This week I am publishing (on paper) the third in a series on the American Association Ballparks of Indianapolis. Volume 12, No. 2 of the American Association Almanac for Summer 2016 will be mailed to subscribers in a few days. But because I've been so delinquent posting on this website, I wanted to provide some background on the series
The first of the set (Vol. 11, No. 2) discusses East Washington Street Park (which would have been known at the time as simply Washington Park or Gray Street Grounds). The inside front cover lists the topics and provides a diagram of the playing field and stands.
Here is an excerpt:
One of the shortest-lived ball parks in American Association history, East Washington Street Park, or simply Washington Park, had a colorful history. It was located on the far east side of Indianapolis and hosted the to the Association’s Indians from 1902 to 1904. The home venue of the league’s first champion, it became the stage for advancing the baseball interests of a major midwestern city. Perhaps more importantly was how it survived as the home of the Indians for the length of time that it did.
Various challenges arose in assembling the story of such an obscure place as Washington Park. There are very few photographs which might permit comparisons with other parks. Details concerning the physical plant are buried deep within newspaper articles and are often sketchy, if accessible at all. Even the data found in box scores varied.
And yet the story of this forgotten little place captures the imagination. While there are very few comparisons to be drawn with regard to modern baseball venues, the story of Washington Park contains various subjective angles which tie it in to the modern age. You won’t find out how much a hot dog costs, which Indianapolis brewery supplied the beer, who the architect was, or what variety of sod was used for the playing surface. Whether the home team hit like heroes there or whether there was a home field advantage...or whether this was one place the Indians were glad to put behind them
weren’t known until now.
The prevailing sentiment is that because Washington Park was never a major league venue, it doesn’t warrant our attention. The fault of such logic is plain to students of the old American Association. In 1902, the league was an independent, diverse organization on par with many major league teams, drawing and developing talent from a broad range of ages and levels of experience. Canada-born William H. “Bill” Watkins, former manager of the National League’s Pittsburg Pirates, found “major league” challenges as perhaps the earliest kingpin of Indianapolis baseball when he led the Western League Indianapolis Hoosiers. As the Indians’ first owner and manager, he piloted the team to the league’s first championship, but it was ultimately a political defeat which forced him to relinquish his control of the club and move to Minneapolis after the 1903 season.
In addition to presenting the origins of Washington Park, this issue features the analysis of the home statistics for the Indianapolis Indians from 1902 to 1903. Identifying home/road splits in multiple categories required an organized plan starting with a paper-and-pencil approach. Box scores from Sporting Life served as the basis for most of the data, but having online access to the Indianapolis Journal was key to confirming or disputing those records, as well as providing in-depth game reports. On the surface, this would seem simple enough, but the mere task of determining the correct number of games played at Indianapolis posed a challenge. The fact that the club played certain Sunday games at alternate venues required the separation of those stats within the season’s core database. In the end, these data were compiled, organized, and developed on a per season basis, before being analyzed and then brought to life in these pages. Ultimately, the tale of short-lived Washington Park may seem inconsequential, but faithful readers will soon recognize its value — if anything else, it fills a void.
An information flyer was mailed to nearly 100 potential customers from a mailing list developed from the SABR website.
Please contact me if you are interested in ordering the above work. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org