Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New American Association Website

I'm pleased to announce a new domain name for my principal website concerning the history of the American Association. Because the registration on the old name (www.aaalmanac.com) expired July 3, I ran into quite a snag, and thought I had even lost my website .... again! Thankfully the problem has been solved and my website is now at

http://www.almanacfield.com

There you will find a plethora of information on a variety of levels, from stats to ballpark histories to listings on team managers. The site will be under construction for some time, but for now the basics are there. Please pay it a visit soon!

Monday, July 5, 2010

East Washington Street Park at Indianapolis


Last week my wife and I returned from a trip to Indianapolis where we both spent considerable time doing research at the city's new public library which is located just north of downtown. It is a marvelous facility, not without its problems, but overall it was a rewarding experience being there and I look forward to my next visit there.

The primary goal for my work at Indianapolis was to research the earliest ball park used by the Indianapolis Indians, the city's American Association franchise from 1902-62 (and brought back in subsequent reincarnations of the league). The park was known simply as Washington Park, but in light of the fact that another baseball park was built on Washington Street in 1931, distinguishing the two parks by a term other than merely "Washington" became necessary. The first Washington Park (my current focus) is referred to as East Washington Street Park in Michael Benson's landmark Ballparks of North America (1989) and was the home of the Indians from 1902-04. The second park, in used by the Indians from 1905-31, was also called Washington Park, but its location was west of central Indianapolis and hence is now referred to as West Washington Street Park.

In their essential work, The Magic of Indians' Baseball: 1887-1987, on the history of baseball in Indianapolis, Kim Rogers and David Reddick offer a comprehensive narrative documenting the evolution of the various Indianapolis teams, including their ownership, club leaders, and much more. But they aren't always as exact as would be preferred by those interested in nailing down specific dates. For example, it was difficult to determine just exactly when East Washington Street Park was built. Hence, my research at the Indianapolis Public Library commenced with a search for the answer to that basic question.

It was constructed on railroad-owned property during the winter of 1899-1900 at the intersection of East Washington and Gray Streets, south of Washington. The modest, all-wooden grandstand was built in the southwest corner of the lot, and was bounded on the south by Moore Avenue and the a large railyard. The railroad workers who would saunter by the ball field to watch the Indians practice became known as "railbirds."

The history of this park will be accounted for in a future issue of the American Associaton Almanac, likely during the summer of 2011.

Note: the image is from an original post card in my possession which depicts the park. The prevalence of cigar advertising along the outfield fence indicated a high degree of popularity of cigar smoking in Indianapolis during the turn of the century. It is not known whether the players on the field represent American Association teams or not; however, the appearance of two umpires suggest otherwise, as American Association contests at this time were likely to include one umpire.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Louisville's Parkway Field


Just finished the writing and producing the Spring issue (Vol. 8, No. 3) of the American Association Almanac on the topic of Parkway Field in Louisville, home to the Louisville Colonels from 1923-1956.

In many way it is a fun and fascinating story.

This issue is now on its way to the Almanac's 87 subscribers and is available to the general public at a cost of $10 postpaid.

Researched comprehensively throughout and containing numerous informative graphics, this issue of of the Almanac describes how Parkway Field came into being. Beginning with the early negotiations for land rights,this publication narrates the story of the Colonels’ home park from 1923-56.

A variety of pearls were unearthed in the telling of this story. The result is a 25,000-word edition filled with a variety of anecdotes and other "fun facts" sure to please even the most discriminating baseball history enthusiast. This is not a statistical compilation. Neither is it a picture book. It is baseball history at its leanest and meanest and includes the narrative of many “firsts” such as the pioneering of the legless seat in American baseball parks, the employment of the first female club treasurer and secretary (the Knebelkamp sisters) of a professional ball club, the appearance of five future Hall of Famers in one game, including Earle Combs, in the season’s home opener, and much more. Oh, and did I mention the Shannon brothers, Joe and Red? They were twins who opposed each other on the field during the Parkway Field inaugural against the Toledo Mud Hens on May 1, 1923.

Baseball fans will enjoy the expanse of details explored in this edition, including a detailed description of the Parkway Field opener, key dates during the 1923 season, critical physical features of Parkway Field, attendance patterns from 1923-56, and the four no-hitters, including the controversial performance by Tom “Lefty” Sunkel, the only no-hitter ever to occur during an American Association playoff game in September, 1946.

Numerous graphics, from photos to tables, enhance this high-powered edition. It may not be a Louisville Slugger, but its straight-grained, hardwood approach to baseball history will connect with your appetite for a good story that brings to mind the golden years of our grandparents' brand of baseball.

This limited edition of the American Association Almanac was originally published for subscribers, so please act promptly to insure your copy of this well documented and thoroughly researched account of early baseball in Louisville.

Please contact me at pureout@msn.com to find out how to order.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Association Attendance Project


Thought it was time to give a quick run-down on the American Association attendance project I have underway concerning the early years of the American Association. Cumulative team data reflecting paid attendance for the years 1902-1907 were missing in the published league report, and with the exception of 1902 (I found attendance records in the Reach American Association Guide for that year), the remainder of the records are missing.

In order to obtain these records, a game-by-game listing of attendance figures must be collected and verified using comparative data from a variety of sources. This process has been rewarding, but it is laborious and time consuming. It promises to become even more so as time goes by. I am using microfilm at Wilson Library on the University of Minnesota campus.

Last summer I created a book proposal on the topic of the rivalry between the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints. The proposal described the importance of attendance patterns of the two teams. In December I set about compiling the attendance data and I am now midway through the 1907 season, having compiled records from four different sources. I originally was going to use only one source, but it soon became apparent how there really was no such thing as a verifiable number which one could look at and say, OK, there were 2,345 fans at the Saints game in St. Paul on August 18, 1902. A second source might easily give a different number. The project has evolved to include as many local sources from road games as I can put my hands on via interlibrary loan. So it takes me a few additional months (or years) to complete...

Now that I have the data entered for the 1902 St. Paul Saints, here's a brief summary of my findings. It includes home and away games and is largely complete.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press was a "reliable" record for the majority of the attendance figures for the 141-game 1902 season, reliable in the sense that it included data for 123 of 141 games, or 87%.

The Minneapolis Journal and Minneapolis Tribune were used to verify the figures used by the Pioneer Press. The process was straightforward. After compiling the data for every game from the Pioneer Press, I used the Tribune, compared the figures, listed them, and went on to the Journal with which I repeated the process. I will expand the list of newspapers used to for verification purposes to include the St. Paul Daily News, the St. Paul Dispatch, the St. Paul Globe and the Minneapolis Times. This will help establish a greater degree of reliability for each figure, as well as for the final annual total for both the team and the league.

As mentioned previously, 123 records were found in the Pioneer Press.
Seven records were found in the Minneapolis Journal which were not in the Pioneer Press.
Seven records were found in the Minneapolis Tribune which were not in the Pioneer Press.
Most often these combined 14 records included road games.

A combined 10 records from both the Minneapolis Journal and Tribune conflicted with the figure presented in the Pioneer Press. The nature of these conflicting records varied. The ranged from what appeared to be typos (e.g., 672 vs. 622) to unreliably distinct figures (e.g., 8,347 vs. 5,798).

Often, published figures were rounded, e.g., each figure ends in either one or two zeros. This tendency increased as time progressed; in fact, after 1902 attendance reporting became much less frequent, as papers would report the attendance for the home team and ignore the others (speaking here on the American Association alone).

At this time the St. Paul Saints played their weekday and Sunday games at Lexington Park. The largest verifiable figure for a home game at St. Paul in 1902 was found for the game of July 6 featuring the Millers and Saints. It was a Sunday game (Sundays were often a club's money maker) which was decided by a score of 1-0 in favor of Minneapolis.

The largest unverified attendance figure was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune for the game of May 18 (also a Sunday) against the Louisville Colonels. The Tribune reported 8,347 in attendance, while the Pioneer Press reported 5,798. I tend to support the notion that the local paper will be more reliable in such a case, but there are arguments both ways. This is an example of the need to look at several sources to determine which figure may be more accurate. It is also possible that both numbers were technically correct, as the latter figure may represent the seating capacity while the larger figure could include those who overflowed onto the playing field (a common practice at the time).

The smallest crowd at Lexington Park in 1902 came September 12 as the Saints hosted the Toledo Mud Hens. An attendance figure of 93 was reported for this Friday event. Could be the weather was bad. Imagine such a game going extra innings, as in all likelihood there may not have been anyone left by the time darkness finally descended! The Saints won, 8-6, in regulation.

The largest crowd drawn by the Saints on the road was in the early going at Indianapolis when 10,004 fans packed East Washington Street Park. The Indians went on to win the American Association championship in a nail-biter that year, the first season of the independent league's existence.

The Saints finished the season with a record of 72-67 in third place.