Welcome to The Hardball Voyager–SABR’s Baseball Landmarks blog

Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The purpose of this forum is to allow members of SABR’s Baseball Landmarks Committee to write about baseball sites. Posts could include detective work to find long-lost places, celebratory gatherings, ideas for marking currently unmarked locations, stories about what makes the landmark special in the first place, and more.

The main purpose of our committee is to create and support the SABR Baseball Map. But the project lends itself to storytelling. Why is the plaque here? Why did I decide to visit? We’d love to read what you have to write.


Accidental Rickwood

A recent work trip took me to Alabama…Prattville, specifically. If you don’t know exactly where that is, you’re much like I was when it was time to book my travel. About 15 minutes north on 65 from Montgomery, it turns out.

“Schwartz,” I said, as I handed my license to the clerk at the rental car counter. I didn’t imagine it to be an everyday last name in this part of the country.

“And you’re sure you have a car here?”

Like all modern travelers these days I took out my phone to search frantically through emails for my confirmation. Relieved it have found it quickly, I handed my phone to the clerk who would no doubt be a little embarrassed to have lost track of such an organized traveler.

“Sir, this is out of Montgomery.”


“And you’re in Birmingham.”

It was at this point that something I’d known intellectually for decades but had never really processed hit me like a ton of bricks. Montgomery and Birmingham, whatever their similarities, are in fact different cities.

Having forfeited all chances to play it cool, I asked the obvious.

“Nope, not far. You could get there in about two hours…”

Long pause.

“…if you had a car.”

“I take it you’re out of cars then?”

“Yep. Whole airport’s out.”

Taking a Lyft into town I was able to procure wheels from an Enterprise with one vehicle remaining, a rather large Dodge Ram pickup, and checked the map—the SABR Baseball Map that is!

Ten minutes later, there I was. The marker says it all: “The oldest surviving ballpark in America.”

I asked a guy packing baseball equipment into his truck if it was okay to go inside. “Yeah, sure thing. Have fun.”

“Satchel Paige faced Josh Gibson here,” I thought to myself. “I will definitely have fun.”

At first I simply stared out at the field. It was a site that shouldn’t exist anymore: a ballpark 113 years old being worked on for a game the same evening. So let me try again. This was a site that should exist. Living history.

The groundskeeper was fine with my walking around the field but asked that I avoid the infield dirt.

He also gave me a tip I might have missed on my own. “Go through the gate by the 392 marker to see the original wall.”

It was here I said goodbye to the spray charts of mere mortals and hello to those of Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson, Willie Mays, and Reggie Jackson. I was venturing into the land of 478-foot homers. Holy f*ck.

If I had all day I might have wandered this stretch for hours, rummaging for old toothpicks I might decide were Oscar Charleston’s or, as if it were possible, a baseball or two. Unfortunately I had to pick up some colleagues at the airport. And that would be Montgomery, not Birmingham. Different cities it turns out.

Still, I made some time to visit the gift shop, which doubled as mini-museum.

Checking the baseball map, I also found I had time for a brief stop at the Willie Mays statue outside nearby Regions Field.

And with that, it was time to hit the road. It was a dumb mistake to fly into the wrong city, but it was a smart one too. Plus, it could have been worse. Far worse.

Socially Distanced Field Trips with the Homestead Grays

Picture it: It’s the fall of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly all aspects of day-to-day life. Groceries are delivered weekly and from 8:00 to 5:00 every day, my dining room table is converted into my office. I actually enjoy working from home and I am thrilled with the number of virtual conferences, presentations, and book clubs I’m able to attend. In short, lockdown wasn’t terrible for some of us with more introverted personalities. Nevertheless, some measure of boredom set in and the need to get out of the house and do something fun safely, while keeping a proper distance from others, began to grow. Exploring Pittsburgh’s cemeteries was, obviously to me, the answer.   

Pittsburgh offers no shortage of spaces in which to indulge my interests, be they historical, sports-related, or connected to my love of all things pop culture. Within the following two years, I would find Honus Wagner’s grave at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pleasant Hills, where, by the way, there is an abundance of mosquitoes in the summer. You’ve been warned. Frank Gorshin, who played the Riddler in the 1960s Batman television series (I am a huge fan) is buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery, as it turns out, right next to my pre-work-from-home office.  I was thrilled when Amazon Prime filmed a bulk of the new A League of Their Own series around Pittsburgh and tracking down those locations kept me busy several weeks in a row. Before all of that, however, I knew my maiden pandemic field trip would be in search of the final resting place of Cum Posey.

Homestead Cemetery in Munhall is a 10-minute drive from my house. Traveling south from the Squirrel Hill and Greenfield neighborhoods provides the baseball tourist plenty to see in terms of Negro Leagues history in a very short area along the way. First, I crossed the Monongahela River via the formerly named High Level Bridge, built in 1936. The structure was renamed the Homestead Grays Bridge in 2002 and in warmer months, features banners of former Grays and Crawfords players on light fixtures along both sides. At the end of the bridge, there are a few markers to see and it’s worth parking nearby and walking up to them. First, there is the bridge marker itself, complete with the Homestead Grays logo. Within a few feet is a Pennsylvania state historical marker providing a brief history of the team. Across the street, a painted banner hangs from the side of the building depicting Josh Gibson’s likeness and again, the Homestead Grays’ logo.

A block to the east, located in Hazel Way (an alley between 8th and 9th Avenues), lies the new Josh Gibson mural created by artist Jeremy Raymer and unveiled in 2021. The 2,000 square foot painting covers the entire back of a building, currently occupied by the Voodoo Brewing Company. The project was approved by Pittsburgh’s Josh Gibson Foundation, an organization that provides academic and athletic opportunities for young people. The art is outstanding and just one of many of Raymer’s murals found throughout Pittsburgh, which include personal favorites of horror icon Tom Savini in Lawrenceville and Roberto Clemente on the city’s north side. As a bonus, it’s now possible to catch a glimpse of the mural while traveling south on the Homestead Grays bridge.  All of these Homestead and Munhall locations are technically within walking distance of one another, but keep in mind Pittsburgh’s extremely hilly landscape.

Further up the hill toward the cemetery lies another piece of Homestead Grays history. Just behind the Munhall municipal buildings and police station sits West Field, long ago a playing field and practice area for the Homestead Grays. Built in the late 1930s, the Grays used this facility, among others, for exhibition games, spring training, and official games when Forbes Field was otherwise unavailable.

Though completely renovated several years ago, the field is still worth stopping for on the way through Munhall. The playing field is completely turf now with the capability of hosting baseball, softball, football, and soccer games. Currently home to the Chatham University baseball and softball programs as well as the Steel Valley High School baseball team, the baseball field’s grandstand occupies the same space as the original West Field stadium. While the field offers little for the baseball history fan, it remains an interesting location to take in, knowing who played here decades ago.

Another three blocks up the hill, and finally, Homestead Cemetery sits opposite St. John Cemetery across Munhall’s Main Street. Weather permitting, the cemetery is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Upon entering the cemetery, the Posey family plot is located in Section D, which is situated between the two driveways on the left-hand side. Cumberland (“Cum”) Willis Posey Jr. was born in 1890 and is regarded as one of the finest all-around athletes of his time, certainly in western Pennsylvania.

A standout in baseball and basketball, Posey began playing with the Homestead Grays in 1911, was managing the team five years later, and by the 1920s became an owner for the next 25 seasons. Buried next to him is Ethel T. Posey, his wife of over 30 years. Thanks to the SABR Women in Baseball Committee, I knew that Ethel inherited ownership of the team after his death in 1946, making her a significant figure in Homestead Grays and baseball history. As with Josh Gibson’s grave across town in Allegheny Cemetery, there are sure to be items left in tribute by visitors—usually baseballs, trading cards, or photos. Cum Posey was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a decade later.

Pittsburgh is a fun city that is full of monuments, exhibits, and memorials to its rich sports history and traditions. The SABR Landmarks Map is an excellent resource for finding these locations and more Negro League memorials across the country. For a huge dose of history packed into a small geographic location, look no further than Homestead and Munhall, Pennsylvania.

The beautiful uncut hair of LaGrave

Business brought me to Fort Worth this past week, though a tight schedule prevented me from planning any baseball detours as part of the trip. Too bad since I’m currently working on the SABR Games story that took place in Fort Worth in 1952 and would have benefited greatly from even a few extra hours in town. But then I looked at the map. 🤔

Wait a minute! My meeting (at Tarrant County College) is only a mile from LaGrave Field?! Maybe, just maybe, I can pull this off.

Luck was with me as my event ended almost an hour early, so after saying my goodbyes and packing up my gear I set off on my mile-plus walk to the site of the Texas League’s first of two Dave Hoskins Nights. (If the name is unfamiliar, Hoskins was the two-way sensation who not only broke the Texas League’s Color Barrier in 1952 but was also the circuit’s top draw, top pitcher, and third best hitter. Previously he had starred in the Negro Leagues as part of the Homestead Grays Murderers Row!)

1952 Globe Printing baseball card

While the second Dave Hoskins Night was hosted by the ace’s home fans in Dallas, this first tribute, on August 28, came from the fans of his team’s crosstown rival, the Fort Worth Cats. Hoskins for his part pitched well enough to reward celebrants with a shutout and his 20th victory of the season. He even banged out two hits for good measure.

So this Dave Hoskins history was what was on my mind as I began the short walk to the ballpark, though Hoskins was hardly the most renowned player to take the field at LaGrave. Two of my favorite Dodgers, for example, were Fort Worth Cats en route to the big leagues: Duke Snider and Maury Wills, the latter breaking the team’s Color Barrier three years after Hoskins integrated the league.

The walk itself started out simple enough but got a bit dicey halfway through. Google’s walking directions had me take Main Street, which for several blocks became more highway than street. That there was no sidewalk over this stretch added adventure if not danger to this part of the journey. To boot, wearing a suit and carrying two travel bags wasn’t exactly optimal for dodging traffic, so I was fortunate that there weren’t many cars at this time of day. I was definitely happy to reach the stretch where the sidewalk resumed.

Abandoning the Google directions, I followed this street sign and turned off Main St. early to take a shortcut through a parking lot. I was quickly rewarded by a view of the ballpark. While taking my first photo, a car pulled up to me and asked if I was trying to get onto the field. Before I could respond fully, the driver warned me that the field was patrolled by a security guard whose car I could now see.

Just seeing the old shuttered ballpark, from any angle, made the walk worthwhile, but I had a second goal. To qualify for SABR Landmark status, abandoned ballparks, no matter how historic, need markers. Would my walk around the perimeter lead me to one?


Shadows didn’t permit a clean shot of the marker, but I could still make out the words.

FORT WORTH CATS HISTORIC LAGRAVE FIELD – Nearly 50 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown have played at LaGrave Field over the years.

In better days there was actually a bottom half to the sign, which named the Hall of Famers. In fact, the sign sells the old ballpark short as Satchel Paige and many other Negro League greats played here as well.

Having nabbed a picture of the marker, I also managed a picture of the old ticket office just before the aforementioned security guard interrupted my hardball voyaging.

The concerned watchman let me know they really didn’t like people walking around the ballpark, but he softened his stance somewhat when I told him I was from the Society for American Baseball Research. He asked how much longer I needed to be there and I told him I maybe needed just one more picture from a different spot. Reluctantly, he assented, and thanks to his largesse you are now looking at a shot of the centerfield scoreboard, complete with clock.

Here is an image from Google Maps that shows a much better view while testifying to the overall state of neglect and disrepair to which the ballpark has fallen victim. Graffiti runs the gamut from “Pimp” to “See God in everything.” (Click here for a photo not nearly as depressing.)

Between the watchful eyes of security and a plane to catch, my visit to LaGrave came to a quick end, though not without some humor. Having taken the most direct path to a spot I thought Uber could retrieve me, I sent my driver a helpful note.

“It’s Jason. I’m on Main and 7th, right across the street from…wait, what?!”

I enjoyed my short trek to LaGrave but also left saddened at the current state of the ballpark and its even more uncertain future. It’s easy to picture that even a year down the road, the history I was able to visit will be gone entirely, and with it, I believe, no small part of the cultural wealth and heritage of Fort Worth itself.

Baseball can be played in many places, but that isn’t to say they’re interchangeable. Some places are sacred, and I believe this is one of them. Walt Whitman sung of grass as “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” Taking some liberty with his verse, here’s hoping the uncut hair of LaGrave might once again provide fans and yawpers alike with “the thrill of the grass.” Until then, if you’ll pardon the “potty” humor, I guess there’s always Bud Sellers. 🤣

The author’s Dave Hoskins collection

Northern Kentucky’s Mound Ace, Pat Scott

The Greater Cincinnati region has been home to many outstanding baseball players – men and women – for decades. Any baseball fan’s visit to the area is likely to include stops at the Crosley Field marker, Great American Ball Park, and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. Across the Ohio River, however, fans will find sites related to an all-star athlete whose story may not be as familiar. Patricia Ann “Pat” Scott was a pitcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and called parts of Kenton and Boone Counties home for most of her life. Scott’s long and varied career resulted in many unique and noteworthy experiences and yet, her short time as a baseball player is commemorated at two locations, a field named in her honor and her final resting place, detailing the history of Northern Kentucky’s “Mound Ace” of girls’ baseball. 

For those unfamiliar with Pat Scott’s participation and contributions to baseball, she was born in 1929 and grew up near Burlington, KY on her family’s farm that featured a baseball diamond. Barnstorming and semi-pro teams would often use the field and young Pat took advantage, working out with the teams and developing into a fine athlete. Becoming a standout softball player in her teenage years first got her noticed by AAGPBL scouts and she was recruited to play for the Springfield (Illinois) Sallies in 1948. Just weeks into her first season, Scott left the league to care for her ill mother and would eventually decide to put any baseball career on hold in favor of attending college, traveling, and working.

Three years later, when the league was in short supply of solid overhand pitchers, Scott was again contacted by the league and offered a roster spot with the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daisies. For the next three seasons, she would shine with the Daisies, winning an average of 16 games and leading Fort Wayne to the league playoffs each year. Scott’s life after baseball was just as remarkable, earning a degree in zoology, working as a medical technologist for years, training horses, becoming an accomplished artist in painting and wood carving, and competing in the Senior Games. 

Located 25-30 minutes south of Cincinnati proper, Walton Community Park is easily found just off of I-75. The park features ample green space, a playground, basketball and tennis courts, a soccer field, and next to the parking lot, the ball field. Approaching the parking lot from the center drive, visitors are met with a large sign that reads “Pat Scott Field” – letting them know they’re in the right place. The sign has changed over the years with the current version including a photo of Scott, taken from newsreel footage from the early 1950s when the Daisies spent spring training in Alexandria, Virginia. This particular newsreel is now in the public domain and can be viewed on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website or by searching any number of video hosting sites such as YouTube. 

The opposite side of the sign is an enlarged replica of Scott’s 1995 Larry Fritsch Cards baseball card and provides an educational bonus for visitors. Listed are both pitching and batting statistics for Scott’s three complete seasons in the league as well as a brief biographical text that includes her pitching the winning game against Rockford that gave Fort Wayne its first pennant in 1952. The field, named for Scott in 2002, is a small, standard field, but well maintained. Fencing surrounds an irregularly configured outfield and a dirt infield. The field is visible in a 2008 episode of Kentucky Life, a series produced by Kentucky Educational Television exploring culture and community throughout the Bluegrass State. During her segment, Scott spends the afternoon with host Dave Shuffett playing catch on the field that bears her name. 

Approximately seven miles southeast of Walton lies Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, the final resting place of Pat Scott. The small cemetery is accessible from Verona-Mudlick Road, halfway between the small community of Verona and I-71. The rural location lends itself to a quiet and peaceful atmosphere – surrounded by green fields in warmer months. The small cemetery is bisected by a driveway and Pat Scott’s marker can be found near the rear right (west) corner. Scott’s headstone is quickly recognizable. A black marble stone bearing her name at the top and “Beloved Sister and Aunt” at the bottom. The center focus of the marker consists of an elaborate and thoughtful engraving, highlighting Scott’s career as a professional baseball player. The view is that of sitting behind home plate, a baseball speeding toward you, and Scott further back in a pitcher’s follow through stance. The image is based on a photo of Scott in her Fort Wayne Daisies uniform. The AAGPBL logo is featured to the right of


Pat Scott’s grave site marker is a fitting memorial, but also offers visitors more about the significance of her baseball career. First, there is the educational aspect of the imagery featured on the marker. Imagine a person seeing the marker who may have no knowledge of women’s professional baseball in the 1950s. The potential for educational exploration exists when presented with the image of a skirted ballplayer pitching overhand as well as the unique AAGPBL logo. Second, after such an accomplished life full of athletic, scientific, and artistic achievements, it is her time as a professional baseball player that is forever featured on Scott’s marker.   

Memorial efforts and recognition for Pat Scott’s athletic career continue and her name can be found in the St. Henry District High School Hall of Fame, the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame, and listed with other All-Americans in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Pat Scott Field at Walton Community Park and Saint Patrick’s Cemetery both truly honor her individual athletic accomplishments and provide visitors with an opportunity to celebrate and learn more about her unique baseball career. 

Second home

However much baseball has changed in my lifetime one aspect that has always stayed the same is the notion of a home team and an away team. This is true even when the two squads share the same ballpark (e.g., Dodgers/White Sox Spring Training) or play at a neutral site such as Mexico City or the Field of Dreams. After all, someone has to bat first.

The same is true with people and places. As we find ourselves in different spots over the course of our lives, we are sometimes at home and other times visitors. As a kid, I knew one home and that was the Palms/Mar Vista area of Los Angeles. Until halfway through the eighth grade, I’d spent my entire life in the same house on the same street in the same neighborhood. (Why this house has since been re-branded “Bigfoot Lodge West” is beyond the scope of this article.)

The red pin on the map was our house and center of my universe. That school in the upper left corner, Charnock Road Elementary, was where I walked for first and second grade. Tito’s Tacos, at the bottom of the map, was where we’d go out to eat. The Baskin-Robbins in the middle is where we’d go for ice cream when guests were in town. And most importantly, in the same strip mall as Baskin-Robbins was the liquor store where I traded what I could skim from my mom’s parking meter change for pack after pack of baseball cards.

Every now and then I make the trip back to Los Angeles to see old friends and take in a Dodger game. Forty years later, the old neighborhood is part familiar, part unrecognizable. Make the mandatory trip to Tito’s and place the same order I’ve always placed (tacos with cheese), head down Venice Boulevard to Baskin-Robbins, and this is home. Pass just about anything else, even the house I grew up in, and I’m the visitor, connected to nothing I see.

My son keeping tradition alive, 2017

Los Angeles will always be home to me, but my connections have dwindled to a just four: high school buds, tacos, the Dodgers, and nostalgia. Not a bad four to keep, I suppose, but sure a lot less than in the old days. That’s what the decades do to a place. Things happen. Things change. The blessing, of course, is that my remaining touchpoints, while few, have each gotten better with age.

* * *

Only a few years ago there was a fifth connection to the city: family. My dad passed in October 2020, an indirect COVID casualty, but before that had spent a good 70 years of his life in L.A. That said, his true spiritual home was Venice, especially Venice Beach.

Locals, depending how far back they go, will remember him as the “cardboard sign man” of the 1980s and 90s, or–this century–as the “tee shirt guy.” In a town that prides itself on its freaks and crazies, my dad managed to lap the field, rendering the pretenders of this new urban Bohemia downright normal by comparison.

Accidental Jewel co-star Nelson Schwartz

Still, despite my dad’s near celebrity status (if not because of it) I hated Venice as a kid. Too dirty. Too weird. And, when my dad was there (i.e., all the time!) too embarrassing! I was definitely the away team here, a reluctant (though frequent) visitor at best. I hadn’t yet learned to appreciate the ways Venice was my dad’s lifeblood, nor was I aware of its baseball history. And, for damn sure, I had no idea there were baseball cards!

Venice Tigers baseball cards, 1913-14

Yes, Venice was briefly home to the Venice Tigers of the Pacific Coast League. The team that had called Vernon home from 1909-1912 (and would return to the industrial enclave south of Los Angeles in 1915) spent the 1913 and 1914 seasons just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. (You can see the approximate location of the Venice ballpark on the SABR Baseball Map. You can also spot Vernon in the map’s lower right-hand corner.)

Moving from the map to real life, the marker is not so easy to locate. Having wandered the neighborhood a fair amount, nary noticing a thing baseball related is proof of this. However, some nice online photos are available though the Historical Marker Database. Google Street View also affords this image, though my understanding is that it’s frequently defaced by graffiti.

The presence of the Tigers in Venice (and even Vernon) pre-dates my dad by quite a bit, and it would be a stretch to even call my dad a baseball fan beyond his love of Fernando Valenzuela. Still, I feel drawn to this Pacific Coast League squad of no-names simply because these Tigers, like my dad, called Venice their home, even if both parties left too soon.

I have a Venice trip in my future, one that I’ve already put off too many times. A friend has been holding my dad’s ashes for me far longer then etiquette should allow, and the plan has always been to spread them at Venice Beach. There are a lot of reasons why I’ve waited this long, but I feel like the ghost of an old ballpark, whether as bonus or distraction, may be just what I need to get moving.

* * *

While I’m in the neighborhood I can also check out a couple other Venice Tigers-themed sites. About 0.4 miles from the Corner Ballpark marker, there is the precise location (southwest corner of South Venice and Abbott Kinney) where the ballpark (built in only five weeks!) stood . Though not an official SABR Landmark, why not take a look! And finally, if I’m dropping ashes off the Venice Pier, I may as well stroll past the old parking spot of Ward McFadden’s Ship Café.

What does the Ship Café have to do with baseball?! How else did fans get ahold of their 1913 Venice Tigers schedule doubloons!

There will be a weirdness to the trip, as is tautologically true of all things Venice, but the weirdness will not emanate from the sights, the sounds, or even the smells. Now the weirdness will be my dad joining me, unmistakably, at every step. It will be his weirdness, once off-putting but now sufficiently missed as to turn the unwanted to welcome and the foreign to familiar. Steeped in his memory, this New Venice will offer me what it offered the Tigers, neither errand nor detour but second home.

Author’s Note: This article is dedicated to my father, Nelson Schwartz (1947-2020) and his special love of all things Venice.

Since We’ve No Place to Go

There is a famous quote attributed to Rogers Hornsby, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” As a Chicagoan, this sentiment seems a bit disingenuous considering Hornsby lived in Texas. Nonetheless, I really hate winter, too. Snow is a hassle and messy and annoying.

Looks like someone waited too long to stow the patio furniture

It was somewhat quaint this morning to wake up to a surprise snowstorm in the smartphone age, (especially in mid-November before someone had put the patio furniture away for the winter). Regardless, snow has at least one redeeming quality—it often creates magical, though fleeting, moments of serenity.

Billy Sunday – Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, IL

Cemeteries are typically tranquil places, but they take on a whole new level of quiet peacefulness under a fresh blanket of snow.

Pretzels Getzien – Concordia Cemetery, Forest Park, IL

This winter, don’t let a little snow prevent you from paying your respects at the graves of departed ball players.

Billy Pierce – Chapel Hill Gardens South Cemetery, Oak Lawn, IL

We would love to see hear your stories.

Dick Hyde – Grandview Memorial Gardens, Champaign, IL

A Crusty Old Baseball Field in Brewerytown

Amid the noise of bouncing basketballs and splashing in the new pool at the Athletic Recreation Center, there exists a baseball diamond whose provenance is embedded in baseball’s past. Just outside the fence along the third baseline stands a Pennsylvania historical marker that details that background. Primarily funded by the generous donations of SABR members and dedicated in September 2017, the marker explains that the property played host to the first National League game, was the site of the first interracial baseball game and was home of the American Association’s Philadelphia Athletics.

Harry Stovey leads off second base at Athletic Park in 2017

In 2015 I went down a rabbit hole and discovered Jerry Casway’s biography of the Jefferson Street Ballparks. I was new to SABR and just developing my passion for 19th century baseball history. After learning about the extraordinary history that took place there, I decided to hop in my car and make the half hour trek to the Athletic Recreation Center and view the site with my own eyes. When I arrived, I walked onto the field where I was mentally transported back in time. I tried to imagine the sights, sounds and smells that would have been familiar to those who visited the ballparks during the 19th century. I’d like to take you on that journey.

The Jefferson Street ballparks were situated in a Philadelphia neighborhood called Brewerytown. Its proximity near the Schuylkill River, outlying farms, and lack of development attracted brewers and beer related industries to the area in the 1860s. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin recalled the Brewerytown of the late 19th century with fondness. “…the air was as nourishing as vaporized bread…It was a place for family bakeries and rich delicatessens, a neighborhood scrubbed to within an inch of its life and resounding to the guttural language of Goethe and Schiller…” Railroad lines serviced the industry along the river while streetcar lines acted as the neighborhood’s public transit option, bringing fans to and from the ball grounds. The noises and smells of a developing Brewerytown enveloped this epicenter of Philadelphia baseball for nearly three decades.

Olympic Ball Club clubhouse along Master Street. 1860s

The property was used regularly for baseball beginning in 1864 when the Olympic Ball Club leased the grounds. On September 3, 1869, the first interracial baseball match between nationally prominent clubs was played at the Jefferson Street Grounds. The Olympic Ball Club, an all-white team, and Philadelphia Pythians, an all-black team, squared off in a match that was reported on as far away as Utah.

The Athletics called Jefferson Street home during their championship season of 1871, the first professional baseball league championship season in history. On April 22, 1876, all the inaugural National League games were rained out except the game in Philadelphia where Boston defeated the Athletics in the first National League game in history. But the Athletics were expelled from the League at the end of the season, ending Philadelphia’s affair with top-flight baseball. It would be six years before Major League Baseball returned to the Quaker City and Jefferson Street.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. 10/6/1883

The Jefferson Street Grounds experienced change in the absence of top-flight baseball between 1877-1881. A school was constructed on the original field, while 26th street was cut through the middle of the lot. But in 1883, baseball returned to Jefferson Street when the American Association’s Philadelphia Athletics constructed Athletic Park at 27th and Jefferson streets. The first city championship game in years was played on April 14 between the Athletics and Al Reach’s Philadelphia Phillies. The account published in the Times noted that “the audience gave audible criticisms on the merits of both nines” when the squads were warming up on the field. Evidently, Philadelphia fans haven’t changed in 139 years. Toledo visited Athletic Park on May 26, 1884, and when Moses Fleetwood Walker, MLB’s first African American player, stepped to the plate for the first time, the Philadelphia fans rose to their feet and applauded him. Jackie Robinson received a different reception 63 years later.

I thought about these things as I stood in the baseball diamond at the Athletic Recreation Center. I could almost smell the beer, hear the fans yelling themselves hoarse, and see Moses Fleetwood Walker step into the batter’s box as the American flag lazily waved in deep center field. History buries its treasure deep.

In the case of the smells, sounds, and sights from within the Jefferson Street ballparks our imagination is almost all we have that will allow us to visit this space as it once was. Newspaper accounts the only vestiges of their existence. But they are lacking the context that I often enjoy, the fan experience. I left the Athletic Recreation Center convinced that I needed to do something to memorialize the place and the people who made it important.

Athletic Park as printed in the 1886 G.W. Bromley Atlas of Philadelphia

Finding what made the Jefferson Street ballparks special and worthy of a Pennsylvania State Historical Marker wasn’t difficult. Period newspaper accounts and images combined with secondary source work made this nomination a home run. I was confident the oversight committee would approve the marker. My concern was funding the marker.

The cost for the historical marker in 2017 was approximately $2,000. I had created a GoFundMe in late 2016 to fundraise and by late March, had raised approximately $500 of the $2,000. On March 27, 2017 I announced that the Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Commission (PSHMC) approved my nomination. Once this announcement was made, full funding was achieved within a week!

The next challenge was finalizing the wording with the PSHMC. Ultimately everything I wrote made it onto the sign with one alteration: I stated that the April 22, 1876, game between Boston and the Athletics was the first Major League Baseball game in history. Despite explaining that MLB has held that stance since 1969, the PSHMC required the wording to be changed to “first National League game.”

Jefferson Street Ballparks historical marker

The Jefferson Street Ballparks historical marker was officially dedicated on September 30, 2017. Speeches were given by Dick Rosen, then Co-Chair of the Connie Mack SABR chapter, Rob Holiday, Director of Amateur Scouting Admin of the Phillies, a member of the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia (vintage baseball), and me. After the speeches and the unveiling, the Athletic Base Ball Club played a game of Philadelphia Town Ball and invited attendees and those in the community to join in the action. The Athletic club’s uniforms are almost exact replicas of the Athletics’ 1866 uniforms. It was surreal seeing those uniforms back on such a historic field. My favorite part was the young kids engaging in a 19th century game on a field where so much history had taken place, and their naivete to it all. The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the event and published a story in their October 1, 2017, issue

Philadelphia Town Ball played on the grounds of Athletic Park

Just days ago, the Philadelphia faithful packed Citizens Bank Park three straight nights as the Phillies hosted the Houston Astros in the 2022 World Series. It has been an exhilarating month for Philadelphia baseball fans, who have once again become a topic in the grand postseason narrative. I had the privilege to attend two postseason games, both Phillies victories, and they were both the loudest baseball experiences I’ve ever had. The crowd was authentic, bombastic and boorish. As we cheered our Phillies and jeered the opposition, the wind rustled leaves on an old crusty baseball diamond in Brewerytown, some five miles away from Philadelphia’s current baseball epicenter. Did our voices travel those five miles to Jefferson Street and transform into distant echoes of what once was a hotbed of baseball activity? Maybe that’s too mystical for the real world, but I’ll choose to believe it.

My Favorite (Oldest) Marker: Dreyfuss Monument at PNC Park

Since the Hardball Voyager blog was announced, I tried to pick a favorite local landmark to write about related to Pittsburgh baseball. I failed, as there are too many “favorites.” So instead, let’s talk “favorite oldest” landmark.

With recent improvements to the outfield concourse (stress on the word “improvements”), PNC Park is even more rife with reminders of the region’s baseball past than previously. Cartoonish bobblehead statues, club hall of fame plaques, and colorful, decorative signage are just some of the welcome additions to the home of a team with such a long (and occasionally) storied history.

While the new-fangled items are great and welcome, there’s one longtime object within the stadium that has my heart. It has stood steadfast through the years, far away from the glitz and color of PNC’s outfield. Amidst one of the busiest areas in the stadium, it somehow manages to quietly hide in plain sight–it’s the Dreyfuss monument, located at the top of the Peoples Gate escalator, a short distance from the entrance near the Honus Wagner statue. Aesthetically, there is nothing overly significant about the monument itself; a large, gray, tombstone-like slab ornamented with a small, circular bronze plaque. Most folks entering the ballpark probably don’t even notice it, as it seems to fit as a piece of the building’s structure. But given who it is there to memorialize, and given the history it has seen, the marker is a standout amongst so many others on the other side of the ballpark.

Barney Dreyfuss image (ca early 1900s) from Wikipedia, no indicated source

Following nearly two decades of (relative) historical anonymity, the Pittsburgh National League team really burst onto the national baseball scene in 1900. Barney Dreyfuss bought into and (essentially) merged the franchise with the soon-to-be retracted Louisville club, a team he’d previously owned. The combination of the Pittsburgh team with a number of players from Louisville (the previously mentioned Wagner included) turned the new club into a powerhouse in the NL standings immediately, and the success continued for the next decade.

Even though the shine faded a bit after 1912, Dreyfuss’s organization managed to rebound a few years later, and what followed was another period of strong finishes throughout the 1920s. Barney’s knack for finding the right people (both player-wise and management-wise) was evident from looking at the results during his stewardship; the team landed in the upper echelon of the NL quite a bit. They captured six pennants and finished as either runner-up or third place seven times each.

Barney and son Samuel from 1925 team photo, as reprinted in the 10/16/1925 Pittsburgh Gazette Times

As Dreyfuss aged, his intention was to pass ownership of the Pirates on to his son, Samuel. The younger Dreyfuss joined the club in 1920, and apprenticed as the team’s treasurer, as well as taking numerous other roles in the employ of his father during the Pirates’ resurgence. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1931 when Samuel passed away from pneumonia at the age of 34. It has been theorized that the loss of his son was the psychological and emotional blow that led to Barney’s decline and death only a year later.

Heydler wreath image from 7/1/1934 Pittsburgh Press

Two and a half years after Barney Dreyfuss passed away, a monument dedicated to both Barney and Samuel was unveiled at the game that marked the 25th anniversary of one of Barney’s crowning achievements—the opening of Forbes Field. NL president John Heydler and several local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony. The memorial for the Dreyfuss men was placed in deep centerfield, near the flagpole. In the years following, the monument saw a good bit of action, as it was located within the field of play. Just like the early years of Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, outfielders had to be aware of their surroundings, lest they become part of an unwanted collision.

After the Pirates moved in the early 1970s, the Dreyfuss monument was as well, transported from the Forbes outfield to a more fan-friendly (and less hazardous) concourse location in Three Rivers Stadium. In 2001, it was taken to the new digs on the concourse at PNC Park, and resides there to this day.

Early Pirates broadcaster ‘Rosey’ Rowswell image from 10/2/1948 Bulletin Index

If you come to a game in Pittsburgh, it’s imperative that you take in the statues and various markers celebrating the players and history of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Above all others, though, I ask that you be certain to stop by the simple gray slab, near the home plate entrance, to pay your respects to the two Dreyfuss men who left an indelible mark on Pittsburgh baseball history.

Remembering Milwaukee County Stadium

Growing up in greater Chicagoland, I had two baseball options. Despite pressure from my hardcore extended White Sox family, I became a Chicago Cubs fan. Perhaps my recessive genes kicked in.

Despite my local team affiliation, I attended games at both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park. I remember when the Cubs played home games exclusively during the day, and when the White Sox played on the other side of 35th Street. As my baseball interests expanded beyond just my team, I became intrigued by ballparks. Each team had unique homes with rich histories. I established a goal to get out of my media market and visit every Major League Baseball park. Little did I know, the park closest to home is one I’d never visit.

During the early-1980s, my family spent substantial time visiting my paternal grandmother in Milwaukee. We enjoyed countless lunches at the nearby Ground Round. I threw peanut shells on the floor and accumulated more mini Brewers helmets than my Mom could stand. On our way home one day, my Dad took a different route. We looped around Milwaukee County Stadium, then the home of the Brewers, before one of the World Series games in 1982. My jaw dropped and my eyes widened. I had never seen so many cars in a parking lot. Even the Goodyear blimp hovered over the ballpark.

The Brewers continued playing their home games at County Stadium through the 2000 season before moving to Miller Park (renamed American Family Field in 2021). To the surprise of the 9-year-old in me, I never attended a game at County Stadium (I did see a Paul McCartney concert there in 1993).

Despite having a date with the wrecking ball, the Brewers guaranteed the memory of County Stadium would endure. Baseball fans can enjoy the home plate marker placed where Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews powered the Milwaukee Braves to a World Series championship in 1957, and Robin Yount and Paul Molitor won the American League pennant in 1982. Just a few feet away, there’s a memorial honoring the Braves brief Cream City tenure. Speaking of Hammerin’ Hank, fans will find an added treat in the parking lot with a marker commemorating where the final home run of Aaron’s career landed.

Going to a game? Make sure to visit the Brewers Team Store in the Left Field Corner at American Family Field. There is a wall entirely constructed with bricks from County Stadium.

Heading to Milwaukee soon? The new SABR Baseball Map will provide the precise location of these markers, the Walk of Fame and the Wall of Honor outside of American Family Field.

Exploring Cleveland Baseball

Ichiro Suzuki famously slandered Cleveland when having to return there to make up a snowed-out game, “To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”

Frankly, I was ambivalent about the city having visited twice before my youngest put a school there at the top of his college list. In the intervening trips for campus tours and moving him in and out of dorms, there has been some opportunity to explore the city, dine at some amazing restaurants, and better formulate my thoughts on what Cleveland has to offer.

“To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”

Ichiro Suzuki

Moreover, there is an awful lot of baseball history in the Cleveland area to experience. Most of my landmark hunting to date has been in the early morning hours while everyone else sleeps in, often by way of a roundabout bagel run. Spanning several trips I have lingered at League Park, admired the statues of Elmer Flick and Rocky Colavito erected in town parks, paid my respects at the (purported) grave of Ed Delahanty, and attended games played by the Guardians and Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League.

Our most recent visit was for parent’s weekend, a delightful departure from past visits free of the “is this the right place for him?” quandary or the stress of packing and moving and making sure we brought enough ramen. We enjoyed an afternoon of hiking at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, had an amazing dinner downtown, and toured the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) after a late breakfast the following morning.

But of course I had some time to see a few baseball things. I headed first to the marker at Brookside Stadium and found the park quite easily with turn-by-turn directions from the SABR Baseball Map on my phone. It was a bit of a walk down a paved path the marker, but it was worth it.

Built in a natural amphitheater, a baseball diamond still occupies the former site of Brookside Stadium, which was razed in the 1980s. According to the marker, Brookside hosted the largest crowd ever recorded for an amateur baseball game, some 115,000 people in 1915. What a contrast to the park I found, serene and lovely on a crisp fall morning.

Part of exploring baseball history is finding new landmarks, so I was thrilled to look over and see another marker detailing the history of Brookside Stadium that we did not yet have on our list. I learned that the ballpark was built in 1909 in an effort to have the 1912 Olympics awarded to Cleveland.

I then headed over to Highland Park Cemetery to pay my respects at the grave of Luke Easter, a fascinating player who seemingly came out of nowhere and met a tragic end. [Do not miss the chapter on Easter in Outsider Baseball by Scott Simkus.]

And perhaps most surprisingly, I happened upon some baseball-related art at the CMA. The oversized Standing Mitt and Ball by Claes Oldenburg was a fitting companion piece to his Batcolumn erected in Chicago, just blocks from my office.

I also happened upon this centuries-old headgear displayed in the armor gallery, which most certainly qualifies as the earliest known baseball helmet, right?

There are several more trips to Cleveland in my future and I cannot wait to continue exploring the area. That I might get to see some baseball-related sites along the way is just a bonus.

Ichiro was wrong.


Larry Stone, “Ichiro unlike any player we’ve seen or will see again,” Longview (Washington) Daily News, March 23, 2019: B7.