Posts Tagged ‘Willie Mays’

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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Westport Stadium – Baltimore’s Last Negro League Ballpark

October 28th, 2013

Westport Stadium was Baltimore’s last Negro League ballpark. Located in Westport, a Baltimore neighborhood just south of the intersection of I-95 and I-295, the ballpark was the home field of the 1950 Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants. Previously, the Elite Giants had played their home games primarily at Bugle Field located in East Baltimore at the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway. Westport Stadium is not to be confused with Westport Park, where the Negro League Baltimore Black Sox played their home games from 1917-1920 and which was located two miles north at 1701 Russell Street (now a Holiday Inn Express).

Entrance to Westport Stadium on Annapolis Road (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

After the Elite Giants departed Westport Stadium in 1951, the field was used primarily for NASCAR events, although Negro League All Star Teams still occasionally played at Westport into the mid 1950’s and the Indianapolis Clowns played yearly exhibition games there until the early 1960s. Also, in May 1953, Willie Mays (then in the Army stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia) played in a double header at Westport Stadium for the Newport News Royals, who faced the Yokely Baltimore Stars. Laymon Yokely was a former Baltimore Black Sox and Elite Giant who barnstormed with his own semi-pro team.

For more information about Westport Stadium’s connection to NASCAR racing, see thevintageracer.com (and many thanks to Larry Jendras, Jr., for sharing his knowledge of Westport Stadium).

Westport Stadium (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

The stadium was located on a triangular shaped piece of property north of the intersection of Patapsco Avenue and Annapolis Road and just south of the Baltimore Washington Parkway (I-295).

USGS Image Of Westport Stadium (Road to Left of Home Plate is Annapolis Road)

The entrance to Westport Stadium was located on Annapolis Road, just north of what is now the Patapsco Arena. The actual ball field was located below grade level, at the base of approximately 25 to 30 rows of seats.

Patapsco Arena, Located Just South of Westport Stadium's Former Site

The entrance to Westport Stadium, like much if not all of the former ballpark, is buried under tons of landfill.

Former Location of Entrance to Westport Stadium

Westport Stadium’s NASCAR operations ceased in 1963 and the stadium eventually was filled in with sludge and debris from excavation from the Baltimore Harbor and the construction of Camden Yards.

Former Location of Left Field Corner Just Beyond Top of Earthen Berm

Westport Stadium was primarily an earthen stadium, much like Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium (also known as Baltimore Stadium, Venable Stadium, and Babe Ruth Stadium), which eventually became the site of Memorial Stadium. A portion of Westport’s earthen berm is still evident around the back side of Westport Stadium’s former site, near what was once the right field corner.

Pathway To Former Right Field Corner, Westport Stadium

The entire infield and outfield is now covered with asphalt placed on top of the landfill.

Looking North From Former Right Field Corner Toward Third Base

Railroad tracks are located behind the backside of the former ballpark, beyond what was once center field. A gravel parking lot for the ballpark was once located alongside those railroad tracks.

Looking Northwest Toward Former Location of Westport Stadium's Center Field

A two lane asphalt ramp now runs parallel to what was once the area behind left field.

Looking North Toward Westport Stadium's Former Left Field Corner

Home plate was located behind Westport Stadium’s main entrance on Annapolis Road.

Looking East From Annapolis Road Toward Former Location of Home Plate and Infield

Somewhere underneath the asphalt and landfill material is a lost ballpark, historic not only for its connection to Negro League baseball, but also for its connection to NASCAR’s early years.

The Remains of Westport Stadium Waiting To Be Excavated

The former ballpark remains buried, awaiting perhaps some future excavation or archaeological dig.  Until that time, it is still possible to gain an appreciation for Westport Stadium by simply walking around the site and seeing the earthen berm that sat just beyond the stadium’s right field corner.

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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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Rickwood Field – Baseball’s Time Capsule

September 19th, 2013

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

Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama

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

Ridkwood Field, As Seen From 11th Street

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

Rickwood Field Third Base Side Grandstand

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

Rickwood Field First Base Side Grandstand

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

Rickwood Field Historic Marker

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

Rickwood Field Historic Marker Noting Opening Day 1910

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

Mission Style Front Entrance to Rickwood Field

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

Rickwood Field's Self Guided Tour

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

Rickwood Field Front Entrance Turnstiles

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

Lineup From 2013 Rickwood Classic

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

Field of Dreams, Alabama Style

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

Rickwood Field Tower

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

Rickwood Field Third Base Dugout

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

Rickwood Field View From the First Base Dugout

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

Louvered Windows at Rickwood Field

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

Right Field Seating Rickwood Field

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

Obstructed View At Rickwood Field Is Part of the Charm

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

View From the Right Field Grandstand

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

Original Outfield Wall at Rickwood Field

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

Gambling Not Permitted at Rickwood Field

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

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

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

Regions Field, Home of the Birmingham Barons

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

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