Historic Baseball Tours
Visiting baseball's "hallowed grounds"--the top ten places where the greats once played
It's already become a summertime ritual for many baseball fans--touring as many ballparks as you can. However, beyond the bright, shiny new palaces like Petco and Minute Maid lie some fascinating remnants of baseball past: the spots where the most hallowed old stadiums used to sit.
So if you're hitting the road to the old ballgame this summer, here are ten former stadium sites I think every baseball fan would enjoy visiting (And if you go, it doesn't hurt to bring along a copy of Frank Sinatra singing the wistful Joe Raposo ballad, "There used to be a Ballpark.")
1. The Polo Grounds (W. 155th St. and Eight Ave., Washington Heights, New York City)
The New York Giants originally played baseball at a city polo field on 111th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. But when owner John Brush moved the team here to Coogan's Bluff in 1891, he kept the name "Polo Grounds." An odd "bathtub'shaped" ballpark, the Polo Grounds was home to some of the greatest moments in baseball history, including Willie Mays's famous catch in the 1954 World Series and Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" home run to beat the Dodgers in 1951. In 1964 the stadium was demolished and now the Polo Grounds Towers, a housing project, occupies the site. The original staircase leading down to the ticket booth still exists, and a plaque marks the site where home plate once sat.
2. Huntington Avenue Grounds (400 Huntington Ave., on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston)
Before the 1912 opening of Fenway Park, Huntington Avenue Grounds was home to the Boston Red Sox. In use for only 11 years, what makes Huntington Avenue Grounds most significant can be gleaned from the home plate'shaped plaque that site near the original spot of the base. Dedicated in 1993, the inscription reads: "On October 1, 1903 the first modern World Series between the American League champion Boston Pilgrims (later known as the Red Sox) and the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates was played on this site. General admission tickets were fifty cents. The Pilgrims, led by twenty eight game winner Cy Young, trailed the series three games to one but then swept four consecutive victories to win the championship five game to three." Now located on the campus of Northeastern University, there is also a life-size statue of Cy Young located near where the pitcher's mound used to be (in the Churchill Hall Mall).
3. Connie Mack Stadium (21st St. & Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia)
Shibe Park opened in 1909 as the home of the Philadelphia Athletics. A's owner Ben Shibe built the ballpark entirely of steel and concrete--an architectural first. Shibe's most unique feature was its ornate French Renaissance façade, complete with a Beaux Arts tower, at the main entrance of the park. Shibe Park was re-christened Connie Mack Stadium in 1953, after the legendary manager of the A's. Closed in 1970, a severe fire destroyed much of the interior in 1971, and the ballpark was mercifully demolished in 1976. Recently, an historic marker was placed at the site, where a church now stands.
4. Forbes Field (230 S. Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh
From 1909-1970, beautiful Forbes Field was the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Interestingly, in 68 seasons, there was never a no-hitter pitched here.) Most notably, it was the scene of one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history: Bill Mazeroski's Game Seven home run in the 1960 World Series to beat the Yankees. Though the stadium was torn down in the early 1970's, some interesting remnants remain here on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh. A sizeable part of the outfield wall still stands, ivy-covered and all during summer, as does the flagpole. A plaque in the sidewalk marks the spot where Maz's homer cleared the wall in game seven. And the last home plate used at Forbes remains on display near its final location--only now it's under glass in the hall at the Quadrangle Building.
5. League Park (E. 66th St. and Lexington Ave., Cleveland)
On, May 1, 1891, League Park opened, with Cy Young pitching for Cleveland. Lights were never installed at League Park, and the team moved out after 1946, to the much bigger Municipal Stadium. This was where Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run, where the only unassisted triple play in World Series took place, and where Joe DiMaggio got his last hit in 1941's famous 56-game streak.. Though the ballpark was demolished in 1951, today there are wonderful remnants of the stadium that remain. The famous two story ticket booth (and former team offices) is now a youth center and a crumbling part of the first base grandstand still stands; a "Greek ruins- of baseball. It's also possible to play in the exact spot where so many legends from Speaker to Ruth to Cobb once roamed, as the diamond still sits in the exact place it was when the ballpark was here. An historic marker is also present.
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