultural significance and its Art Deco design, Bush Stadium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Stadium Flats, Bush Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Stadium Flats, Bush Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

The ballpark was the home of the American Association Indianapolis Indians from 1931 to 1962, and from 1969 to 1996. In 1963, the ballpark was the home of the International League Indianapolis Indians, and from 1964 to 1986 it was the home of the Pacific Coast League Indianapolis Indians.

View of Former Bush Stadium Infield and Grandstand, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

View of Former Bush Stadium Infield and Grandstand, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Bush Stadium also hosted many seasons of Negro Leagues baseball. According to Philip Lowery’s Green Cathedrals, the ballpark was the home field of the Negro National League Indianapolis ABC’s in 1931, the Negro Southern League Indianapolis ABC’s in 1932, the Negro American League (NAL) Indianapolis Athletics in 1937, the NAL in 1938 and 1939, the NAL Indianapolis Crawfords in 1940, the NAL Indianapolis Clowns in 1944 and 1946 to 1955, and the NAL Kansas City Monarchs from 1957 to 1961. In 1933 the ballpark was used as a neutral site for the Negro National League Chicago Cole’s American Giants and in 1943 the Washington-Homestead Grays and the NAL Birmingham Black Barons played game five of the Negro World Series at the stadium.

Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1987, Bush Stadium was used as the backdrop for the filming of the movie Eight Men Out.

Cast of the movie Eight Men Out (Photo by  Bob Marsak, Still Photographer on Eight Men Out)

Cast of the movie Eight Men Out (Photo by Bob Marsak, Still Photographer on Eight Men Out)

Bush Stadium Postcard (designed and published by Vic Pallos)

Bush Stadium Postcard (designed and published by Vic Pallos)

In July 1996, the Indians moved two miles southeast to Victory Field, located in White River State Park near downtown Indianapolis.

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Like Bush Stadium in it’s day, Victory Field is considered one of the finest minor league ballparks in the country.

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Victory Field , Indianapolis, Indiana, Home of the Indianapolis Indians

Like so many abandoned ballparks before it, once Bush Stadium’s major tenant departed, the future did not look bright. For a time Bush Stadium was transformed into a midget car dirt track raceway and later a parking lot for the United States Government’s Cash for Clunkers program.

Fiew of Former Grandstand, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

View of Former Grandstand, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Luckily for fans of the game, the City of Indianapolis, and some concerned citizens, spearheaded an effort to save the ballpark from demolition through re-purposing.

Signs Located at Former Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Signs Located at Former Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 2011, the City embarked upon a project to turn the former ballpark into an apartment complex, based upon an idea originally proposed by Indiana Landmarks Chairperson John Watson, who ultimately brought the project to fruition.

Sign at Former  Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sign at Former Bush Stadium, Advertising Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In 2013, Stadium Lofts opened, followed by Stadium Flats, constructed by Core Redevelopment.

The Next Phase - Sign Showing Planned Development of Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Next Phase – Sign Showing Planned Development of Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Portions of the stadium’s exterior brick and limestone wall, and the grandstand wood roof, have been preserved, along with light stanchions and a portion of the outfield wall.

Exterior of Center Field Wall at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Exterior of Center Field Wall at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Exterior of Outfield Wall, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Exterior of Outfield Wall, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Light Stanchions, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Light Stanchions, Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

In the former center field corner is slated to be constructed a building with office, medical, and commercial space.

Interior of Outfield Wall at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Interior of Outfield Wall, Right Field Corner, at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Bush Stadium Postcard

Bush Stadium Postcard (American GeoGraphics, Bloomington, Indiana)

Also preserved is the original infield area and a portion of the outfield. The base paths are delineated with a red stamped-concrete walkway.

View of Former Grandstand, from Left Field Corner, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

View of Former Grandstand, from Left Field Corner, Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Although Bush Stadium,as it once was may now be a lost ballpark, a distinct portion of it lives on.

Scoreboard at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Scoreboard at Former Bush Stadium, Now Stadium Flats, Indianapolis, Indiana

Kudos to the City of Indianapolis for not simply bulldozing the historic ballpark and instead coming up with a use that celebrates the stadium’s history and preserves a significant portion of the ballpark fans of the game to enjoy – or to live in (apartments range in cost from between $600 and $1,300 a month).

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Posted in Bush Stadium/Perry Stadium/Victory Field, Indiana ballparks | Comments (0)

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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West Field – One of the Last Surviving Negro League Ballparks

March 20th, 2015

West Field is located at the northwest intersection of West Street and Orchard Street, directly behind the Munhall Borough Police Station (1900 West Street), in Munhall, PA. The Borough of Munhall is located seven miles southeast of Pittsburgh, just south of Homestead, Pennsylvania.

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field was constructed in 1937 with funds from the Public Works Administration. Although it has functioned mainly as a town ball field for the Steel City School District’s baseball, softball, and football teams, West Field is notable because of its connection to Negro League baseball.

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Beginning in the late 1930s up until at least 1948, West Field was used by the Homestead Grays for exhibition games, practices, spring training, and Negro National League contests when the Gray’s home ballpark Forbes Field was unavailable. During the early 1900s, the Grays played at another ball field in Munhall (known as the 19th Avenue Playground) located near the intersection of McClure Street and 19th Avenue. Some early 1900s newspaper accounts also refer to the Grays playing at another field in Munhall, also known as West Field, which was located in the Homestead Park section of Munhall near what is now Leigh Street (thanks Bob for the information).

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

What is extraordinary about West Field is that, although it is deteriorating, the ballpark grandstand, seating bowl, and playing field remain relatively the same as they did when such stars as Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson played there.

View of Grandstand from Pitching Rubber, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

View of Grandstand from Pitching Rubber, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Thus, West Field is one of the last few surviving Negro League ballparks.

West Field Grandstand Steps, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field Grandstand Steps, Munhall, Pennsylvania

According to Trib Total Media, beginning in April 2015, the ballpark is scheduled to undergo a five million dollar renovation, courtesy of a generous grant from the Campbell Educational and Community Foundation. Upgrades include new seating and a turf field that will accommodate football, baseball, and softball.

Infield and Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Infield and First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

It is uncertain just how much of West Field’s historic grandstand and seating bowl will be preserved as part of the renovation, although Trib Reporter Mike Divittorio has stated that the Borough will renovate the lockers in the grandstand and add new seating on top of the existing benches. Given West Field’s important history, and its status as one of the last surviving Negro League ballparks, care should be taken to preserve the structure for future generations to appreciate.

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

According to a 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview of Elijah “Lucky” Miller, a former Homestead Grays bat boy, the Grays used the dugout located along the third base side of the grandstand.

Third Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Third Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Next to the third base dugout are the entrances to the players locker rooms.

Entrance to Locker Rooms, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Locker Rooms, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Home Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to Home Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The locker rooms were located at the end of a tunnel that ran underneath the grandstand.

Tunnel Under Grandstand Leading to Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Tunnel Under Grandstand Leading to Player Locker Room, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Like the Gray’s home dugout, the visiting team dugout – once used by such teams as the New York Black Yankees – remains at the site, frozen in time.

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The view from the dugout is largely unchanged from the days when the ballpark hosted Negro League baseball.

View of Field From First Base  Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

View of Field From First Base Dugout, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Out beyond left and center field is the Munhall Municipal Building, which was constructed between 1941 and 1945 (completion was delayed because necessary building materials were in short supply during World War II). The building currently houses the Munhall Borough Police Department.

The Munhall Municipal Building Located Beyond Center Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The Munhall Municipal Building Located Beyond Center Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

The view from right field looking toward the infield and the grandstand is like looking back in time.

View of Grandstand from Right Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

View of Grandstand from Right Field, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field Circa 1955 (photo from cover of 3rd Annual Prep League World Series program, August 1955)

West Field Circa 1955 (photo from cover of 3rd Annual Prep League World Series program, August 1955)

Having hosted countless sporting events for almost 80 years, the stadium is in desperate need of repair. The concrete that supports the first base grandstand seating is crumbling and presumably much of it would need to be removed and replaced. Renovation plans call for installing seating for 800 in the ballpark, a significant decrease for a stadium which currently holds 3,000.

Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

At the top of the first base grandstand is a walk way that leads around to the top of the third base grandstand. If you are planning to visit the ballpark prior to its renovation, this walkway provides an excellent panoramic view of West Field.

Walkway Along Back of First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Walkway Along Back of First Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Walkway Behind Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvaina

Walkway Along Back of Third Base Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field is located on property also used by the Borough of Munhall for storage and repair of its service vehicles. The grandstand, and the entrance to it behind home plate, is accessible only by walking through a storage yard.

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Grandstand, West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Hopefully the grandstand will be saved and restored. Although it currently is covered with graffiti and the grounds around it are littered with debris, the 1930s era structure itself appears to be in good shape and worthy of being preserved.

Entrance to West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

Entrance to West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

In 1987, the Borough of Munhall rededicated West Field as William W. Knight Memorial Park, in honor of the former major of Munhall.

Monument Honoring William W. Knight, Former Mayor of Munhall Borough

Monument Honoring William W. Knight, Former Mayor of Munhall Borough

The Borough of Munhall has a unique opportunity to celebrate and preserve an important part of our country’s history. Updates will be posted here once more is known about the proposed renovations, and as they progress.

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

West Field, Munhall, Pennsylvania

In the meantime, here is a video walk around of the ballpark in it’s current condition.

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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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Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium

January 28th, 2015

Professional baseball was played at the corner of East Ferry and Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York, for 72 years beginning in 1889, through the end of the 1960 season.

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Originally known as new Olympic Park (old Olympic Park housed Buffalo baseball teams from 1884 to 1888 at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and Summer Street), in 1907 the ballpark was renamed Buffalo Base Ball Park. The original wooden ballpark structure was raised in 1924 and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, and renamed Bison Stadium. In 1935 the ballpark was renamed Offermann Stadium, in honor of Frank J. Offermann, the recently-deceased former owner of the Buffalo Bison.

Entrance to Offerman Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

Entrance to Offermann Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

The site’s primary tenant was the International League Buffalo Bison, who played there from 1889 to 1960. According to Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals, Major league baseball also was played at this site for one year in 1890 when the Buffalo Bison of the Players League played their home games at new Olympic Park. The Negro National League New York Black Yankees played games at Offermann Park as a neutral site in the 1940s. The Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns played some games at Offermann (neutral site) from 1951 to 1955. Professional football also was played at the site, including National Football League Buffalo franchises (the All-Americans from 1920 to 1923, the Buffalo Bisons from 1924 to 1925, and 1927 to 1929, and the Buffalo Rangers in 1926).

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark was located directly behind what is now the Bethel AME Church (formerly Covenant Presbyterian Church), with home plate near the back of the church at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark faced Southeast towards the intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. Center field was located on the northwest corner of that intersection. After the ballpark was demolished in 1962, Woodlawn Junior High School was constructed on the site. To see an aerial photograph of Offermann Stadium from 1956 click here (fixbuffalo.blogspot.com).

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts now occupies the site.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offerman Stadium.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offermann Stadium.

In 2012, John Boutet of the Buffalo Sports Museum spearheaded a drive to place a historical plaque at the site. The plaque notes that Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron all played baseball at Offermann Stadium. Babe Ruth played one of his first professional games at what was then Buffalo Base Ball Park, pitching in 1914 for the International League Baltimore Orioles.

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offerman Stadium

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offermann Stadium

The former site of right field was located at the northeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Right Field

The former site of left field was located at the southwest corner of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Left Field

The area behind what was once the ballpark’s home plate is now a parking lot for the school.

Former Site of Offerman Stadium Infield

Former Site of Offermann Stadium Infield

In addition to Bethel AME Church, many other structures surrounding the ballpark date to the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium. The houses in the photograph below sat just beyond the ballpark’s center field fence.

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the intersection Masten Avenue and Ferry Street sat beyond the ballpark’s left field corner.

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Building at 78 East Ferry Street ran parallel to third base.

Brick Building Located on Ferry Street, Near Former Site of Third Base Line

NFTA Metro Building Located on Ferry Street, Sat Parallel to Former Site of Third Base Line

In 1961, the Buffalo Bison moved ten blocks south from Offermann Stadium to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Bison (American Association) moved two miles southwest to Pilot Stadium, later renamed Coca-Cola Field

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field includes a wonderful museum – The Buffalo Sports Museum – featuring memorabilia from and information about Offermann Stadium, as well as Buffalo’s other ballparks. It certainly is worth a visit if you haven’t been there already.

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offerman Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offermann Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

The City of Buffalo boasts a rich baseball history, much of it taking place years ago at the intersection of  East Ferry and Michigan Avenue. Although the ballpark is long gone, enough of the neighborhood that existed at the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium remains to give anyone with an interest in the National Pastime with a sense of where the ballpark once stood. The former ballpark site is located just three miles north of Coca-Cola Field and for fans of the game it certainly is worth the trip.

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There Once Was A Ballpark – Rochester’s Silver Stadium/Red Wing Stadium

September 24th, 2014

Silver Stadium was located at 500 Norton Street in Rochester, New York. The ballpark opened in 1929 as Red Wing Stadium, and was home to the International League Rochester Red Wings. The Red Wings were then an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, who also constructed and owned the ballpark.

Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Postcard by Rochester News Co., Curteich Chicago C.T. Art Colortone)

Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Postcard by Rochester News Co., Curteich Chicago C.T. Art Colortone)

The ballpark is notable also as the home field for the Negro National League New York Black Yankees in 1948, and the American Football League Rochester Braves in 1936, and the American League Rochester Tigers in 1936 and 1937.

The main entrance to the stadium was through a gate behind the first base grand stand. Next to that gate was a two story house that served as both a ticket booth and administrative offices for the team. The two-story building is somewhat reminiscent of similar buildings at League Park in Cleveland and Braves Field in Boston.

Entrance to Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (George Tinker Postcard), Now 500 Norton Street

Entrance to Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (George Tinker Postcard), at 500 Norton Street

The house at 500 Norton Street remains at the site today and now is occupied by one of the city’s four Neighborhood Service Centers.

500 Norton Street, Former Ticket and Administrative Offices, Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

500 Norton Street, Former Ticket and Administrative Offices, Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

Behind the building at 500 Norton Street is a one story structure that was added to the site after the ballpark’s demolition.

Back Side of 500 Norton Street, Former Ticket And Administrative Offices for Silver Stadium

Back Side of 500 Norton Street, Former Ticket And Administrative Offices for Silver Stadium

On the eastern side of the building at 500 Norton Street are three plaques honoring the history of the ballpark.

Historical Plaques Located at Site of Silver Stadium's Former Ticket And Administrative Offices

Historical Plaques Located at Site of Silver Stadium’s Former Ticket And Administrative Offices

The first plaque details what the land there was used for prior to construction of the ballpark, as well as significant milestones in the ballpark’s history.

Plaque Honoring History of Silver Stadium

Plaque Honoring History of the Site That Was Once Silver Stadium

In 1956, local Rochester businessman Morrie Silver helped purchase the team and it’s stadium from the St. Louis Cardinals, thus ensuring that the Red Wings would remain in Rochester should the Cardinals decide to relocate to another town. It is for this reason that Mr. Silver is credited with saving professional baseball for the City of Rochester.

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Former Site of Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Former Site of Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

In 1960 the St. Louis Cardinals departed Rochester and the Baltimore Orioles became affiliated with the International League Red Wings. In 1968 Red Wing Stadium was renamed Silver Stadium in honor of the team’s owner. After Mr. Silver’s death in 1974, his widow Anna Silver remained with the team as a Member of the Board of Directors from 1975 to 1990, and as Chairperson of Board from 1981-1990. The Silver’s daughter Naomi Silver currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Red Wings.

Silver Stadium Historic Plaque, Rochester NY

Silver Stadium Historic Plaque, Rochester NY

Silver Stadium’s home plate was located directly north of the two story house that served as the ballpark’s main entrance.

Aerial View of Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center)

Aerial View of Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center)

What appears to be the outline of Silver Stadium’s first and third base foul lines still can be seen in the Google Maps Satellite View of the former Silver Stadium Site (you will need to zoom in on the site).

A Piece of Silver Stadium Rises Like a Phoenix Near Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand

A chunk of Silver Stadium Nestled in the Grass Near the Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand

The ballpark faced east, with the first base foul line running diagonally toward Norton Street.

Looking Toward Former Location of First Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of First Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Silver Stadium was a single-deck ballpark with a roof covering the grandstand from first base around to third base. Uncovered bleachers extended along the foul lines toward right field with a smaller uncovered section near left field.

Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (Chrome Postcard)

Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (Chrome Postcard)

The third base foul line ran diagonally toward Bastion Street.

Looking Toward Former Location of Third Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Third Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Silver Stadium closed after the 1996 season and the following year the ballpark was demolished. In its place the city constructed 14621 Industrial Park (the reference to 14621 is the area’s zip code).

Entrance at Intersection of Excel Drive and Norton Street to 14621 Industrial Park

Entrance at Intersection of Excel Drive and Norton Street to 14621 Industrial Park

Center field was located due east of home plate. Two single story warehouse buildings now sit just beyond what used to be the center field fence. The entire area that once encompassed center field remains an open field.

Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

After the ballpark’s demolition, the city added a new street, Excel Drive, which runs north and south through the center of the former ballpark site.

Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Intersecting Silver Stadium Infield

Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Intersecting Silver Stadium Infield

Where once sat the third base grandstand is now a one-story industrial building at 85 Excel Drive, currently housing SPEX Precision Machine Technologies.

85 Excel Drive, SPEX Precision Machine Technologies

85 Excel Drive, SPEX Precision Machine Technologies

In what was once the right field corner and the right field bleachers sits a large warehouse at 10 Excel Drive. Just beyond the warehouse, across Norton Street, is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, whose steeple was readily visible beyond the right field bleachers back during the time of Silver Stadium.

Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium, with Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Steeple Still Visible

The building at 10 Excel Drive currently houses Premier Sign Systems. Its parking lot sits atop the right field corner.

10 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Premier Sign Systems

10 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Premier Sign Systems

In what was once left field also sits a large one-story industrial building and parking lot.

Looking Toward Former Location of Left Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Left Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

That building, located at 80 Excel Drive, currently houses Macauto USA Corp.

80 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Macauto USA Corp.

80 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Macauto USA Corp.

Second base and beginning of the outfield is marked by Excel Drive.

Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Many of the houses that sat along the perimeter of Silver Stadium remain to this day.

Houses Fronting Norton Street Located Beyond Former Site of Silver Stadium Right Field

Houses Fronting Norton Street Located Beyond Former Site of Silver Stadium Right Field

In addition, several of the industrial buildings that sat beyond the home plate grandstand remain at the site.

Looking Toward Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand (From Home Plate), Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand (From Home Plate), Silver Stadium

The former school building at 1550 N Clinton Street, which sat behind the first base grandstand, remains as well, and now houses a ministry.

1550 N Clinton Avenue, Rochester NY, New Born Fellowship Ministries

1550 N Clinton Avenue, Rochester NY, New Born Fellowship Ministries

In 1997, the Red Wings moved three miles south of Silver Stadium to a new state-of-the-art minor league facility located at 333 N. Plymouth Avenue.

Exterior of Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Exterior of Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Frontier Field remains one of the finest ballparks in minor league baseball. When comparing Silver Stadium to Frontier Field it is easy to appreciate the team’s decision to construct a new ballpark in the heart of downtown Rochester.

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field pays homage to Morrie Silver with a statue outside the ballpark’s front gates.

Statue of Morrie Silver, Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Statue of Morrie Silver, Frontier Field, Rochester NY

The plaque at Mr. Silver’s feet states, in part: “The man who saved baseball for Rochester in 1957. Spearheading a stock drive, he and 8,221 others bought shares in the team in order to purchase the franchise and the stadium from the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Frontier Field

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Frontier Field

Although Silver Stadium is now a lost ballpark, much of the outfield and many of the buildings surrounding the stadium site remain as they were were back when baseball was played at 500 Norton Avenue.

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

If you live in Rochester and attend Red Wing games, a pilgrimage just three miles south of Frontier Field to the former site of Silver Stadium is a must. The City of Rochester should place a marker indicating where home plate once sat. Given the information above, it should not be difficult to locate the exact spot.

Many great ballplayers and managers made the ballpark their home, including Rochester Hall of Famers and Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Red Schoendienst, Earl Weaver, and Johnny Mize. Who knows? Given how much of the field remains unencumbered, a baseball game very well could break out on that field at any time, helping to bring back to that area a game that was played there for over 60 years.

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Hartford’s Bulkeley Stadium – Now A Nursing Home With A Home Plate

September 11th, 2014

Morgan M. Bulkeley Stadium was located on the southeast corner of Hanmer Street and George Street in Hartford, Connecticut.

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

The ballpark originated in 1921 as Clarkin Field, named in honor of its builder, Jim Clarkin, the owner of the Eastern League Hartford Senators. After a fire in 1927,  the ballpark was rebuilt. Clarkin sold the team the following year and the ballpark was renamed Bulkeley Stadium in honor of Baseball Hall of Famer Morgan G. Bulkeley, the first president of the National League as well as a former president of Aetna Insurance Company, and a former politician (Connecticut Governor, U.S. Senator, and Hartford Mayor). Bulkeley had lived in Hartford and died  in 1922.

Buckeley Stadium Historical Marker at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Bulkeley Stadium Historical Marker at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

The site today is occupied primarily by Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Hartford native Norm Hausmann spearheaded a drive to get a historic marker placed at the former site of Bulkeley Stadium. The marker sits at the entrance to Ellis Manor on George Street in what was once left field.

Ellis Manor Marker Honoring Buckeley Stadium

Ellis Manor Marker Honoring Bulkeley Stadium

Clarkin Field/Bulkeley Stadium was home to the Eastern League Hartford Senators from 1921 to 1932 (in 1934 the Senators returned for one season to Bulkeley Stadium as part of the Northeastern League). Bulkeley Stadium also was home to the Eastern League Hartford Bees from 1939 to 1945 (also known as the Laurels), and the Eastern League Hartford Chiefs from 1946 to 1952. The Bees, Laurels, and Chiefs all were affiliated with the National League Boston Braves. The integrated semi-pro Savitt Gems (named after long time Hartford jeweler Bill Savitt) also played at Bulkeley Stadium. One of the stars of Savitt Gems was Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, a high school phenomenon who pitched for Bulkeley High School and later for the Negro National League Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Negro National League New York Cubans. In 1949, Taylor pitched for the Hartford Chiefs at Bulkeley Stadium.

Buckeley Stadium Home Plate Marker

Bulkeley Stadium Home Plate Marker

Clarkin Field also was home to the Hartford Blues football team in 1925 (the following season the Blues played their one professional season in the National Football League).

Buckeley Stadium Home Plate Marker, Looking Toward Pitcher's Mound

Bulkeley Stadium Home Plate Marker, Looking Toward Pitcher’s Mound

The location of home plate is marked with a granite plaque near the northeast corner of Ellis Manor, to the left of the front entrance. To better appreciate the former site of Bulkeley Stadium, click here: Courant.com for a vintage aerial photo of Bulkeley Stadium.

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

The grandstand directly behind home plate was located where Hanmer Street terminates just northeast of Ellis Manor.

Hanmer Street Terminating at Former Location of Grandstand  Buckeley Stadium Behind Home Plate

Hanmer Street Terminating at Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Home Plate Grandstand

Although the ballpark was demolished in 1960, a chain link fence that ran alongside the third base grandstand dating back to Bulkeley Stadium remains on the site. The fence is clearly visible in the vintage photograph of Bulkeley Stadium that appears at the beginning of this blog. Although not quite as historically significant as the John T. Brush Memorial Stairway located near the former site of the Polo Grounds, the fence certainly is worth noting given its connection to Bulkeley Stadium.

Chain Link Fence Remaining from Buckeley Stadium Behind Former Location of Third Base Grandstand

Chain Link Fence Remaining from Bulkeley Stadium Behind Former Location of Third Base Grandstand

The third base grandstand paralleled a driveway that now runs north and south along the eastern side of the Ellis Manor.

Ellis Manor Driveway Running Parallel to Former Location of Third Base Grandstand

Ellis Manor Driveway Running Parallel to Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Third Base Grandstand

Bulkeley Stadium was a basic, no frills ballpark. A single deck, covered grandstand ran from third base to the left field corner. Uncovered wood bleachers continued from third base to the right field corner.

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

First base was located in front of what is now a covered driveway near the front door entrance to Ellis Manor.

Former Location of First Base at Buckeley Stadium Looking Toward Home Plate

Former Location of First Base at Bulkeley Stadium Looking Toward Home Plate

The driveway from George Street into Ellis Manor was once left field.

Former Location of Buckeley Stadium Left Field Looking Toward Home Plate

Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Left Field Looking Toward Home Plate

Some residences that ring the parameter of the ballpark site date to the time of Bulkeley Stadium. A few “new” houses actually sit on the former stadium site. One such house, at 204 George Street, sits in what was once the left field grandstand.

House at 204 George Street  Which Sits in Former Location of  Buckeley Stadium Left Field Grand Stand

House at 204 George Street Which Sits in Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Left Field Grandstand

The open side yard at 204 George Street was once the left field corner.

Former Location of Buckeley Stadium Left Field Corner

Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Left Field Corner

Right Field to Center field ran north to south along George Street.

Looking South Down George Street Which Ran Parallel to RIght Field Toward Center Field

Looking South Down George Street Which Ran Parallel to Bulkeley Stadium’s Right Field (Toward Center Field)

The center field was located across from the intersection of George Street and Goodrich Street where a grove of trees now sits.

Former Location of Buckeley Stadium Center Field Corner at Intersection of Goodrich Street and George Street

Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Center Field Corner at Intersection of Goodrich Street and George Street

Inside the front entrance to Ellis Manor, across from the reception desk, is a wall of fame honoring the memory of Bulkeley Stadium. Many future Baseball Hall of Famers played for Hartford at Bulkeley Stadium, including Lou Gehrig, Leo Durocher, Hank Greenberg, Johnny Sain, and Warren Spahn. The wonderful staff at the nursing home and rehabilitation center are proud of their facility’s connection to professional baseball and are very helpful answering questions about the ballpark.

Buckeley Stadium Wall of Fame Display at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Bulkeley Stadium Wall of Fame Display at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

After 65 seasons without professional baseball, Hartford once again will have professional team beginning in 2016. The Eastern League Rock Cats are moving from their current home in New Britain Stadium to a new ballpark located at Main Street and Trumbull Street in the “Downtown North” section of Hartford, just five miles north of the former site of Bulkeley Stadium.

New Britain Stadium, Home of the Eastern League Rock Cats

New Britain Stadium, Home of the Eastern League Rock Cats

The City recently secured property in downtown Hartford at the intersection of Main Street and Trumbell Street, approximately three miles north of Bulkeley Stadium. Although professional baseball will never return to the site of Bulkeley Stadium, it is still possible to play catch in the left field corner of the old ballpark site – that is, as long as the folks who own the side yard at 204 George Street don’t mind you doing so.

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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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Louisville’s Parkway Field and Cardinal Stadium

October 31st, 2013

Parkway Field was located at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and South Brook Street in Louisville, Kentucky.

Parkway Field, Louisville, Kentucky (Postcard Publisher Kyle Co., Louisville KY)

Constructed in 1923 on land purchased from the University of Louisville, Parkway Field was the home ballpark of the Minor League American Association Louisville Colonels from 1923 until 1956. An earlier incarnation of the American Association Louisville Colonels played major league baseball in that city from 1885 to 1891 (they were the Louisville Eclipse from 1882-1884), when the American Association was considered a major league. Hall of Famer Honus Wagner was one notable Louisville player from that era.

View From Behind Home Plate Toward Right Field

The Colonel’s played for over three decades at Parkway Field, its final season being 1956. In 1952 the University of Louisville had begun playing its home games at Parkway Field and, in 1953, the University repurchased the land and ballpark. The University continued to play baseball there up through the 1997 season.

The University’s football team likewise played at Parkway Field. Notable alumni, Hall of Famer, Johnny Unitas, played all four years of his college career at Parkway Field, from 1951 to 1954.

Parkway Field Looking Down First Base Line Toward Home Plate

Parkway Field’s grandstand was torn down in 1961 and replaced by wooden dugouts and a chain link backstop. The original brick left and right field walls remained on site for another 40 years, until they were demolished in 2004.

Third Base Side Dugout, Parkway Field

The ballpark hosted several Negro League teams including the National Negro League Louisville White Sox in 1931, the Negro Southern League  Louisville Black Caps in 1932, the Negro American League Louisville Buckeyes in 1949, and the Negro American League Louisville Black Colonels in 1954.

Parkway Field, Left Field Wall

Famous Colonels who played at Parkway Field include Hall of Famers Billy Herman, Earle Combs, and Pee Wee Reese. In 1946, Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson played his first professional playoff game at Parkway Field, when the Louisville Colonels hosted the Montreal Royals in the first three games of the Junior World Series.

Detail of Left Field Wall, Parkway Field (With Parkway Behind Fence)

Other Hall of Famers who played at Parkway Field include Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig,  who barnstormed there in 1928, and Satchel Paige.

Parkway Field, Right Field Wall

Although nothing from the original stadium remains at the site, the field itself is still used as an athletic field, home to University’s intramural soccer and football programs.

Detail of Right Field Wall, Parkway Field

Some of the green-painted bricks that were once a part of Parkway Field’s outfield wall were reused in construction of the University’s new baseball stadium, Jim Patterson Stadium. Located a mile south of Parkway Field, at the intersection of 3rd Street and Central Avenue, the stadium includes a plaque noting the historical significance of those bricks.

Bricks From Parkway Field Reused at Jim Patterson Stadium (photo: Bkell from en.wikipedia commons)

In 1957 the American Association Louisville Colonels moved to Fairgrounds Stadium. The ballpark is located on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds, one and a half miles southeast of Parkway Field at the intersection of KFEC Gate 4 Drive and Circle of Champions.

Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky Looking Toward Felt Field

Fairgrounds Stadium – Later Renamed Cardinal Stadium

After the American Association folded in 1962, professional baseball departed Louisville. In 1969 professional baseball returned to Fairground Stadium when the Colonels joined the International League, playing there through the 1972 season. Notable Colonels who played at Fairgrounds Stadium include Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Carlton Fisk, as well as Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant, and Cecil Cooper.

Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky

Fairgrounds Stadium almost became a major league venue in 1964 when Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, staged an unsuccessful campaign with Major League Baseball to move his team to Louisville.

Entrance To Cardinal Stadium

The University of Louisville’s football team played at the stadium since its opening in 1957 and at the end of the 1972 season, with the departure again of professional baseball, Fairgrounds Stadium underwent a major renovation to accommodate primarily football.

View From the Left Field Stands Towards Home Plate, Cardinal Field

In 1982 professional baseball returned to Louisville. Fairground Stadium was renamed Cardinal Stadium with the arrival of the St. Louis Cardinal’s affiliate, the Louisville Redbirds, who played in the newly reformed American Association. That same year the Louisville became the first minor league team to draw 800,000 fans in one season (aided no doubt by the ballpark’s 30,000 seats). The following year, the Redbirds broke the minor league home attendance record by bringing in over one million fans.

View From the Third Base Stands, Cardinal Stadium

In 1999, the team changed its name to the Riverbats when it became an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. That season would be the last for professional baseball at Cardinal Stadium.

Right Field Pavilion, Cardinal Stadium

The University of Louisville baseball team continued to play at Cardinal Stadium through the 2004 season.

Left Field Scoreboard, Cardinal Stadium

The Louisville Bats now play their home games at Louisville Slugger Field, a 14,000 seat stadium located in downtown Louisville, three and one half miles north of Parkway Field.

Louisville Slugger Field – Current Home of the Louisville Bats

Although Cardinal Stadium remains standing, its days are clearly numbered. In 2013 the grandstand seating areas were deemed unsafe and condemned. The city currently is debating  the stadium’s fate, which looks to be eventual demolition of the facility.

Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum

Louisville has a long, rich history of professional baseball. For people interested in seeing for themselves where the game once was played, Louisville is certainly worth a visit, When searching out the locations of Parkway Field and Cardinal Stadium, be sure also to stop by the Louisville Slugger Factory and have your picture taken next to the “world’s largest bat.” The history of that company, and its ties to Louisville and major league baseball, warrants a post all unto itself.

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Nicollet Park – Home Of the Minneapolis Millers

October 16th, 2013

Nicollet Park was a minor league ballpark in Minneapolis, Minnesota, located approximately two and one half  miles south of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Entrance to Nicollet Park (Hennepin County Library – The Minneapolis Collection)

The distinctive Tutor building that was the main entrance to Nicollet Park (shown in the photograph above) was located behind the former right field corner at the intersection of 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue.

Wells Fargo Bank at the Intersection of Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street, Looking Toward Former Right Field Corner

Home plate was located at the corner of Blaisdell Avenue and 31st Street. The ballpark faced northeast.

Aerial View of Nicollet Park (Courtesy of Baseball Bugs)

A Wells Fargo Bank is located in the area that was once right and center field. The former infield is now the bank’s parking lot.

Wells Fargo Nicollet-Lake Office, 3030 Nicollet Avenue, Former Location of Infield Looking Toward Right Field Corner

Located near the former infield is a Minnesota Historical Marker celebrating the 60 years, from 1896 to 1955, that baseball was played at the site.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

The historical marker notes that Nicolett Park enjoyed one of the longest running ground leases for a sports venue, running from 1896 until 1951, when the property was purchased by Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis. The bank building that now occupies the site was originally constructed in 1957.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

Beyond the left field fence that ran parallel to Lake Street were several one story brick commercial buildings, since demolished and replaced by a four story apartment building constructed in 1981.

Blaisdell Avenue and West Lake Street Looking Toward Former Left Field Corner

Nicolett Park was home to the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League (1896 -1899), the American League (1900 – in 1900 the American League was a minor league), and the American Association (1902 – 1955). The American Association Millers won nine pennants, including one in its last season of play in 1955. From 1908 to 1911, Nicollet Park was also home to the Minneapolis Keystones, an independent, barnstorming black ball club. The Keystones were not a formal negro league team, having played over a decade before the formation of the Negro National League.

Nicollet Avenue and West Lake Street, Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field

Notable Minneapolis Millers who played at Nicollet Park include future Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. Dandridge, a standout Negro League  player for the Newark Eagles, played for the Millers at the end of his career, from 1949 to 1952. Mays played for the Millers at the beginning of his career, in 1951, for only 35 games (in which he batted .477, hit height home runs, scored 38 runs, and drove in 30). Williams played for Minneapolis as a 19 year old in 1938. That season he led the American Association in home runs, batting average, and RBI. Other future Hall  of Famers who played for the Millers include Roger Bresnahan (1898-1899), Jimmy Collins (1909), Rube Waddell (1911-1913), Orlando Cepeda (1957), and Carl Yastrzemski (1959-1960). Babe Ruth played in at least two exhibition games (1924 and 1935) at Nicollet Park as well.

Minneapolis Miller Ted Williams in 1938

According to Lawrence Ritter’s Lost Ballparks, it was at Nicolett Park that General Mills (a Minneapolis company) first used the slogan “Breakfast of Champions” in a sign on the outfield fence. The advertising billboard was installed at the park in 1933 following the Miller’s pennant winning season of 1932. Nicollet Park is also the setting for what is perhaps just baseball folklore, when Minneapolis Miller Andy Oyler (a former Baltimore Oriole) purportedly hit the shortest home run in professional baseball. The story goes that a ball off the bat of Oyler got stuck in the mud in front of home plate and before the opposing team could retrieve the ball, Oyler had scored on an inside  the park home run.

Across from the former left field corner, at the intersection of Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue, is Champions Bar and Grill which dates back to the last few years of Nicollet Park’s existence.

Champions Bar and Grill Dates to the 1950’s And the Time of Nicollet Park

Champions appears to be the only building located next to the ballpark site that remains from the time of Nicollet Park. The historical marker placed in the Wells Fargo parking lot is the only clue that there once was a ballpark located in this nondescript city block south of downtown Minneapolis.

Postscript: Thanks to Rubin Latz for sharing his picture of  a foul ball caught by his father at Nicollet Park on April 28, 1946. The baseball was manufactured by Wilson and is stamped “Affiliate of the American Association.”

Foul Ball Caught at Nicollet Field on April 28, 1946

On that April day, the Minneapolis Millers played a double header against their cross town rivals, the St. Paul Saints. According to Stew Thornley’s  “Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History,” a record crowd of 15,761 fans attended the game, with some 5000 fans standing on the field. Twenty-four doubles were hit during those two games, with the Saints victorious in both games.

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Griffith Stadium And The Site Of D.C.’s First Nationals Park

October 9th, 2013

Baseball was played in Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Georgia and Florida Avenues for 70 years, beginning in 1891, up through the end of the 1961 season.  The original ballpark, called Boundary Field because it was located on Boundary Road (now Florida Avenue) at the District of Columbia’s former city limits, was home in 1891 to the Washington Senators of the American Association, and from 1892 to 1899 to the National League Washington Senators.

With the beginning of the American League in 1901, the American League Washington Senators began play at American League Park (I) which was located in Northeast Washington at the intersection of Florida Avenue, H Street, and Bladensburg Road in what is now the Trinidad Neighborhood (thanks to alert reader Geoffrey Hatchard).

American League Park (I) (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

In 1904, the American League Washington Senators moved to the Boundary Field location, making it their new home ballpark. Known also as Nationals Park, the park was constructed almost entirely of wood.

Fire Destroys American League Park (II) on March 17, 1911 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Fire Destroys American League Park (II) on March 17, 1911 (Harris & Ewing Photograph, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

A fire  on March 17, 1911 (caused by a plumbers lamp), destroyed the grandstand and a new concrete and steel stadium was built in its place.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

The new ballpark was also known as Nationals Park,  up until 1920 when the venue was renamed Griffith Stadium in honor of Clark Griffith , the Washington Senator’s manager turned owner.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

The Senators played at Griffith Stadium up through 1960, when, after the season ended, the team relocated to Minnesota. The 1961 expansion Washington Senators played at Griffith Stadium in 1961, moving to D.C. Stadium (later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) in 1962.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Griffith Stadium also served as home field for the Negro National League Homestead Grays from 1940 until 1948, that team splitting their home games between Washington and Pittsburgh. The National Football League Washington Redskins likewise played at Griffith Stadium from 1937 until 1960.

View of Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Home plate at Griffith Stadium was located near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and V Street, N.W.

Aerial View of Griffith Stadium (image historypressblog.net)

Howard University Hospital now occupies the site, the main hospital building sitting in the approximate footprint of Griffith Stadium.

Howard University Hospital, Former Site of Griffith Stadium

Signs posted in front of Howard University Hospital along Georgia Avenue honor the memory of Griffith Stadium.

Plaque Honoring Memory of Griffith Stadium

The reverse side of the above sign recognizes significant moments in the ballpark’s history.

Plaque Honoring Memory of Griffith Stadium

Home plate is marked with a batter’s box inside the hospital’s main entrance.

Griffith Stadium Home Plate Marker Inside Howard University Hospital (picture courtesy Erik Cox Photography)

Griffith Stadium Home Plate Marker Inside Howard University Hospital (picture courtesy Erik Cox Photography)

First base paralleled Georgia Avenue, angling away from Georgia Avenue toward U Street.

Approximate location of Griffith Stadium Right Field Grandstand

A ticket booth as well as the grandstand entrance once sat at the site.

Postcard of Griffith Stadium Right Field Grandstand Entrance (copyright 1968 John F. Cummings)

Several row houses that sat in the shadow of the right field grandstand remain at the site along U Street.

Row Houses Along U Street Near What Was Once Griffith Stadium’s Right Field Grandstand

Right field to the center field corner paralleled U Street.

Former Location of Right Fied Corner (far) to Center Field Fence (near)

Buildings that once sat in the shadow of the right field fence still remain at the site as well along U Street.

Row Houses  Along U Street That Once Sat in the Shadow of Griffith Stadium’s Right Field Fence

Griffith Stadium’s center field fence was infamous for its quirky indentation at the center field corner. Behind that fence sat several row houses, which the ball club unsuccessfully had attempted to purchase from their owners. Two of those row houses remain at the site.

Row Houses Facing 5th Street That Once Sat Behind Center Field Fence

In addition to those row houses was a large oak tree that actually spread across the top of the center field fence. Although that tree is now gone, there is a smaller tree at the site today, planted in approximately the same spot.

Tree On Right Sits in Approximate Location of Large Oak Tree That Once Hung Over Griffith Stadium’s Center Field Fence

Griffith Stadium’s left field fence and bleachers paralleled 5th Street. That area is now a parking lot that runs along the back side of Howard University Hospital.

Former Site of Griffith Stadium’s Left Field Bleachers

Third base ran parallel to what is now an alley between the hospital and buildings that front W Street.

Former location of Griffith Stadium’s third base and left field grandstands

Across the alley paralleling third base are several hospital buildings that date from the time of Griffith Stadium, including the College of Medicine.

Howard University’ College of Medicine Building

Several other buildings that sit near the former site have a connection with the ballpark as well. The row house at 434 Oakdale Place  is the spot where Mickey Mantle’s famous 565 foot home run off Senator’s pitcher Chuck Stobbs on April 17, 1953, landed. Ten year old Donald Dunaway, who was attending the game and watched the ball sail over his head, found the ball in the backyard of the row house.

434 Oakdale Place (two story row house to left of three story house) – Where Mickey Mantle’s 565 Home Run Landed

Another building of note is the Wonder Bread Factory that was located at 641 S Street, N.W., just two blocks south of Griffith Stadium. The smell of bread baking at the factory often filled the air during games. The building today retains its original facade and serves the local art community by providing exhibition space.

Old Wonder Bread Factory Located Two Blocks South of Griffith Stadium Site

Given the ballpark’s location in the Nation’s Capitol, Griffith Stadium played host to many of the nation’s famous Americans. Presidents from William Howard Taft to Richard Nixon (then Vice President) threw out ceremonial first pitches to start the baseball season.

Walter Johnson Greeting President Calvin Coolidge (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

No baseball player best epitomized the Senators of the Griffith Stadium era than Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, who not only pitched for the team for over 20 years, but also was a radio announcer for the Senators after he retired from baseball. Upon his death in 1946, the team placed a memorial to Johnson at Griffith Stadium.

Walter Johnson Memorial at Griffith Stadium (Photographer Theodor Horydczak, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

That memorial, a small piece of Griffith Stadium, resides today near the athletic fields at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland.

Walter Johnson Memorial Located at Walter Johnson High School (on right side of photograph)

When Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, stadium seats were shipped to Orlando, Florida, and installed in Tinker Field, which at the time was the Spring Training home of Calvin Griffith’s Minnesota Twins. Those relics of Washington, D.C., baseball remain at Tinker Field, which is located next door to the Citrus Bowl.

Seats from Griffith Stadium, Installed in 1965 at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida

Although Griffith Stadium has been a lost ballpark since its demolition in 1965, there still is much to see at the site today. Inside the hospital’s main entrance on Georgia Avenue is a small museum in one of the conference rooms that honors Griffith Stadium and significant events from its history. In a corridor just beyond the conference room is the actual location of home plate, which is marked on the hallway floor along with the outline of the batters box.

The former site of Griffith Stadium is located only three and a half miles north of the Washington Nationals current ballpark – the new Nationals Park, and is well worth a visit for any of the team’s current fans who are interested in experiencing a little of D.C.’s baseball past.

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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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Chicago’s South Side Park And The Neighborhood Of Lost Ballparks

March 21st, 2013

South Side Park, located at the intersection of W Pershing Road and S Princeton Street in Chicago, Illinois, was the home of the Chicago White Sox from their inception in the American League in 1901 until mid way through the 1910 season.

Cubs vs. White Sox, City Championship series, Chicago, Oct. 9, '09, South Side Park (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Starting in 1911, the ballpark was home to Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants. The Giants started as an independent Negro League team and later played in the Negro National League and the Negro Southern League. The ballpark was renamed Schorling’s Park after Foster’s business partner, John C. Schorling, who leased the grounds and was a son-in-law of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey.

South Side Park 1907 (Wikimedia Commons)

South Side Park was located only four blocks south of the White Sox’s current home, U.S. Cellular Field and the Former Site of old Comiskey Park. Parking Lot L, which is just southwest of U.S. Cellular Field on S Princeton Avenue is directly across the street from the former site of South Side Park. Two other ballparks in Chicago known as South Side Park were once nearby. From 1891-1893, the Chicago Cubs played at a ballpark known as South Side Park located at the southeast corner of W 35th Street and S Wentworth Avenue. That site is now consumed mostly by Interstate 94 just to the east of U.S. Cellular Field. In 1884 a Chicago franchise of the Union Association played at a ballpark known as South Side Park located five blocks to the east at the intersection of W Pershing and S Wabash Avenue. All told, there were five major league ballparks (with one still standing) within a one mile radius.

View of U.S. Cellular Field Just Four Blocks North of South Side Park's Former Site

South Side Park’s home plate was located near the northeast corner of S Princeton Avenue and W Pershing Road (formerly W 39 Street).

Former Site of South Side Park at Intersection of S Princeton and W Pershing

The third base side of South Side Park ran along S Princeton. The first base side of South Side Park ran along W Pershing.

Former Site of South Side Park's Third Base Side on the Right, With Cellular One Field's Parking Lot L on the Left.

The former site of South Side Park is now entirely consumed by Wentworth Gardens.

Entrance Off W Pershing Road to Wentworth Gardens Looking North Toward Approximate Location of South Side Park''s Home Plate

Wentworth Gardens was constructed in 1945 and originally was built to house workers during World War II. The apartments currently are owned and operated as subsidized housing by the City of Chicago.

Wentworth Gardens - Former Site of South Side Park

South Side Park’s former right field corner was located near the northwest corner of W Pershing Road and S Wentworth Avenue. Interstate 94 sits just to the east of S. Wentworth Avenue.

Express Food and Liquor Mart At Intersection of W Pershing Road and S Wentworth Across Street From South Side Park's Former Right Field Corner

In the former location of center field, just off Wentworth Avenue, is a small baseball field next to a large, brick smoke stack. Although the infield faces in the opposite direction of the way South Side Park’s infield faced, it is still possible to play baseball at South Side Park.

Entrance to Wentworth Housing Project from Wentworth Avenue with Youth Ballfield in Background

As it is with many lost ballparks, nothing of South Side Park remains on site, although baseball still can be played on a portion of the former site. No plaque commemorates ballpark, even though it is only a long fly ball from the White Sox’s current home. It seems a fair guess that the vast majority of White Sox fans who deposit their vehicles in U.S. Cellular Field’s Parking Lot L have no idea they are parked just across the street from the former site of their team’s first home ballpark, as well as the former home of the Chicago American Giants.

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