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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Past Ballparks of New York City
New York City (Manhattan, Queens & Brooklyn)
September 29, 2007

By Ken Schlapp

The First Washington Park was built in 1883 for Charlie Byrne’s Brooklyn Club during their season in the Inter-State Association of Professional Ball Players.  This park was built next to the Old Stone House in South Brooklyn between 3rd and 5th Streets and 4th & 5th Avenues. In 1884, the Brooklyn Club joined the Major Leagues in the American Association.  They would continue to play there as part of the American Association through the 1889 season and in 1890 as part of the National League.  They even won the pennant in 1889 and in 1890, meaning that they won the pennant in 2 separate Major Leagues, when they were known as the Bridegrooms.  Unfortunately, during that period of winning, much of the Park had been burnt down and had to be partially rebuilt.  After the 1890 season, the Bridegrooms moved to Eastern Park.  Baseball of some form had continued to be played in the Park until 1892, when much of the park was buried (including the Old Stone House) when the city attempted to even the slope of the area.  Afterwards, there were circuses and more baseball played on this site, including a 1923 exhibition match between the Dodgers and a local semipro outfit.  The name changed to Edison Field, then JJ Byrne Park, and in 2008 back to Washington Park.  Thankfully, the Old Stone House was dug up in 1933, rebuilt with the original stones in 1934, and can be seen by all today.  I have even had the pleasure of playing base ball on this site as a member of the New York Gotham Base Ball Club.  Although it is no longer a Major League Stadium, I am still pleased to see baseball and softball played on this site.  I am also pleased to see the Old Stone House intact, but wish there would be more of a mention of the old baseball park.

Are next stop was practically across the street, so there was no need to get back into my car, we just got on our feet and walked.  When Charlie Byrne passed away in 1898, Charlie Ebbets took over the team.  He felt that attendance at Eastern Park was not satisfactory and worked on moving the team back to south Brooklyn.  In fact he moved it to a spot bordered by 1st & 3rd streets, and 3rd & 4th Avenues, which was right next to the old Washington Park, and aptly named this new park Washington Park too.  Attendance at this new stadium exceeded that of Eastern Park, and the fans were even treated to National League pennants in 1899 and 1900.  The Dodgers continued to play at Washington Park until the beginning of the 1913 season, when they moved into Ebbets Field. 

In December of 1912, the 2nd coming of Washington Park was dismantled.  However, that would not be the last of baseball on this historic site.  The Brooklyn Tip Tops of the Federal League, which was a new Major League that began play in 1914, needed a place to play.  Therefore, they built a 3rd Washington Park on the site of the 2nd Washington Park.  Unfortunately, the new Park was not ready for the beginning of the season, forcing the Tip Tops to play their first 13 games on the road before making their debut (and Washington Park III’s debut) on May 11, 1914 with a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh.  A unique feature for this new park was that the scoreboard in center field was actually in play.  Unfortunately, the Federal League only lasted 2 seasons, meaning that this park was only in use as a Major League stadium for 1914 and 1915.  The park was used in some form for sporting and other events until the end of 1917, then the site was used for materials storage and warehouses built on part of the playing surface. The Brooklyn Edison electric company took over in 1925 and finally knocked down the stands in 1926.

The electric company, however, did not knock down the wall that stood along 3rd avenue, so David and I were able to walk along the wall and take photos of what was one of the oldest standing structures from a baseball stadium.  There has been controversy as to whether this wall was part of the Washington Park the Dodgers had played, which would make this wall the oldest remaining piece of a baseball stadium.  However, based on research made by my partner in this journey, David Dyte, and others, newspaper evidence and photos support the assumption that this was a remnant from the Tip Tops 3rd rendition of Washington Park.  Therefore, Fenway Park is the oldest remaining structure from a baseball stadium, and baseball is still played there.  Unfortunately, after our journey, the electric company (now Con Ed) knocked down about two thirds of the wall.  The third that is still left is all that remains of the Tip Tops home field.  I am glad I was able to see the wall prior to its near complete demolition.

As a side note, I have to mention that despite John Maine’s heroics during our journey, that the Mets did not win the pennant.  Tom Glavine gave a horrendous showing the next day and was knocked out in the first inning, while the Mets were sent home for good in 2007 when the Phillies won their game.

Bottom line – This was an amazing Journey with my friend David Dyte.  We have since shared many baseball ventures together, but I am in his debt for doing all the research to bring me to all of these amazing baseball sites in Brooklyn and Queens (Manhattan was my job).  I also thank his and Andrew Ross’ BrooklynBallparks.com website for all of the facts that I have including in this story.  What a great baseball day! 

Basic trip facts:
Stadium  - N/A (still at 35)
-Old Stadium Sites visited – Polo Grounds I, II, III, & IV, Hilltop Park, Long Island Grounds, Grauer’s Ridgewood Park, Wallace’s Ridgewood Grounds, Union Grounds, Capitoline Grounds, Eastern Park, Ebbets Field, Washington Parks I, II, & III (Total – 38)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 2)
-Miles traveled – 85 via Driving (Totals: Driving – 19,581, Subway - 38, Amtrak – 460, Air - 13,136, Total – 33,215)
-States, provinces, Districts and/or commonwealths passed through – New York (Totals: States – 48, Provinces – 2, Districts – 1, Commonwealths - 1)
-Attendance –  2
-Lodging – Lou Gehrig’s Block

NYC Ballparks Part I

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