The Semipro Teams of Brooklyn

In 1885, William W. Wallace arranged for the Ridgewood Athletic Association nine to draw crowds to his newly built Ridgewood Grounds. The grounds were home to many teams over the coming years, including two major league teams, but various Ridgewood squads would call Wallace's Grounds home, on and off, for some years. Ambrose Hussey's Ridgewood club arrived at the Grounds in 1902.

Hussey's Ridgewood nine became a powerful squad at the semipro level. Several times they played the Bronx Athletic Club in best of three contests for the semipro championship of New York. They would also regularly schedule the Brooklyn Royal Giants, and other strong Negro League teams such as the Cuban Giants and the Leland club from Chicago. Major league squads visited, too. In October 1905, led by star pitcher Ernie Lindemann, the Ridgewoods took on and defeated the World Series champion New York Giants 5-2.

Lindemann was the greatest player to wear the Ridgewood uniform, although he pitched for many teams at the semipro level in New York and New Jersey, and played in the minors in Connecticut. He started one game for the Boston Braves in 1907, but turned down a contract offer in favor of sticking with his career at Equitable Life and playing semipro ball. He eventually retired with well over 600 wins and several no-hitters to his credit.

In 1907, Hussey moved the Ridgewoods to Meyerrose Park, along with his short lived, outlaw Atlantic League squad. In 1912, when Meyerrose Park was demolished, the team returned full time to Wallace's Grounds.

Ambrose Hussey and three stars of the 1911 Ridgewoods

Max Rosner tried to emulate such success, first with the Paramount Club, then with Cypress Hills, but could not build such a powerful team as Hussey's Ridgewoods. Eventually, with the financial help of promoter Nat Strong, he bought out the Ridgewoods when Hussey retired from semipro ball in 1913, and renamed them the Bushwicks in 1914, when, briefly, Ambrose Hussey, Jr. formed a new Ridgewood club to share the grounds. The Bushwicks remained at Wallace's Grounds until September 1917, when the grandstand burned down. Starting in 1918, the Bushwicks moved to Dexter Park, in Woodhaven. When Nat Strong died in 1935, Rosner was left as the sole owner of the leading semipro franchise in New York.

The Bushwicks would take on all comers- other semipros, Negro League teams, Cuban nines, and powerful major league squads. The likes of Babe Ruth did not intimidate the Bushwicks. They also toured other places- traveling to Venezuela and winning the Serie Interamericana, a forerunner of today's Caribbean World Series, each year from 1946 to 1949. A few players played for both the Bushwicks and Dodgers at some point in their career- Dazzy Vance, Gene Hermanski, Overton Tremper, and Leon Cadore among them. Of these, former Penn baseball captain and local high school star Tremper was by far the least notable Dodger, but the most notable Bushwick. He played from 1931-34 with Rosner's squad as an excellent outfielder. The club also passed up some remarkable talent- a hard hitting but wild pitcher from Commerce High School in Manhattan, named Lou Gehrig, was given a tryout in 1920 but didn't make the squad.

1946 Bushwicks in Venezuela, Overton Tremper

The Bushwicks' attendance was always good because tickets were cheap, and they had no trouble attracting quality talent to the park. But eventually, with the Negro Leagues disappearing, many reliable opponents no longer existed. The advent of television and a consistently successful Dodger team probably hurt, too. The money dried up. The Bushwicks tried a series of gimmicks, including adding motor racing to Dexter Park, but folded after the 1951 season.

The second best known Brooklyn semipro team of the Bushwicks era was the Bay Parkways, who played at Erasmus Field, the home park of Erasmus Hall High School. Tremper also spent some time with the Bay Parkways, after he left the Bushwick club. Future major leaguer Pete Gray starred in a brief but spectacular stop with the Bay Parkways despite having only one arm. The most notable Bay Parkway players, though, were recently retired major league icons looking for fun and a payday. Carl Hubbell played a game against the Bushwicks in 1933, as did Babe Ruth on October 13, 1935. He faced Bushwicks pitcher Dazzy Vance at Dexter Park, and went 1 for 4 with a home run in a 3-2 loss. Hank Greenberg played a few times for the Parkways in the late 1930s, also.

Babe Ruth of the Bay Parkways with Max Rosner
and Dazzy Vance of the Bushwicks

The Bay Parkways were owned by Max Rosner's younger brother, Joe. Both teams were part of the Inter-City Baseball Association, a group of semipro teams providing a guaranteed minimum schedule for all, but also a guaranteed income for Nat Strong, who controlled most non-major league ball in the New York region. In the late 1930s, these teams and opponents such as the Mount Vernons and Springfield Greys competed for the Metropolitan Baseball Association pennant.

Of course, Brooklyn was home to many more than two semipro teams - others included the Bay Ridge Club, the Sunset Club, the Arctic Polar Bears, the West Ends, the Suburbans, the Hawthornes, the Martense Athletic Club, the In-Er-Seals, the Loughlin Lyceums, and the Edisons - but time and sanity prevent us from being complete in this regard. Standards varied widely, from social teams accepting money simply to cover rent on a field, to hired ringers on the far more serious forerunners of today's corporate and church softball teams, to the highly organized profit making enterprises of Hussey, Strong, and Rosner. In fairness to themselves and their opposition, teams would advertise for opponents of like standard, stating opponents defeated, or using terms such as "light" and "heavy" semipro. Some of the many clubs are mentioned along with their home fields on our page of other parks.

Today, semipro ball is much harder to find. One remaining league is the Pedrin Zorrilla Baseball League, which plays at the main City Line Park field in East New York. Many of the players are former minor leaguers, hoping for a return to the professional ranks, mostly in vain. Almost all are of Hispanic heritage.

Many thanks are due to Jane and Douglas Jacobs for access to their paper, Dexter Park: Brooklyn's Other Ballpark, which helped us a great deal in putting this and the Dexter Park page together. is brought to you by
Andrew Ross (
and David Dyte (
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