Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets’

Jacksonville’s Wolfson Park Now the NFL Jaguars’ Practice Field

December 12th, 2016

Jacksonville Baseball Park was located at 1201 East Duval Street in Jacksonville, Florida, just northwest of the former Gator Bowl.

Gator Bowl Sports Complex, Jacksonville, Florida (Postcard Curteichcolor, Seminole Souvenirs, Inc.)

Constructed in 1954, the ballpark opened in March 1955, hosting a spring training game between the Washington Senators and the Cincinnati Reds. That same month, the ballpark hosted another spring training game between the soon-to-be World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves.

Aerial view of Baseball Park, Gator Bowl, Matthews Bridge on the St. John’s River (Postcard Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers Boston MA, Charles Smith Studio, Jacksonville, Florida)

Jacksonville Baseball Park replaced Durkee Field (later renamed J. P. Small Memorial Park) which had hosted baseball in Jacksonville since 1911. J.P. Smalls Memorial Park remains to this day, located just 3.5 miles northwest of the former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park.

J.P. Smalls Park Memorial Park, Jacksonville, Florida, Where Baseball Has Been Played Since 1911

In April 1955, the Jacksonville Braves moved to Jacksonville Baseball Park. The owner of the team at the time was Samuel W. Wolfson. Wolfson sold the team in 1958 to Hall of Famer Bill Terry and became President of the South Atlantic League. After Wolfson died unexpectedly in 1963, the ballpark was renamed Samuel W. Wolfson Baseball Park in his honor.

Postcard of Wolfson Park, Jacksonville, Florida (Photo By Chris Nichol)

Wolfson Park was the home ballpark of the single-A South Atlantic League Jacksonville Braves from 1955 to 1960, and the Jacksonville Jets in 1961. In 1962 the triple-A International League Jacksonville Suns took up residence at Wolfson Park, playing there through the 1968 season. In 1970, the double-A Southern League Jacksonville Suns took up residence for one year, followed by the double-A Dixie Association Jacksonville Suns in 1971. In 1972, the Southern League Jacksonville Suns returned to Wolfson Park. In 1984, Suns’ owner Lou Eliopulos sold the team to Peter Bragan. Eliopulos purchased a South Atlantic League affiliate and moved it to Hagerstown, Maryland, keeping the Suns as the team name. Jacksonville changed its name to the Expos beginning in 1985, which it remained through the 1990 season. In 1991, Jacksonville changed its name back to the Suns, which is why there currently are two minor league teams, both with the name Suns.

Intersection Of Duval and Franklin Streets, Former Site Of Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Jacksonville Suns played their last home game at Wolfson Park in September 2002. Wolfson Park was demolished that same year, soon after the Suns departed.

Duval Street, Looking East Toward Former Site Of First Base Grandstand, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Franklin Streets Looking North, Former Site Of Third Base Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Park, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

In 2003, the Suns moved into a brand new stadium known now as Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, located at 301 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, just two blocks southwest of Wolfson Park.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former site of Wolfson Park is now occupied by practice fields for the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars.

Entrance to Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park

The naming rights for the practice fields is owned by Florida Blue, a health insurance company.

Former Location of Home Plate, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The practice fields are adjacent to EverBank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. EverBank Field sits in the former location of the Gator Bowl.

EverBank Field, Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville, Florida

Wolfson Park’s grandstand is long gone, but the playing field remains, although covered now with plastic grass and hash marks.

Former First Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Over the years, Wolfson Park was affiliated with 10 different major league organizations: the Milwaukee Braves (1955 – 1960), the Houston Colf 45’s (1961), the Cleveland Indians (1962 -1963, 1971), the St. Louis Cardinals (1964 – 1965), the New York Mets (1966 – 1968), the Kansas City Royals (1972 – 1983), the Montreal Expos (1984 – 1990), the Seattle Mariners (1991 – 1994), the Detroit Tigers (1995 – 2001), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2002). In 1970, the Suns were unaffiliated with any major league organization.

Former Third Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

One aspect of Wolfson Park remains at the site – several of its light stanchions ring the practice fields, providing night time illumination for the Jaguars.

Light Stanchion, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

Out past the former site of center field are bleachers, which were added after the demolition of Wolfson Park.

Beachers, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium, Located Beyond What Was Once Center Field

The Sun’s current home is visible from the practice field bleachers.

Looking Southwest Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars) toward Jacksonville Baseball Grounds

And by the same token, the former site of Wolfson Park is visible beyond the current center field fence, just to the left of EverBank Field.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former light stanchions of Wolfson Park also are readily visible, especially from the walkway behind center field, looking in the direction of EverBank Field.

Looking Northeast From Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Toward Former Site of Jacksonville Stadium

Outside the south end zone of EverBank Field, the Jaguars are constructing Daily’s Place, a new amphitheater and indoor flex field, which is scheduled to open in May 2017. It is uncertain what impact the opening of Daily’s Place will have on the Jaguar’s current practice facility. However, paving the field and turning it into a parking lot, is a good guess.

Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

For now, however, there is still a playing field located on the former site of Wolfson Park, albeit for professional football. Time will tell whether professional sports or sports of any kind will continue to be played at that site.

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Posted in Florida ballparks, Wolfson Park/Jacksonville Baseball Park | Comments (0)

Waterfront Park/Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida

January 17th, 2014

Professional baseball first came to St. Petersburg, Florida, as early as 1908 when the then- independent St. Paul Saints played an exhibition game against the National League Cincinnati Reds. In 1914, businessman and future mayor Al Lang convinced the St. Louis Browns to come to St. Petersburg and train at Sunshine Park – also known as Coffee Pot Park because of its location near Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg. The Browns stayed in St. Petersburg only one season. From 1915 through 1918, the Philadelphia Phillies trained at Coffee Pot Park.

Postcard of Waterfront Park, St., Petersburg,Florida (Pub. By Gulf Coast Card Co., St. Petersburg, FL, C.T. Art Colortone, Curt Teich, Chicago IL

In 1922, a new ballpark opened along the shoreline of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg on a patch of land that was part of the city’s mile-long Waterfront Park. The ball field, also known as Waterfront Park, was located at the intersection of 1st Avenue S.E. and First Street S.E. It was the spring training grounds of the Boston Braves beginning in 1922.

Postcard of Waterfront Park, St. Petersburg, Florida (Pub. By Hartman Card Co, Pinella FL)

In 1925, the New York Yankees began training in St. Petersburg at nearby Crescent Lake Park, while playing some of their games at Waterfront Park. The Braves departed St. Petersburg after the 1937 season and the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Waterfront Park in 1938, sharing the facility with the Yankees for Spring Training games.

Al Lang Field Postcard, St. Petersburg, Florida (Pub. By Sun News Co. St. Petersburg FL, Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone)

In 1947, Waterfront Park was demolished and replaced by Al  Lang Field, named in honor  of the man who helped establish St. Petersburg  as a spring training mecca. Al Lang Field was constructed on land one block south of  the northern most point of Waterfront Park.

Entrance to Al Lang Field (Detail of Postcard Pub. By Sun News Co., St. Petersburg FL, Curteich Chicago, C.T. Art Colortone)

Thus, the grandstand at Al Lang Field was built on top of Waterfront Park’s former infield.

Al Lang Field Postcard (Pub. By Sun News Co., St. Petersburg FL, Curteich Chicago, C.T. Art Colortone)

The exact location of Waterfront Park in relation to Al Lang Field is evident by comparing the two ballparks as they appear below in the two aerial postcards of Waterfront Park and Al Lang Field.

Waterfront Park:

Aerial Postcard of Waterfront Park, St. Petersburg, Florida circa 1932 (Pub. By Hartman Card Co., Tampa, FL)

Al Lang Field:

Aerial Postcard of Al Lang Field (Pub. By Hartman Litho Sales, Largo FL, Photo by St. Petersburg News Service)

As can be seen from the above two postcards and the postcard below, a parking lot for Al Lang Field was constructed where Waterfront Park’s grandstand once stood. In the city block just north of the parking lot is Pioneer Park, which honors St. Petersburg’s earliest settlers.

Al Lang Field Postcard (Pub. By Sun News Co. St. Petersburg FL, Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone)

In 1977, Al Lang Field was demolished and replaced by Al Lang Stadium, a concrete structure with little of the charm offered baseball fans at Al Lang Field and Waterfront Park.

View of Progress Energy Park Taken from Former Site of Waterfront Park Third Base Grandstand

In 1998, the naming rights to Al Lang Stadium were sold and the stadium was renamed Florida Power Park. It later was renamed Progress Energy Park in 2003.  The stadium complex currently is known as Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park.

Plaque Honoring Former St. Petersburg Mayor Al Lang

The Yankees departed Al Lang Field for Fort Lauderdale after the 1960 Spring Training season and the Cardinals departed for Palm Beach after the 1997 season.

Dedication Plaque Al Lang Stadium, 1977

Other professional teams that once called the ballpark home were the New York Giants (1951), the New York Mets (1962-1987), and the Baltimore Orioles (1992-1995).

Ramp to Concourse from Gate 2, Progress Energy Park

In 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took over the ballpark.

Tampa Bay Rays Souvenir Stand, Progress Energy Park

The Devil Rays, a 1998 MLB expansion team, played their regular season  games at  the Tropicana Dome, located less than two miles west  of Progress Energy Park.

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

Although the concrete structure of the stadium itself leaves much to be desired, the setting at Progress Energy Park was one of the most beautiful of all spring training venues, current or former.

Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The view of the playing field, with Tampa Bay as a back drop,wais breathtaking.

Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beginning in 2005, the Tampa Bay Rays began a campaign to build a new major league ballpark on the site of Progress Energy Field. However, those plans met public opposition and quietly were withdrawn in 2009.

Artist Rendering of Proposed Ballpark on the Grounds of Progress Energy Field, to Replace Tropicana Field

The Rays trained at Progress Energy Park through the 2008 season.

Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 2009 the Rays moved to a new ballpark in Port Charlotte, Florida, 80 miles south.

Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, Florida

Charlotte Sports Park previously had been the home Spring Training home for the Texas Rangers. The park was renovated prior to the Rays arrival in 2009.

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Coaches at Progress Energy Park in 2008

The facade of Progress Energy Park includes a series of  plaques which in 1998 had been part of the “Jim Healey and Jack Lake Baseball Boulevard.” The 85 brass home plate plaques that made up the Baseball Boulevard told the story of Major League baseball St. Petersburg.

Facade of Progress Energy Park Circa 2012

One of the plaques honors the opening of Waterfront Park in 1922. However, the plaque states, incorrectly, that Waterfront Park was located on land that later became Bayfront Center, an indoor sports arena built in 1965 and demolished in 2004. The former site of Bayfront Center is now the Salvador Dali Museum, which is located south of Progress Energy Field on Bay Shore Drive.

Plaque at Progress Energy Park Honoring Waterfront Park

Progress Energy Park is still used to today, mainly for minor league soccer and music concerts. Although St. Petersburg residents appear to favor keeping the site a public park, it seems only a matter of time before the stadium itself is demolished. Hopefully, the historic field will be maintained, for it represents over 90 years of baseball spring training history.

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Crescent Lake Park/Huggins-Stengel Field in St. Petersburg, Florida

January 12th, 2014

Crecent Lake Park is located at 1320 5th Street N in St. Petersburg, Florida. In the southern most part of the park, tucked away in a residential neighborhood, is an important and relatively unspoiled historical baseball site.

Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beginning in 1925, the ball field at Crescent Lake Park was the spring training home of the American League New York Yankees.

Postcard Crescent Lake Field, St. Petersburg, Florida (Curteich-Chicago, published by Sun News Co., St. Petersburg

The park is dominated by a large, crescent-shaped lake (hence the name) located in the center of the park.

The Lake at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The former training grounds appear much as they did when the Yankees made the field their spring training home.

“Babe Ruth, King of Swat, at St. Petersburg, Florida” Stereo Card, Published by Keystone View Company, Meadville PA (Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

Such greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the rest of the 1927 World Champion Yankees played on this unassuming ball field.

Baseball Practice Field at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The Yankees trained at Crescent Lake Park until 1942.

Babe Ruth Training At Crescent Lake Park, Late 1920s

In 1943, when World War II restricted travel for things such as spring training, the Yankees stayed closer to home, training in Atlantic City and Asbury Park, New Jersey. The Yankees returned to Crescent Lake Park in 1946.

Baseball Backstop, Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 1947, the Yankees moved their spring training home games less than two miles south to Al Lang Field, now known as Progress Energy Park.

Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Joe DiMaggio At Crecsent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

They continued to hold practice sessions at Crescent Lake Park.

Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beginning in 1947, the Yankees shared Al Lang Field with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The Yankees continued to use Crescent Lake Park as a spring practice field until 1961, with the exception of 1951 when they trained in Phoenix, Arizona (the Yankees and the New York Giants swapped spring training sites for one season, with the Yankees training that year in Arizona). In 1962 the Yankees departed St. Petersburg and the west coast of Florida for a new stadium built for them on the east coast in Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Former Spring Training Home of the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles

In 1962 the New York Mets took over the spring training at Crescent Lake Park. The Mets trained there through the 1987 season and played their home games at Al Lang Field (renamed Al Lang Stadium in 1977). From 1992 to 1995, the Baltimore Orioles trained at Crescent Lake Park, with their home games being played at Al Lang Stadium.

Practice Field, Crescent Lake Park Baseball Complex, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 1931, Crescent Lake Park was renamed Miller Huggins Field, after the manager of the Yankees who had died in 1929. In 1962, Casey Stengel returned to Crescent Lake as Manager of the New York Mets and, in 1963, the facility was renamed Huggins-Stengel Field. Today it is known as Huggins-Stengel Baseball Complex.

Huggins-Stengel Baseball Complex Sign, St. Petersburg, Florida

The grandstand at Huggins-Stengel Field was never particularly large, holding only a few thousand fans. Today, seating at the stadium consists only of a few rows of metal bleachers.

Bleachers at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

A water tower that dominates the skyline at the southern end of the park remains from the time when the field was used for major league spring training.

Water Tower at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The base of that same water tower is is clearly visible in this postcard photograph of Huggins Field.

Postcard “Huggins Field, On Crescent Lake , Spring Training Camp Of Major League Baseball, St. Petersburg, Florida, ‘The Sunshine City.'” Natural Color Reproduction – Cureichcolor Art Creation, Sun News Co.. St. Petersburg

Several other structures dating back to the Yankees’ days at Crescent Lake remain as well.

Practice Field with Original Club House in Backgrouind, Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Most notably, one of the original clubhouses remains. Inside the building is one wooden locker purportedly dating back to the time when the Yankees trained there.

Club House, Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Outside the former club house (Building #4) are two plaques commemorating Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel.

Plaques Honoring Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel, St. Petersburg, Florida

The plaque honoring Miller J. Huggins states: “As a memorial and tribute to an outstanding sportsman and splendid character, who as Manager of the New York Yankees and resident of this city contributed to its fame and the betterment of baseball, the citizens of St. Petersburg dedicate this ground, which forever shall be known as Miller Huggins Field.”

Plaque Honoring Miller Huggins at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The plaque honoring Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel states: “One of baseball’s most popular and widely known figures who as Manager of the New York Yankees won ten American League Pennants in 12 years helping to make the Sunshine City the spring training capital of the world and who now has returned as Manager of the New York Mets this plaque is gratefully and affectionately dedicated.”

Plaque Honoring Casey Stengel at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The original flag pole remain as well.

Flag Pole at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The neighborhood surrounding the park appears much the way it did when the Yankees and Mets practiced at the facility.

Houses Located on 5th Street, Across from Crescent Lake Park’s Baseball Complex

On the facade of Progress Energy Park in downtown St. Petersburg are a series of  plaques, some of which mention the history of Crescent Lake Park and Huggins-Stengel Field. Previously, those plaques had been part of the “Jim Healey and Jack Lake Baseball Boulevard,” which included 85 brass home plate plaques that told the story of Major League baseball St. Petersburg. The Boulevard plaques originally were located from First Street S in front of Al Lang Stadium to Central Avenue south along the sidewalk, to 13th Street west, stopping at Tropicana Field.

Progress Energy Park, With Historic Plaques Lining the Facade, St. Petersburg, Florida

One of the plaques commemorates the Yankees’s first year at Crescent Lake Park.

Progress Energy Field Plaque Honoring 1925 Arrival of the Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida

Another plaque commemorates the renaming of Crescent Lake Park Miller Huggins Field in 1931.

Plaque at Progress Energy Field Honoring Former Yankees Manager Miller Huggins

A similar plaque honors the return of Casey Stengel to Crescent Lake in 1962 as manager of the New York Mets.

Progress Energy Stadium Plaque Honoring Former New York Yankee and Mets Manger Casey Stengel

Another plaque commemorates the renaming of the practice field Huggins-Stengel Field in 1963.

Progress Energy Stadium Plaque Commemorating Renaming of Huggins-Stengel Field

Huggins-Stengel Baseball Complex is used today by high school and college teams for both practice and games. The City of St. Petersburg recognizes the historical significance of the park and seems intent on maintaining it as a baseball facility. This is good news for fans of the game who want to appreciate first hand the national pastime’s rich history.

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Charlie Ebbets’s Field

January 17th, 2013

Ebbets Field was home to the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913 until 1957. The ballpark was the brainchild of Dodgers owner Charlie Ebbet. He spent four years piecing together the land necessary to construct the ballpark when it became clear that the Dodgers’ home at Washington Park was no longer suitable.

Ebbets Field Post Card (Acacia Card Co. NY)

Located in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, the stadium’s front entrance was at the northeast corner of McKeever and Sullivan Place.

Entrance to Ebbets Field, McKeever and Sullivan Place (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Ebbets Field Apartments, a housing project constructed pursuant to the Mitchell-Lama Program and rising 25 stories above the former playing field, now occupies the site.

Corner of McKeever and Sullivan Place Circa 2001

Although no part of the former ballpark remains, the apartment building does pay homage to the former occupant of the site. The front entrance of the building near the northwest corner of Bedford Avenue and Sullivan Place includes a marble plaque honoring Ebbets Field.

Ebbets Field Apartments Plaque

Dated 1962, the inscription states: “This is the former site of Ebbets Field.”

Plaque Honoring Ebbets Field

The memory of Jackie Robinson and the ballpark are honored with the Jackie Robinson Elementary School and Ebbets Field Middle School, both located opposite the ballpark site on McKeever Place. Both schools were built in the 1960’s.

Jackie Robinson Elementary School on McKeever Place

When Ebbets Field was constructed in 1912, much of the land and buildings surrounding the ballpark still had a small town feel.

Entrance to Ebbets Field Looking Toward McKeever Place (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

The ballpark’s opening in 1913 brought with it construction of block-long, one story brick buildings surrounding the site.

One Story Industrial Buildings Located One Block South of Ebbets Field on McKeever and Dating to Time of Ebbets Field

The right field corner of the ballpark was located at the northwest corner of Bedford Avenue and Sullivan Place.

Bedford Avenue and Sullivan Place, Ebbets Field’s Former Right Field Corner

The only portion of the ballpark not surrounded by grandstands was right field.

Right Field Wall Ebbets Field, Bedford Avenue (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

A brown brick wall with the letters “EBBETS FIELD”  runs parallel to former site of the right field wall along Bedford Avenue, approximately 15 feet from original wall’s location.

Parking Lot Located in Former Location of Right Field

Two buildings dating from the time of Ebbets Field remain on Bedford Avenue. The first, at the corner of Montgomery and Bedford, is a four-story walk up.

Four-story Walk Up at Coerner of Montgomery and Bedford

The second, attached to the four-story walk up at mid block, is a one story building currently housing a pharmacy.

Corner of Bedford Avenue and Sullivan Place with Rite Aid Pharmacy Located in Building that Dates to Ebbets Field

First base once ran parallel to Sullivan Place.

Former Location of  Ebbets Field First Base Grandstand Along Sullivan Place, Looking in Direction of Home Plate.

Across the street from the Ebbets Field Apartments on Sullivan Place are several one-story buildings that also date to the time of Ebbets Field.

Sullivan Place Across the Street from Former Site of Ebbets Field’s First Base

At the southwest corner of Sullivan Place and Bedford Avenue is a unique one story building that currently houses a Firestone Tire Store. This building also dates to the time of Ebbets Field. The corner of the building includes a mural and a painted tribute to New York City police officers.

Tire Store at Corner of Sullivan Place and Bedford Avenue

Much of the former site of right and center fields is a plaza located one story above the former playing field, on top of a parking garage.

Right Field Line Looking Toward Second Base

Up until at least 2001, a sign in the courtyard above what would have been the infield cautioned:

Please NO
Ball Playing
Dogs Allowed
Bicycle Riding
This Area For Tenants Of Ebbets Field Appts Only

Sign Located in Ebbets Field Apartments Near Former Location of Second Base, Circa 2001

Ebbets Field is one of the most storied lost ballparks. Unfortunately, no piece or artifact of the old ballpark remains at the site. However, just two miles south of the Ebbets Field Apartments, down Flatbush Avenue, is a flag pole that once sat in center field, now residing in front of the Barclay Center. For more information on the well-traveled flag pole, see: Ebbets Field Flag Pole.

The New York Mets current stadium, Citi Field, pays homage to Ebbets Field with a front entrance and rotunda that evoke the lost ballpark.

Citi Field, Home of the New York Mets

Should you find yourself with extra time before or after a Mets game, the former site of Ebbets Field is only 13 miles southwest of Citi Field down Grand Central Parkway and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. For any true fan of the National Pastime, it is well worth the trip.

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The Polo Grounds, Coogan’s Bluff, and the Brush Memorial Stairway

January 9th, 2013

The Polo Grounds was located in Harlem, New York, at 157th Street and 8th Avenue. Various incarnations of ballparks at that location were home to three different major league teams: the National League New York Giants from 1891 to 1957, the New York Yankees from 1913 to 1922, and the New York Mets in 1962 and 1963, as well as a team from the Players’ League in 1890 also known as the Giants) .   Prior to 1890, a sports venue known as the Polo Grounds was located in Manhattan near Central Park, and a second venue, also known as the Polo Grounds, was located at 155th Street and 8th Avenue on a plot adjacent to the Polo Grounds at 157th Street.

Postcard of the Polo Grounds Postcard Showing Newly Rebuilt Ballpark After Fire Destroyed the Original Ballpark (Success Postal Card Co., photo New York Times)

The original wooden ballpark at 157th Street was destroyed by fire in 1911 and a new concrete and steel ballpark was constructed on the site.

Postcard of the Polo Grounds (H. Pinkelstein & Sons, American Art Publishing)

The new Polo Grounds were the third concrete and steel ballpark in the country.

Polo Ground’s Concrete and Steel Construction (Library of Congress  Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Coogan’s Bluff  (not to be confused with the movie of the same name starring Clint Eastwood) was located northwest of the Polo Grounds just beyond home plate at 155th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. The playing field of the Polo Grounds sat in Coogan’s Hollow

New York City Park Sign Advertising Coogan’s Bluff

Rock outcroppings just northwest of the ballpark at Harlem River Driveway (which dissects Coogan’s Bluff) provided an excellent vantage point for free viewing of at least portions of the ball field.

View of Polo Grounds From Coogan’s Bluff at Harlem River Driveway (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Those rock outcroppings remain to this day along Harlem River Driveway, providing an excellent view now of Polo Grounds Towers.

Looking Southeast Toward Polo Grounds Tower No. 4 from Coogan’s Bluff and Harlem River Driveway

In 1913 a stairway at 157th Street and Edgecomb Avenue in Harlem was constructed to allow subway riders who departed the 155th Street station more direct access to the ballpark at Harlem River Driveway. That stairway remains, a lasting baseball relic of the Polo Grounds at its former site.

Stairway at 157th Street and Edgecomb Avenue.

The stairs, whose inscription states  “The John T. Brush Stairway Presented by the New York Giants,” was dedicated in 1913 to the former Giants’ owner.

“The John T. Brush Stairway Presented by the New York Giants”

The Brush Memorial Stairway emptied onto the sidewalk at Harlem River Driveway, allowing fans direct access into the Polo Grounds from Harlem River Driveway.

Polo Grounds and the Harlem River Driveway (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

A second stairway that would have taken fans north of the ballpark at ground level still exists alongside Harlem River Driveway.

Looking Northeast Down Harlem River Driveway and Stairway to Former Site of Polo Grounds

Old Yankee Stadium was located southeast of the Polo Grounds, just across the Harlem River.

Aerial View of Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds (photo from stuffnobodycaresabout.com)

Aerial View of Old Yankee Stadium and the Polo Ground Towers

Aerial View of Old Yankee Stadium and the Polo Ground Towers

In 1923, Yankee Stadium was visible from inside the Polo Grounds, across the Harlem River.

Polo Grounds, Opening Day 1923, with Yankee Stadium Visible Beyond Center Field (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Prior to its demise in 2009, Old Yankee Stadium was still visible from Coogan’s Bluff at Harlem River Driveway looking southeast past the Polo Grounds Towers.

View of Old Yankee Stadium Looking Beyond Former Site of Polo Grounds, Circa 2001

The Polo Grounds Towers, which were built on the ballpark’s former site and completed in 1968, consist of four high rise apartments with a total of over 1600 units.

Entrance to Polo Grounds Towers on 8th Avenue

A plaque marking the approximate location of home plate is located on a column of Tower No. 4.

Plaque Honoring Polo Grounds and Former Location of Home Plate

The apartment building located at 155 Edgecombe Avenue is visible from the former location of home plate looking back toward Coogan’s Bluff.

Plaque Marking Location of Home Pate, with Apartment Building at 555 Edgecombe Avenue in Background

A sliver of that same apartment building is visible in top right corner of the postcard below.

Postcard of the Polo Grounds Showing Buildings Lining Edgecombe Avenue on Coogan’s Bluff (Alfred Mainzer, NY, NY, Curteich-Chicago)

The New York Giants abandoned the Polo Grounds in 1957, moving to San Francisco and Seal Stadium in 1958 and then Candlestick Park in 1960. Subsequent to the Mets move to Shea Stadium in 1964, the Polo Grounds was demolished.

Polo Grounds During the 1912 World Series (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Although nothing remains at the actual ballpark site, the Brush Memorial Stairway does provide a link to the past. The stairway has sat in obscurity and disrepair for years, however an effort is now underway to restore the stairway and, with it, a piece of New York’s baseball past and baseball glory. See MLB.com article about restoration of John T. Brush Stairway [Editor’s Note: The Brush Memorial Stairway has been restored and is open for use. Woods surrounding the stairway have been turned into a small park with lighting, making the stairway quite accessible. A sign has been placed on Edgecombe Avenue at the entrance to the stairway.]

Polo Grounds During the 1913 World Series (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

 

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