Friday, December 18, 2009
I was browsing through the American Memory collection at the Library of Congress when I came across this series of five panoramic photographs of baseball games in Cleveland. Three are from a 1915 championship game between the White Autos and the Omaha Luxus. Another shows a 1915 game between the White Autos and Johnstown, PA. Still another shows a 1914 game between Telling's Strollers and Hanna's Cleaners.
The October 10, 1915 game between the White Autos and the Omaha Luxus is especially notable due to the high attendance. Click through to the higher resolution version to fully appreciate the size of the crowd. For this amateur championship game, the attendance was claimed to be 115,000, which, if correct, would make it the most attended baseball game ever. The White Autos won, 11-6.
These other two images provide something of the size of the crowd. I can believe, based on these images, attendance of more than 100,000.
I had never heard of this stadium, so I started looking for clues as to its location. This photo, from the 1914 amateur championship game between Telling's Strollers and Hanna's Cleaners on September 20, 1914 provides more visual clues as to the shape of the ballpark and perhaps its location. The game against Johnstown, PA, however, doesn't show us much that we haven't seen already.
It seemed likely that Brookside Stadium was somewhere near the current Brookside Metropark, but where exactly was unclear. Perhaps the ballpark was in the area now used by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Finally, I found the answer, in the 1922 Plat Book of the City of Cleveland. In the upper right, it shows Brookside Stadium.
The stadium shown on the map didn't seem to correspond to what I could see in the photographs. I looked at Bing maps aerial photographs of the site, and much to my surprise, I saw that there was still a baseball diamond there! The topography of the space is relatively unchanged - it still has the nice "bowl" shape that makes it a perfect stadium. There are now trees growing on the hills, but other than that, the shape of the land remains much as it was in 1915.
The stadium is located just south of Denison Avenue, between Fulton Road and West 46th Street. The diagonal line of people in the outfield in the first and fourth photographs is Fulton Road, from the time before it had a high-level bridge over the valley.
The Omaha Luxus were an amateur team sponsored by Krug Brewery. Luxus was one of their beers.
I haven't been able to learn much about the White Autos. They were presumably an amateur team sponsored by White Motor Corp.
The Cleveland Blues, who became the Cleveland Naps in 1903, also used Brookside Park Stadium. Their name change came about as a result of the skill of second baseman Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie, probably the greatest player of his time, who was with the team from 1902 to 1914.
I'm so happy to see that this piece of Cleveland history hasn't been lost. I knew we had one important site in baseball history in Cleveland, League Park. I didn't know we had two. Amazingly, both ballparks are places where a group of neighborhood kids can play a game of ball, on the same ground that so many great players walked.