Posts Tagged ‘Players League’

Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium

January 28th, 2015

Professional baseball was played at the corner of East Ferry and Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York, for 72 years beginning in 1889, through the end of the 1960 season.

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Originally known as new Olympic Park (old Olympic Park housed Buffalo baseball teams from 1884 to 1888 at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and Summer Street), in 1907 the ballpark was renamed Buffalo Base Ball Park. The original wooden ballpark structure was raised in 1924 and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, and renamed Bison Stadium. In 1935 the ballpark was renamed Offermann Stadium, in honor of Frank J. Offermann, the recently-deceased former owner of the Buffalo Bison.

Entrance to Offerman Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

Entrance to Offermann Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

The site’s primary tenant was the International League Buffalo Bison, who played there from 1889 to 1960. According to Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals, Major league baseball also was played at this site for one year in 1890 when the Buffalo Bison of the Players League played their home games at new Olympic Park. The Negro National League New York Black Yankees played games at Offermann Park as a neutral site in the 1940s. The Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns played some games at Offermann (neutral site) from 1951 to 1955. Professional football also was played at the site, including National Football League Buffalo franchises (the All-Americans from 1920 to 1923, the Buffalo Bisons from 1924 to 1925, and 1927 to 1929, and the Buffalo Rangers in 1926).

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark was located directly behind what is now the Bethel AME Church (formerly Covenant Presbyterian Church), with home plate near the back of the church at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark faced Southeast towards the intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. Center field was located on the northwest corner of that intersection. After the ballpark was demolished in 1962, Woodlawn Junior High School was constructed on the site. To see an aerial photograph of Offermann Stadium from 1956 click here (fixbuffalo.blogspot.com).

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts now occupies the site.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offerman Stadium.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offermann Stadium.

In 2012, John Boutet of the Buffalo Sports Museum spearheaded a drive to place a historical plaque at the site. The plaque notes that Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron all played baseball at Offermann Stadium. Babe Ruth played one of his first professional games at what was then Buffalo Base Ball Park, pitching in 1914 for the International League Baltimore Orioles.

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offerman Stadium

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offermann Stadium

The former site of right field was located at the northeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Right Field

The former site of left field was located at the southwest corner of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Left Field

The area behind what was once the ballpark’s home plate is now a parking lot for the school.

Former Site of Offerman Stadium Infield

Former Site of Offermann Stadium Infield

In addition to Bethel AME Church, many other structures surrounding the ballpark date to the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium. The houses in the photograph below sat just beyond the ballpark’s center field fence.

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the intersection Masten Avenue and Ferry Street sat beyond the ballpark’s left field corner.

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Building at 78 East Ferry Street ran parallel to third base.

Brick Building Located on Ferry Street, Near Former Site of Third Base Line

NFTA Metro Building Located on Ferry Street, Sat Parallel to Former Site of Third Base Line

In 1961, the Buffalo Bison moved ten blocks south from Offermann Stadium to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Bison (American Association) moved two miles southwest to Pilot Stadium, later renamed Coca-Cola Field

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field includes a wonderful museum – The Buffalo Sports Museum – featuring memorabilia from and information about Offermann Stadium, as well as Buffalo’s other ballparks. It certainly is worth a visit if you haven’t been there already.

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offerman Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offermann Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

The City of Buffalo boasts a rich baseball history, much of it taking place years ago at the intersection of  East Ferry and Michigan Avenue. Although the ballpark is long gone, enough of the neighborhood that existed at the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium remains to give anyone with an interest in the National Pastime with a sense of where the ballpark once stood. The former ballpark site is located just three miles north of Coca-Cola Field and for fans of the game it certainly is worth the trip.

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An Expedition to Pittsburgh’s Exposition Park(s)

December 15th, 2010

Long before PNC Park, Three Rivers Stadium, and Forbes Field, Pittsburgh’s professional baseball teams played at a place known as Exposition Park.  In truth, there actually were three different incarnations of Exposition Park located along the banks of the Allegheny River.  The third, and most well documented, being the last of the three.

Exposition Park Pittsburgh, August 1904 (Geo. R. Lawrence Co., Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

Exposition Park Circa 1905, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Exposition Park August 5, 1905, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

In the above photograph, North Side’s Monument Hill is visible in the background (now Community College of Allegheny County).

Pittsburgh’s Exposition Park (postcard image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, postcard publisher unknown)

As is evident in the above postcard, Exposition Park once sat along the Allegheny River, across from downtown Pittsburgh, just west of the Pirates current home, PNC Park.  The picture below of the Bill Mazeroski Statute located outside the Right Field Gate, includes some of the same buildings across the Allegheny River that appear in the postcard above, most notably the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, with its distinctive upside down u-shaped breezeway, to the left in the photograph.

Bill Mazeroski Statue Located Outside PNC Park near the former Site of Exposition Park

Because the area along the Allegheny River where the ballpark once stood flooded several times, and has been dredged and widened, the exact location of Exposition Park is difficult to determine.

Former Site of Exposition Park as Seen From PNC Park

However, along the banks of the river, just east of Interstate 279 and the Fort Duquesne Bridge, a plaque constructed by the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Society honors Exposition Park.

Pennsylvania State Historical Plaque Honoring Exposition Park

The plaque also notes that in October 1903, the very first World Series – between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans – was played there.

Pennsylvania State Historical Marker Honoring Exposition Park and the First World Series

The former site of two other Pittsburgh ballparks reside in the area near Exposition Park.  Three Rivers Stadium sat just to the north and west of Exposition Park.  The picture below, taken just north of Exposition Park’s former site facing in the direction Heinz Field, shows the approximate location of Three Rivers Stadium, which is now, largely, a parking lot.

Former Site of Three Rivers Stadium (Just Beyond Interstate 279) From Vantage Point of Exposition Park

Recreation Park, where Pittsburgh played its home games from 1887 to 1890, prior to moving into Exposition Park’s third incarnation in 1891, sat just north of Exposition Park.  A Pennsylvania State historical marker placed along North Shore Drive just east of Heinz Field pays homage to Recreation Park.  The plaque notes that the ballpark resided just “a few blocks NW of here.”

Plaque Honoring Recreation Park

The Pennsylvania State historical marker likewise notes that the first professional football game was played at Recreation Park in 1892, one year after the Pirates left for Exposition Park.

Pennsylvania State Historical Marker Noting Recreation Park's Significance to the History of Professional Football

Pennsylvania State Historical Marker Noting Recreation Park’s Significance to the History of Professional Football

The Pirates current home, PNC Park, resides just a long fly ball from the former site of Exposition Park. In addition to the Pirates, who played at Exposition Park from 1891 to 1909, before moving to Forbes Field mid season, the Players League Pittsburgh Burghers played at Exposition Park in 1890 and the Federal League Pittsburgh Stogies and Pittsburgh Rebels played at Exposition Park from 1913 to 1915.

Former Site of Exposition Park With PNC Park as a Backdrop

With so many lost ballparks located near the Pirates current home, anyone who cares at all about the history of the game should be sure to take a stroll just west of PNC Park and visit the former sites not only of Exposition Park, but Recreation Park and Three Rivers Stadium as well.

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