Posts Tagged ‘Walter Johnson’

Railroads and Lookouts – Chattanooga’s Historic Engel Stadium

April 29th, 2015

Engel Stadium is located at 1130 East Third Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ballpark is the former home of the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Historic Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Historic Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Engel Stadium was built on the site of the Lookout’s prior home, Andrew Field. In 1910, the franchise moved from Little Rock Arkansas to Chattanooga and in 1911 began playing their home games at Andrews Field.

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In 1929, Clark Griffith purchased the Lookouts and Andrews Field from Sammy Strang, a former major league player and Chattanooga native. Griffith hired former major league pitcher and scout Joe Engel to run the franchise and oversee construction of the new ballpark.

Engel Stadium Home of the "Lookouits" Chattanooga, Tennessee

Engel Stadium Postcard, Home of the “Lookouts” Chattanooga, Tennessee

When the ballpark opened in 1930 it was named Engel Stadium in recognition of Engel’s efforts. As a player with the Washington Senators, Engel roomed with teammate Walter Johnson and as a scout was responsible for discovering future Hall of Famers Goose Goslin, Joe Cronin, and Bucky Harris. Engel remained with the Lookouts until the early 1960s, becoming in the process one of the most successful and colorful promoters in the game.

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

When Engel Stadium opened in 1930, it was considered one of the finest minor league ballparks in the country.

Left Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Left Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The ballpark is situated next to Southern Railway’s Citico Yard (now known as Norfolk Southern Railway Debutts Yard).

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee, View from Train Tracks Looking Toward Lookout Mountain

View of Norfolk Southern Railway’s Debutts Yard, Engel Stadium (right), and Lookout Mountain (left), Chattanooga, Tennessee

View of Grandstand Roof From Highway

View of Grandstand Roof From East 3rd Street Bridge Over Norfolk Southern Railway Yard

Engel Stadium also is located adjacent to the University of Tennessee College of Medicine’s Erlanger Hospital and Chattanooga’s historic Fort Hood neighborhood.

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee, View From Street

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee, View From Erlanger Hospital at Central Avenue

Engel Stadium’s all brick construction is reminiscent of Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. Like Bosse Field, Engel Stadium was used as the backdrop for a major motion pictures. In 2012, the movie 42 was filmed at Engel Field. In 1991, A League Of Their Own was filed at Bosse Field.

Exterior, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Chattanooga Lookouts played their home games at Engel Field from 1930 through 1961 as member of the Southern Association. Chattanooga did not field a team in 1962, but the Lookouts returned in 1963 and played one season in the South Atlantic (“Sally”) League.

Exterior, Third Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior, Third Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

From 1964 to 1965 the Lookouts were members of the Southern League. The team departed after the 1965 season and from 1966 to 1975 Chattanooga did not field a team. The Lookouts returned to Engel Stadium in 1976, once again as a member of the Southern League and continued to play at Engel Stadium through the 1999 season.

Exterior, First Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior, First Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In the 1940s the minor league Negro Southern Association Chattanooga Choo-Choos played their home games at Engel Stadium. A young Willie Mays, still in high school, reportedly played for the Choo-Choos in 1945 and 1946 as an unsigned player. In 1947, he officially started his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barrons who played their home games at Rickwood Field. In 1926 and 1927, when the ballpark was still known as Andrews Field, the Negro Southern League Chattanooga White Sox played their home games at Andrews Field. Satchel Paige made his professional minor league Negro League debut at Andrews Field in April 1926. In 1927 Paige’s contract was sold to the Black Barrons.

Gated Entrance Along Third Base, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Gated Entrance Along Third Base, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The following Major League teams were affiliated with the Lookouts during the time that Engel Stadium fielded a professional, affiliated team: the Washington Senators from 1932 to 1959, the Philadelphia Phillies from 1960 to 1961, and 1963 to 1965, the Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1977, the Cleveland Indians from 1978 to 1982, the Seattle Mariners from 1983 to 1986, and the Cincinnati Reds from 1987 to 1999.

Scoreboard, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Scoreboard, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In 2000, the Chattanooga Lookouts moved to brand new AT&T Field located at 201 Power Alley in Chattanooga, just one and one half mile northwest of Engel Stadium.

AT&T Ballpark, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Ballpark, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

In 2009 Engel Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places. That same year, the Engel Stadium Foundation was established to help renovate and restore Engel Stadium. If you are interested in making a donation to the Foundation, contact them here.

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Although the stadium received some repairs in 2012 as part of its role in the movie 42, there is still much that needs to be done to restore Engel Stadium and help preserve it for future generations of baseball fans to use and appreciate.

View of Grandstand From Left Field Corner, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

View of Grandstand From Left Field Corner, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In April 2015 the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and the Engel Stadium Foundation, announced a partnership wherein Engel stadium will be renovated and converted to an Intramural Complex for students at the University. The details of the proposed renovation have yet to be determined.

Light Stanchion, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Light Stanchion, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Although the ballpark will undergo some changes to accommodate its new purpose, the good news is that Engel Stadium will not become just another lost ballpark.

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

If you have never visited Engel Stadium and are interested in seeing the ballpark before its transformation, now is the time to do so.

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Old ballparks such as Engel Stadium have a certain, worn charm that often times is wiped away when the ballpark is renovated or repurposed. Although I could not gain access to the ballpark in 2014 when I took these pictures, there was plenty to see just walking around the exterior of Engel Stadium. It is definitely worth the trip for any true fan of the game and is only a mile and a half from the Lookouts current home.

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Posted in Engel Stadium, Tennessee ballparks | Comments (0)

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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Posted in Griffith Stadium/Boundary Field/Nationals Park, Washington DC ballparks | Comments (10)

Walter Johnson: The Montgomery County Farmer Who Could Also Pitch

March 16th, 2013

Walter Johnson was arguably the greatest pitcher of all time. He played his entire major league career for the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927, compiling a record of 417-279 and an ERA of 2.17 for often last-place Washington squads. Johnson struck out 3,509 batters during his 20 year career and was nicknamed the “Big Train” by Stanley Milliken of the Washington Post because Johnson’s fastball and imposing size reminded the sportswriter of an express train.

Walter Johnson 1909 T-206 Card (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

In 1925, toward the end of his playing career, Johnson purchased a house at 9100 Old Georgetown Road in what is now Bethesda, Maryland. The house, constructed about 1906, was located in what was then an area known as Alta Vista.

The Former Walter Johnson House, 9100 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, Maryland

The house is on the Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places  (click the link to read the survey of the Maryland Historical Trust, which contains additional information about the house).

Walter Johnson House - National Register of Historic Places Plaque

The house was situated on an 8 1/2 acre farm which included chicken coops for eggs and for show, an orchard, a windmill, a tenant house, and a baseball diamond (the original Field of Dreams?).

View of Walter Johnson's Former House from Oakmont Avenue

The house today is used as a doctor’s office, given its close proximity to the nearby National Institutes of Health.

Front Porch of Walter Johnson's Former House

The Johnson farm that surrounded the house was bounded by what is now Johnson Avenue to the north, Old Georgetown Road to the east, Oakmont Avenue/Oak Place to the south, and Hempstead Avenue to the West.

Old Georgetown Road and Johnson Avenue - the Northeast corner of Johnson's Former Farm (Johnson Farmhouse is Visible Through the Trees)

Just west of Hempstead Avenue is the former site of Ayrlawn Farm, a dairy farm that was in operation during the time Johnson lived in Bethesda.

Intersection of Johnson and Hempstead Avenues Looking Northeast Toward Johnson's Former Farm Site

Ayrlawn Park now sits on a portion of the former farm site and includes several original buildings dating back to its days as a dairy farm, including the main farm house and barn silo, which is now part of a local YMCA.

Arylawn Park is Adjacent to the Site of Johnson's Former 8 1/2 Acre Farm in Bethesda

From 1929 until 1932, Johnson managed the Washington Senators and, from 1933 until his dismissal in 1935, managed the Cleveland Indians. Once retired from baseball, in 1936, Johnson sold his house and land in Bethesda and bought a 552 acre farm in Germantown, Maryland.

Railroad Station, Germantown, Maryland

Located 15 miles northwest of his home in Bethesda, the farm in Germantown provided Johnson the opportunity to return to his roots, having grown up in Kansas farm country.

Intersection of Walter Johnson Road and Wisteria Drive Looking East Toward Former Site of Johnson Farmhouse

Although Johnson’s Germantown farm once included a farm house, a large diary barn, and several other buildings, no structures dating back to Johnson’s farm remain on the site today.

Entrance to 19400 Crystal Rock Drive

The Johnson farmhouse was located near what is now 19400 Crystal Rock Drive.

Chesterbrook Academy and Parking Lot - Former Site of Johnson Farmhouse

The Chesterbrook Academy, a preschool, sits in the approximate location of the Johnson farmhouse.

Chesterbrook Academy and Parking Lot - Former Site of Johnson Farmhouse

Trees that once shaded the Johnson farmhouse remain at the site.

Cluster of Trees that Once Surrounded the Johnson Farmhouse

Seneca Valley High School now sits on a portion of Johnson’s former dairy farm.

Seneca Valley High School Occupies A Portion of Walter Johnson's Former Farm

After retirement from baseball, Johnson stayed active in the community, serving as Montgomery County Commissioner from 1938 to 1940. He ran for Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District in 1940 on the Republican ticket, loosing to the Democratic incumbent by only a few thousand votes. Johnson was reelected County Commissioner in 1942 and served in that position until his death in 1946.  Johnson died of a brain tumor at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C.

Entrance to Rockville Cemetery

Johnson is interred in Rockville Cemetery (also known as Union Armory Cemetery), located at 1350 Baltimore Road, in Rockville, Maryland.

Northern and Bowie Avenues Inside Rockville Cemetery

His grave site is located just northeast of the the intersection of Northern and Bowie Avenues.

Grave Site of Walter Johnson and His Wife Hazel Lee Johnson

As is somewhat common of baseball Hall of Famer grave sites, Johnson’s family marker is adorned with baseball souvenirs left by fans.

Johnson Family Marker Adorned With Ballcaps and Baseballs Left By Fans

Walter Johnson’s marker is simple, making no mention of his accomplishments on or off the field of baseball, noting only the years of his birth and death, 1887-1946.

Walter Johnson Grave Marker

Johnson’s beloved wife, Hazel Lee, who predeceased her husband by 16 years, is interred next him.

Grave Marker of Hazel Lee Johnson

Walter Johnson’s memory lives large throughout Montgomery County. In addition to streets named after Johnson, his name also adorns a high school located just two miles north of his former home in Bethesda.

Walter Johnson High School Banner

Walter Johnson High School was opened in 1956, 10 years after Johnson’s death.

Front Entrance to Walter Johnson High School at 6400 Rock Spring Drive in Bethesda, Maryland

Located behind the high school, on the outer wall of the athletics department is a granite monument to Walter Johnson.

Walter Johnson High School Athletics Department

The monument originally resided at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., home of the Washington Senators.

Walter Johnson Monument At The High School Bearing His Name

The monument was placed at Griffith Stadium in 1946 and dedicated at that time by President Harry S. Truman.

Harry S. Truman Dedicating The Walter Johnson Monument at Griffith Stadium (Nats320.blogspot.com)

Another memorial to Johnson is a statute located in front of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Dedicated in 2009, the statue shows Johnson in mid-pitch, with a repetitious arm motion meant to simulate the course of his pitching motion just prior to release.

Walter Johnson Statute at Nationals Park

Another tribute to Johnson is the Bethesda Big Train, a college wooden bat team that plays in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. The Big Train play their home games at Shirley Povich Field, located in Cabin John Park in Bethesda, Maryland.

Shirley Povich Field, Bethesda, Maryland (Showing Grandstand and Visitor's Dugout)

Montgomery County, Maryland, is proud of the legacy of its adopted son, Walter Johnson. For fans of the game, the many sites in and around the county that are linked to Johnson or placed there in his honor are certainly worth a visit should you find yourself in the Nation’s Capital and looking for a way to connect to and appreciate one of baseball’s greatest pitchers.

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Posted in Maryland ballparks, Walter Johnson Home and Farm | Comments (7)