Posts Tagged ‘Philip Lowry’

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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