First, we walked north from Park Slope to the G train. This took us past the Atlantic Center mall,
which was not the site of any games, but was the site the Brooklyn Dodgers asked the city
(represented by Robert Moses) to build a new stadium on, before they jumped ship to L.A. instead
after the 1957 season. Oddly, the Atlantic Center mall seems to have been built with the idea of
looking reminiscent of a ballpark. But it never was.
Next, we took the G train to Williamsburg to see the site of the Union Grounds, where various teams played from 1862 through the 1880s. Most notable among these were the Atlantics and Eckfords, but the Mutuals and Hartfords also played there. The site holds the distinction of being the first enclosed baseball field. Ten cents was the original admission price.
Unfortunately, we had conflicting information on the whereabouts of the former Union Grounds,
so we took photos of both possibilities - a set of city blocks that included a NO BALL PLAYING
sign we photographed, and an old old armory we thought was probably the more likely site.
Subsequent research seems to show that the armory (and the school next door) are on the real site. But
we loved the sign anyway. The Union Grounds also hosted baseball played on skates in winter.
Then we took the G train to the L train to Ridgewood, which is immediately north of Brooklyn in Queens. Brooklyn teams would play at Ridgewood Park on Sundays to avoid blue laws in the 1880s. The Gladiators, Brooklyn's ill fated American Association entry of 1890, played the full season there.
Ridgewood Park also has an ill defined site, though, of which there is no trace remaining. We
believe one corner of the park was at Myrtle and Seneca, which turns out to have 5 corners.
So we took a photo which showed all the corners which have blocks large enough to have once hosted a
ballfield. Somewhere in this scene, try to imagine a very bad baseball team plying its trade. Note: We have
since discovered that two different Ridgewood Parks have hosted major league games. More accurate photos
and the full story will be available soon.
We then returned to Brooklyn to head out to East New York for Eastern Park, also briefly known as Brotherhood Ball Park, where Ward's Wonders
of the 1890 Players League had their home, and the Dodgers
played seven seasons from 1891.
It's now a series of scrapyards- desolate and depressing- but fun to photograph. Also, Eastern
Park is where the Dodgers got their nickname, because spectators had to dodge trolleys to get to
the game. It was in the middle of nowhere then, and in the middle of industrial wasteland now.
Next, back to the A train to Bedford-Stuyvesant to the site of the Capitoline Grounds,
where the Brooklyn Atlantics broke the 89 game win streak of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1870.
Also that year, Henry Chadwick had the media assemble for a demonstration of the newfangled curve ball by pitcher
Fred Goldsmith. The Capitoline Grounds hosted the Atlantics in various years between 1864 and
1880. It's all housing now, alas, but quite good housing at least.
We then took the A to the Franklin Avenue shuttle to Ebbets Field in Flatbush. That's where the
Brooklyn Dodgers moved in 1913 and spent most of their east coast history. The Dodgers had teams at Ebbets Field ranging from the embarrassing- putting three men on third base- to the superb- winning nine National League
pennants. Negro league games were also played there. Ebbets Field is now a
huge ugly apartment block, with a sad commemorative plaque hidden behind a hedge. It's a little
hard to imagine the Boys of Summer here, but if you close your eyes on a hot day...
Encouraged by our progress, we hopped the Q train to Parkside to see the Parade Grounds, which
is a huge array of little league sports fields, recently restored to glorious condition by the Parks
Department. The team that would become the Dodgers played their first ever home game there in the
minor league Interstate Association,
because their new stadium in Park Slope was not yet completed.
This gave us a taste for places that still exist. Fortunately, next up was the long Q train ride to Coney Island- farthest south Brooklyn- for Keyspan Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones NY-Penn league single-A team since 2001.
There is also a statue of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, who was Dodger captain when Robinson
broke the colour barrier in 1947. The statue shows Reese putting his arm around Robinson, which reputedly happened
at Crosley Field in
Cincinnati to show solidarity against racist catcalls from the spectators.
Finally we were in the home stretch. Tired and punchy, instead of the F we took the D and R trains back to our home neighbourhood of Park Slope. Three parks, all called Washington Park, were built on two sites there, either side of Fourth Avenue.
The first was the first real home of the would-be Dodgers, from 1883 to 1890, and also has an
old stone house from
1699, where the Maryland Regiment was slaughtered by the British allowing George Washington time
to run away in the revolutionary war. Later, the house was used as part of the first Washington Park,
then destroyed by the army in a demonstration of the new Gatling Gun, then dug up in the 1930s and
"rebuilt" into its present form.
The rest of the site is a playground and park and playing fields, where children still enjoy the
traditional Brooklyn staple of stickball (or, as shown, wiffle ball).
Kitty corner from there is the site of the second and third Washington Parks. The Dodgers moved
there in 1898, built a big wooden stadium, and stayed through 1912 before moving to Ebbets Field.
The wooden structure was razed in 1914 and a new brick stadium built in its place for the Brooklyn
Tip Tops, a team in the rebel Federal League which lasted just two seasons.
The left field wall survives as part of a Con Ed (electric company) storage yard. It is the last
serious remnant of major league baseball in Brooklyn.
There are several sites we did not visit. Two of those are in Queens. Dexter Park was home to auto racing as well as the Negro League Brooklyn Royal Giants and the
semi-pro Brooklyn Bushwicks. Also, the Long Island grounds in Maspeth hosted a very few American Association games in 1890- including one the Gladiators lost because they ran out of
baseballs- and the negro league Cuban Giants in 1889. In New Jersey, the now demolished Roosevelt Stadium was home for a few Brooklyn Dodger games in 1956 and 1957. And finally,
back in Brooklyn, Red Hook Park still has a scrubby ballfield the (technically amateur but very powerful) Excelsior Club of Brooklyn called home in the very early history of the game.
We'll be going to these places and taking more photos, so watch this space.
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