As many of you know, I just love baseball. From the time I was about 8 years old and my father brought me to the old Polo Grounds in New York to see the Giants play the Cincinnati Reds, I've been hooked. You have to remember that when I was 8, all TV was black & white, so when my dad and I emerged from the dank, dark, beneath-the-stands tunnel to our upper deck section, all I remember to this day was how very bright green the grass was and how fiery red the sleeves, hats, and socks were on the Reds uniforms. It was better than fireworks on the 4th of July.
As the years have flown by Opening Day to Opening Day, baseball has been the one constant of my whole life. My allegiance has wavered from the Giants (who doomed themselves to damnation forever by moving to San Francisco in 1958) to the Amazing Mets, who were the worst team ever in baseball until they collectively sold their souls to the devil and won the World Series in 1969, to my current addiction, the Boston Red Sox. As a child, I always rooted for the Sox, because my dad always taught me to be kind to others, but more importantly, hate the Yankees! And if you hate the Yankees, you root for the Sox. Why? Because they absolutely, positively, without a doubt, hate each other.
So, what does this have to do with running? Well, having been a long distance runner for decades, one of my pleasures is to be able to lace up a pair of running shoes and go explore, whether it be in the woods or the jungle of a city's concrete, asphalt, and steel. As the fates would have it, many years ago, my son got married, has 2 great children, and he and his wife moved to Boston. So, with frequent visits to Beantown, I get to often run to, and around, Fenway Park, along with the attached obligatory run to cross the Boston Marathon Finish Line (which as you know, is ALWAYS painted there on Boylston St).
Recently, I came across an article about the beginnings of professional baseball in Boston and decided to take my Hokas on a trip into the past. So, on a cold, December, Boston morning, I headed out to try to find the sites of the long ago demolished homes of Boston's two initial professional baseball teams.
My first search took me to look for the site of the long gone South End Grounds. It was a beautiful stadium built in 1874 and was the home to Boston's entry into the National Association (which became the current National League). Apparently, they had an identity problem as they rifled through many names in 40 years...Red Stockings, Beaneaters (yep!), Red Caps, Doves and finally the Braves (which eventually, after a stop in Milwaukee, became the Atlanta Braves). They played at The Grounds till 1914. The Grounds had a castle look to it and must have been quite stunning in it's day.
Looking from centerfield, it was still quite the park:
I looked up the layout of the old park and found out home plate was on the corner of Columbus Avenue and St. Cyprian's Place. Hard to find - not exactly a shrine, and I doubt many folks living on this alley realize they reside on a historical parcel of land. Not a very honorable site these days. This would be looking from home to centerfield:
Literally, on the "other side of the tracks" was another stadium, The Huntington Avenue Grounds, built in 1901, and was the home to the American League Pilgrims, Americans, and FINALLY, the Red Sox until 1912. The most amazing fact about this stadium to me was the centerfield wall was 635 feet from home plate! Lots of room for the centerfielder to get lost out there. This was definitely NOT the stadium where Home Run Baker got his name.
Leaving the Huntington Grounds in 1912, the newly-named Red Sox moved about a mile north to their present home, Fenway Park. As the 2nd oldest professional baseball stadium in the United States (behind Birmingham's Rickwood Field), it's not only an icon, but a shrine to Red Sox Nation. I circumnavigated the stadium, paying homage to the 2018 World Series Champs - take that Yankees!
Now, I had one more destination for these running legs to take me to complete my personal baseball odysey. Remember the Braves playing in the South End Grounds? Well, they were a terrible team year after year, but then in 1914, in the last 8 weeks of the season, the "Miracle Braves" became a legend, storming from 15 1/2 games behind. As they made their pennant push, the South End Grounds was too small for the tremendous crowds of fans, so for the last month of the season, they shared Fenway with Red Sox. The Braves won the pennant, beat the heavily favored Philadelphia A's for the 1914 World Series Championship, and never played at the South End Grounds again.
In 1915, the Braves moved a couple of miles west to a brand spanking new stadium aptly called Braves Field. Here they would play until 1953 when they high-tailed it for Milwaukee, and just 13 years after that, they again pulled up the moving vans and wound up in Atlanta. So, my last objective was to find the site of old Braves Field.
Turns out it's smack dab in the middle of the Boston University campus. It was the first stadium in the country to seat more than 40,000 fans (although the Braves went back to being terrible again and could have went back to their old place). In 1954, Braves Field was unceremoniously demolished, except for the old ticket office:
...and the old baseball field was torn up and is now the University's soccer/ lacrosse field. However, the rightfield bleachers were refurbished and are still being used today:
I'll see you on the roads or trails -Al