The Ballparks of New York


The Ravages of Time Upon The John T. Brush Stairway

A little bird tells me (I think he was a Red-hawk) that there isn’t any current plan for a bus tour of the old ball parks and sites of New York at this time for those who will be attending the annual convention of SABR in New York this summer. If that’s so, it’s a damnable shame. Because, if there is not, it means that most of you SABR members who will be visiting the NYC area for the first, only, or last times in your lives as attendees of SABR National Convention 47 in Manhattan are going to miss the golden chance to anchor your memories of the trip to the boldest form of sensory association to the history of baseball that still exists – and that is – being there yourself – where history was made – by GPS travel – at some of the most sacred moments and spots in baseball storytelling folklore.

Here are a few primary examples of the parks and sites that are out there, presented here in certainty that we shall be leaving out some of the lesser known venues of the hardscrabble, quickly relocating 19th century castles of the grand old game.

Try to be a little forgiving on the error finds. I am not writing for gospel or another doctoral degree presentation this evening. I’ve only had since late this afternoon to top what I’ve already known with a little research and editing of material from whomever did the fine job for all of us in putting these independent, scattered summations together for Wikipedia. It’s time we give those people the credit and thanks they deserve for all the good they do in service to the expeditiously inclined.

Hope this helps make the case for some access to ballpark site touring at SABR 47 this summer.

You know, you could have an historical meeting on World War II in Houston and allot no time at all for war site visiting. All we have is the San Jacinto Battlegrounds, a really important battle in the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico, but of no relevance to World War II. On the other hand, you could not move that same subject meeting to Normandy, France and never allow any time or assistance to conference guests to even take brief personal peeks at the nearby beautiful beaches, could you?

OK, here we go. The first one alone makes my head swim.

At Elysian Fields of Hoboken, New Jersey in the 1840’s, the men who wrote the basic rules of our modern baseball played the game into life.

         1. The Elysian Fields of Hoboken New Jersey. (by Wikipedia)

Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey is believed to be the site of the first organized baseball game, giving Hoboken a strong claim to be the birthplace of baseball.

In 1845, Knickerbocker Club of New York City began using Elysian Fields in Hoboken to play baseball due to the lack of suitable grounds across the Hudson River in Manhattan. On June 19, 1846, the Knickerbockers played the New York nine on these grounds in the first organized game between two clubs; Alexander Cartwright was the umpire. By the 1850s, several Manhattan-based member clubs of the National Association of Base Ball Players were using the grounds as their home field.

In 1856, Elysian Fields was the place that inspired pioneering journalist Henry Chadwick, then a cricket writer for The New York Times, to develop the idea that baseball could be America’s National Pastime. As Chadwick relates:

“I chanced to go through Elysian Fields during the progress of a contest between the noted Eagle and Gotham Clubs. The game was being sharply played on both sides, and I watched it with deeper interest that any previous ball match between clubs I had seen. It was not long before I was struck with the idea that base ball was just the game for a national sport for Americans.”

Chadwick went on to become the game’s preeminent reporter developing baseball’s statistics and scoring system.[3]

In 1859, an international cricket match was held with an All-England Eleven[4] as part of an English tour of North America.

In 1865, the grounds hosted a championship match between the Mutual Club of New York and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn that was attended by an estimated 20,000 fans and captured in the Currier & Ives lithograph “The American National Game of Base Ball”.

With the construction of two significant baseball parks in Brooklyn enclosed by fences, enabling promoters there to charge admission to games, the prominence of Elysian Fields began to diminish. In 1868, the leading Manhattan club, the New York Mutuals, shifted its home games to the Union Grounds in Brooklyn. In 1880, the founders of the New York Metropolitans and New York Giants finally succeeded in siting a ballpark on Manhattan that became known as the Polo Grounds.

The last recorded professional baseball game at Elysian Fields occurred in 1873. The large parkland area was eventually developed for housing. A small remnant of the park remains bounded on the west by Hudson Street, on the north and east by Frank Sinatra Drive, and on the south by Castle Point Terrace. To the west of Elysian Park at the intersection of 11th and Washington Streets is where the original diamond is thought to have been located. In 2003 a civic improvement organization called the “Hoboken Industry and Business Association” renovated the intersection and placed concrete and bronze “base” monuments in the sidewalk corners at the intersection.[1] A bronze plaque denoting the connection to early baseball was placed in the median strip of 11th Street between first and second bases.[1] The restaurant and music club Maxwell’s front door is adjacent to where third base was located.

In 1865, the grounds hosted a championship match between the Mutual Club of New York and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn that was attended by an estimated 20,000 fans and captured in the Currier & Ives lithograph “The American National Game of Base Ball”

With the construction of two significant baseball parks in Brooklyn enclosed by fences, enabling promoters there to charge admission to games, the prominence of Elysian Fields began to diminish. In 1868, the leading Manhattan club, the New York Mutuals, shifted its home games to the Union Grounds in Brooklyn. In 1880, the founders of the New York Metropolitans and New York Giants finally succeeded in siting a ballpark on Manhattan that became known as the Polo Grounds.

~ (by Wikipedia),_Hoboken,_New_Jersey

The Union Grounds were one of the first places to carry the expansion of the game forward through the second half of the 19th century.

  2. Union Grounds in Brooklyn. (by Wikipedia)

Union Grounds was a baseball park located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The grounds opened in 1862, its inaugural match being played on May 15.[1] It was the first baseball park enclosed entirely by a fence, thereby allowing proprietor William Cammeyer or his tenant to charge admission. This permitted paying customers to watch the games from benches in a stand while non-paying spectators could only watch from embankments outside the grounds.

The ball grounds was built on a large block bounded by Harrison Avenue, Rutledge Street, Lynch Street, and Marcy Avenue. A writer for the Brooklyn Eagle described the field in 1862:

“The buildings occupied last winter are left standing, used pretty much for the same purposes as them.[sic] Near these a long wooden shed has been erected, capable of accommodating several hundred persons, and benches provided for the convenience of the fair sex… Several acres more have been added to the enclosure, which is fenced in with a board fence six or seven feet in height. On the southeast corner a large and commodious club house has been erected, containing accommodations for three clubs. The field is now almost a perfect level, covering at least some six acres of ground, all of which is well drained, rolled, and in a few weeks will be in splendid condition… Several flagstaffs have been put up, from which floated the banners of the clubs o’er shadowed by the nations’ ensign.”[1]

During its early years Union Grounds was the home field for several ballclubs, notably including the Eckford Club, 1862 and 1863 champions of the National Association of Base Ball Players. In 1868, the Mutual Club of New York moved in from Elysian Fields, Hoboken, New Jersey, long-time home of Manhattan clubs but never enclosed. The ballpark’s entrance was on Rutledge Street, and a one-story building in right field, 350 feet away from home plate, was in play.

After formation of the first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, Union Grounds was home to the Mutual Club from 1871 to 1876 (the only year as a member of the new National League), Eckford of Brooklyn of the National Association in 1872, and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn of the National Association from 1873 to 1875. It also served as home field for the “Hartford of Brooklyn” team during the 1877 National League season. On July 26, 1878, the final major league game was played on the grounds, with Providence defeating Milwaukee 4-1.[3] The grounds continued to host barnstorming major league clubs, amateur clubs and independent clubs through the 1882 season.[4]

The park did not sit idle during the winter. Its field was flooded and served as the rink for an ice skating club.[5] An unusual feature of the park was the presence of a pagoda in center field.[4]

The Marcy Avenue Armory now occupies the southern half of the site of the Union Grounds.

Union Grounds was demolished in July of 1883.[6] Heyward Street now runs through the site, and as of 2009 the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School stands to the north of Heyward Street and the Marcy Avenue Armory stands to the south of it, with no historical marker or any other indication of the land’s significance to the history of baseball.

Early crowds at baseball games were decidedly male back in the 19th century at the Polo Grounds and elsewhere.

          3. The Original Polo Grounds. (Here’s what writer/broadcaster Greg Lucas said about it as a comment on a recent column we did:

A little closer to (midtown) Manhattan is 111th street. Where it is just north of Central Park (and) was the location of the original Polo Grounds. That ball yard disappeared after the 1888 season because the city wanted to build that street which was to go right through the middle. That ballpark, by the way, has been noted as “the worst ballpark in the history of the game” as former pitcher Jack Lynch was quoted in the book, “Diamonds” (and re-quoted in my book. “Baseball-Its More Than Just a Game.” Why? Because the park, which was actually separated into two fields with one for the American Association was built over a dump. As Lynch put it, “a player may go down for a grounder and come up with six months of malaria!” 

“Not likely any sign of the old ballpark along 111th street now, but also not likely a problem with malaria either!” – by Greg Lucas.

Malaria wasn’t the only thing that was catchable at the Polo Grounds as John McGraw took over as manager of the Giants. From that day forward, it became as easy to catch hell, if you crossed the path of the man’s rage – and there was no such thing as “anger management” back in the day.

         4. The Four Polo Grounds Over Time (by Wikipedia)

The Polo Grounds was the name of three stadiums in Upper Manhattan, New York City, used mainly for professional baseball and American football from 1880 until 1963. The third Polo Grounds, built in 1890 and renovated after a fire in 1911, is the one generally indicated when the Polo Grounds is referenced. It was located in Coogan’s Hollow and was noted for its distinctive bathtub shape, very short distances to the left and right field walls, and an unusually deep center field. As the name suggests, the original Polo Grounds, opened in 1876 and demolished in 1889, was built for the sport of polo. Bounded on the south and north by 110th and 112th Streets and on the east and west by Fifth and Sixth (Lenox) Avenues, just north of Central Park, it was converted to a baseball stadium when leased by the New York Metropolitans in 1880.

In baseball, the original Polo Grounds was home to the New York Metropolitans from 1880 until 1885, and the New York Giants from 1883 until 1888. The Giants played in the second Polo Grounds for part of the 1889 season and all of the 1890 season, and at the third and fourth Polo Grounds from 1891 through 1957. The Polo Grounds was also the home field of the New York Yankees from 1913 until 1922 and the New York Mets in their first two seasons of 1962 and 1963. It hosted the 1934 and 1942 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.

In football, the third Polo Grounds was home to the New York Brickley Giants for one game in 1921 and the New York Giants from 1925 to 1955. The New York Jets of the American Football League played at the stadium from the league’s inaugural season of 1960 through 1963.

~ (By Wikipedia)

The John T. Brush Stairway is a chance to physically touch and use something that was built for baseball fans of the Polo Grounds 104 years ago. Try not to miss it.

          4 a. The John T. Brush Stairway (to the Polo Grounds)

The John T. Brush Stairway opened on April 9, 1913 as a stairway built to meet to meet the access needs of fans descending from the landscape heights of Coogan’s Bluff into the Polo Grounds that nestled in the urban valley beneath, and far away from all easy reach by New York highlanders. It had been dedicated by name to the recently deceased owner of the New York Giants, John T. Brush, who died in 1911. After serving as a useful transporter of people far beyond the 1964 demolition of the last Polo Grounds structure, it finally was shut down in the early 21st century as safety hazard, but then again restored in 2015 to its original pristine condition and reopened for usage. It is a living artifact of Polo Grounds history. To come to New York and miss it in exchange for time spent at the convention hotel viewing a power point presentation would be a sad occurrence to say the least. At least, give the people a choice to pursue the places which feed the passion blood of their love for the game of baseball. Some opportunities, like precious time in Manhattan, are a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people.

Here’s the link to our Pecan Park Eagle column of two days ago on the Brush Stairway. If you want more, simply Google the full Stairway name and watch the narrative fallout shower you have invited.

Pecan Park Eagle story link …

Hill Top Park.
New York City

          5. Hilltop Park. (By Wikipedia)

Hilltop Park was the nickname of a baseball park that stood in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. It was the home of the New York Yankees Major League Baseball club from 1903 to 1912, when they were known as the “Highlanders”. It was also the temporary home of the New York Giants during a two-month period in 1911 while the Polo Grounds was being rebuilt after a fire.

The ballpark’s formal name (as painted on its exterior walls) was American League Park. Because the park was located on top of a ridge of Manhattan Island, it came to be known as Hilltop Park, and its team was most often called the New York Highlanders (as well as the Americans and the Yankees). This “Highland” connection contrasted with their intra-city rivals, the Giants, whose Polo Grounds was just a few blocks away, in the bottomland under Coogan’s Bluff.

Hilltop Park sat on the block bounded by Broadway, 165th Street, Fort Washington Avenue, and 168th Street. The structure consisted of a covered grandstand stretching from first base to third base and uncovered bleacher sections down the right and left field lines. The bleachers were covered in 1911, and additional bleachers were built in 1912 in center field. Originally built in just six weeks, the park sat 16,000, with standing room for an additional 10,000 or so.

The field was initially huge by modern standards — 365 ft (111 m) to left field, 542 ft (165 m) to center field and 400 ft (120 m) to right field. An inner fence was soon constructed to create more realistic action.[2] Both the park and the nickname “Highlanders” were abandoned when the American Leaguers left, at the beginning of the 1913 season, to rent the Polo Grounds from the Giants. The Polo Grounds had a far larger seating capacity, and by that time was made of concrete due to the 1911 fire. Hilltop Park was demolished in 1914.

~  (By Wikipedia)

Yankee Stadium, 1923, looked more like the lower structure above by the mid-1930s. The upper park across the river is the nearby Polo Grounds.

6. The Original Yankee Stadium, 1923. (By Wikipedia)

Yankee Stadium was a stadium located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. It was the home ballpark of the New York Yankees, one of the city’s Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises, from 1923 to 1973 and then from 1976 to 2008. The stadium hosted 6,581 Yankees regular season home games during its 85-year history. It was also the former home of the New York Giants football team from 1956 through the first part of the 1973–74 football season. The stadium’s nickname, “The House That Ruth Built”,[3] is derived from Babe Ruth, the baseball superstar whose prime years coincided with the stadium’s opening and the beginning of the Yankees’ winning history. It has also been known as “The Big Ballpark in The Bronx”, “The Stadium”, and “The Cathedral of Baseball”.

The stadium was built from 1922 to 1923 for $2.4 million ($33.9 million in 2016 dollars). The stadium’s construction was paid for entirely by Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who was eager to have his own stadium after sharing the Polo Grounds with the New York Giants baseball team the previous 10 years. Yankee Stadium opened for the 1923 MLB season and at the time, it was hailed as a one-of-a-kind facility in the country for its size. Over the course of its history, it became one of the most famous venues in the United States, having hosted a variety of events and historic moments during its existence. While many of these moments were baseball-related—including World Series games, no-hitters, perfect games and historic home runs—the stadium also hosted boxing matches, concerts, Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions (see record attendance) and three Papal Masses. The stadium went through many alterations and playing surface configurations over the years. The condition of the facility worsened in the 1960s and 1970s, prompting its closing for renovation from 1974 to 1975. The renovation significantly altered the appearance of the venue and reduced the distance of the outfield fences.

~  (By Wikipedia)

What makes this view of Ebbets Field so complete is the crowd of people walking in – many from their own front doors in the same neighborhood. Ah yes! – Ebbets Field was the real “People’s Cherce!”

           7. Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. (By Wikipedia)

Ebbets Field was a Major League Baseball stadium in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York City. It is known mainly as the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team of the National League, from 1913 to 1957, but was also home to three National Football League teams in the 1920s.

Ebbets Field was demolished in 1960 and replaced by apartment buildings.

Ebbets Field was bounded by Bedford Avenue on the east, Sullivan Place on the South, Cedar Street (renamed McKeever Place in 1932[8]) on the west, and Montgomery Street on the north. After locating the prospective new site to build a permanent stadium to replace the old, wooden Washington Park, Dodgers’ owner Charles Ebbets acquired the property over several years, starting in 1908, by buying lots until he owned the entire block. The land included the site of a garbage dump called Pigtown, because of the pigs that once ate their fill there and the stench that filled the air. Even at the groundbreaking, the site was described as containing several old houses, shanties, goats, and tomato cans, and although the streets bordering the field were mapped, two of them had not been built yet. Construction began on March 4, 1912,[2] and the cornerstone, a piece of Connecticut granite that held newspapers, pictures of baseball players, cards, telegrams, and almanacs was laid on July 6, 1912.

~ (By Wikipedia)

One small, faded plaque marks the former site of home base. – I cannot recall where I read that, but I am assured it’s true. The physical sight of the place is now all but totally removed, but, if you Google around those two words, you will find that people’s love and and memories of the place are still alive and dancing on that string of life we all call “hope.”

Gotta be Washington Park in Brooklyn. They’ve even put their name above the front entry way.

          8. Washington Park. (A name popular enough for three 19th century ballparks in Brooklyn). (By Wikipedia)

Washington Park was the name given to three major league Baseball parks on two different sites in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, located at Third Street and Fourth Avenue. The first two sites were diagonally opposite each other at that intersection. The third site was the same as the second site.

~ (By Wikipedia)

Shea Stadium
Flushing Meadows NY
A picture that raises thaat never answered question: “Did they really need to tear down this place and and sack the public coffers to build another one?”

         9. Shea Stadium. Flushing Meadow (By Wikipedia)

Shea Stadium (formally known as William A. Shea Municipal Stadium) /ˈʃ/) was a stadium in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, New York City.[6] Built as a multi-purpose stadium, it was the home park of Major League Baseball‘s New York Mets from 1964 to 2008, as well as the New York Jets football team from 1964 to 1983.

Shea Stadium was named in honor of William A. Shea, the man who was most responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York. It was demolished in 2009 to create additional parking for the adjacent Citi Field, the current home of the Mets.

~ (By Wikipedia)

Citi Field
Flushing Meadows, NY

10. Citi Field. Flushing Meadow  (By Wikipedia)

Citi Field is a stadium located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in the New York City borough of Queens. Completed in 2009, it is the home baseball park of Major League Baseball‘s New York Mets. Citi Field was built as a replacement for the formerly adjacent Shea Stadium, which opened in 1964 next to the site of the 1964–1965 World’s Fair. Citi Field was designed by Populous (then HOK Sport), and is named after Citigroup, a New York financial services company which purchased the naming rights. The $850 million baseball park was funded with $615 million in public subsidies,[8] including the sale of New York City municipal bonds which are to be repaid by the Mets plus interest. The payments will offset property taxes for the lifetime of the park.[9][10] The Mets are receiving $20 million annually from Citibank in exchange for naming the stadium Citi Field. The entire public cost is being borne by city and state taxpayers in New York.

~ (By Wikipedia)

The New Yankees Stadium
Bronx, NY

11. The New Yankee Stadium, 2009 (By Wikipedia).

Yankee Stadium is a stadium located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. It serves as the home ballpark for the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB). The $2.3 billion stadium, built with $1.2 billion in public subsidies,[13] replaced the original Yankee Stadium in 2009. It is one block north of the original, on the 24-acre former site of Macombs Dam Park; the 8-acre site of the original stadium is now a public park called Heritage Field. The stadium incorporates replicas of some design elements from the original Yankee Stadium and like its predecessor it has hosted additional events, including college football games, soccer matches, and concerts. Although Yankee Stadium’s construction began in August 2006, the project spanned many years and faced many controversies, including the high public cost and the loss of public parkland. The overall price tag makes the new Yankee Stadium the most expensive stadium ever built.[17]It is also the home park for New York City FC of Major League Soccer (MLS).

~ (By Wikipedia)


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


One Response to “The Ballparks of New York”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    When the New York team played at the Polo Grounds in the American Football League starting in 1960, they were known as the Titans.

    I like how the architectural façade of Citi Field pays homage to the original design of Ebbets Field.

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