Ballparks in the Bigs

I always find it pretty cool when, in any sport, two teams in the same league and city play right around the corner from one another. In England’s top-tier *football* league, for example, Liverpool and Everton play their home games less than one mile apart from one another. Part of what fascinates me there is the mutual distaste for another that fans of both sides possess. The same could be said for the Manchester United / Manchester City rivalry, as well as Arsenal / Tottenham Hotspur, though their respective stadiums are 4-5 miles distant.

In the US, we have relatively few examples of such apparent vitriol combined with proximity. Though both of the NBA’s Los Angeles teams share the Staples Center, but the running joke there is that denizens of that area simply support whichever team is better. In the Eastern Conference, the Knicks / Nets has been fairly humdrum in recent years, even with Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center less than six miles apart, due largely to a lack of winning on one or both sides.

In the NFL, the Giants and Jets share MetLife Stadium, but due to the current schedule configuration, the two teams only meet during the regular season once every four years.

MLB, meanwhile, has been able to foster cross-town and regional rivalries, even with teams playing in separate leagues, thanks in no small part to interleague play and the hefty 162-game schedule. While there is undoubtedly some animosity (or, perhaps more accurately, jealousy) between Dodgers and Angels fans, and Giants and A’s fans, Yankees / Mets and Cubs / White Sox generally tends to ratchet the tension up just a little bit more.

Indeed, both New York and Chicago, among a handful of other cities, have hosted major league-caliber teams since the advent of professional baseball. For the purpose of this post, I’ve included teams from the respective cities that played in the American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890), and Federal League (1914-1915).

You may also notice that, while I did list the ballparks that hosted two founding members of the National League under the “MLB Parks” header, I didn’t do so for others. I elected to list the Chicago White Stockings (modern-day Cubs) and the Boston Red Stockings (Atlanta Braves) as MLB parks because those teams are still active and playing in the National League, despite their confusing nicknames. Three other teams in the 1876 NL also bore names that were later adopted by teams to join the NL or AL, but I chose to list them as non-MLB parks (as well as two others), because none lasted more than a few seasons:

  • Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia: Expelled in 1876. No relation to the Oakland, nee Kansas City, nee Philadelphia Athletics.
  • Cincinnati Red Stockings: Expelled in 1880. No relation to the 1881 club that began play the following season in the AA–today’s Reds.
  • St. Louis Brown Stockings: Folded in 1877. No relation to the St. Louis Browns that relocated from Milwaukee in 1902 and moved to Baltimore after 1953, or to the present-day Cardinals who began play in the AA in 1882 as the Browns, as well.
  • Milwaukee Grays: “Promoted” from the League Alliance in 1878, only lasted that one season.
  • New York Mutuals: Joined the NL in 1876 but were expelled after the season for financial reasons.

Naturally, I started right here in St. Louis. From 1902-1920, the Cardinals and Browns played practically right around the corner from one another on St. Louis’ north side, at Robison Field and Sportsman’s Park, respectively. What actually made St. Louis’ major league ballpark history a little less visually-compelling than others was the fact that the Cardinals and Browns shared a home (Sportsman’s Park) for over 30 years, and that the Cardinals have been the sole tenant in a one-team town ever since. As such, the city last had two major league-caliber clubs playing in separate stadiums simultaneously in June 1920.

On the other hand, it’s kind of cool to see the present-day neighborhoods and businesses occupying these former fields of dreams. Do yourself a favor and click the “View larger map” option; it opens in a new window, and isn’t quite so claustrophobic as the preview.

 

St. Louis

Again, not the most intricate map. Keep reading for those; you can probably guess which one has the most pinpoints. Nevertheless, interesting to see how teams and/or the hub of the game sort of “grew up” in one part of a town, and ended up migrating elsewhere.

Incidentally, all five teams in the NL Central today play in cities with long, proud traditions of professional baseball (well, maybe not so much the pride thing in Chicago’s Friendly Confines, but definitely loooooooooong). The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds all got their respective starts in the AA and jumped to the NL no later than 1892. The Cubs, of course, are founding members of the Senior Circuit, and even Milwaukee, though it didn’t acquire an MLB club for two seasons or more until the Boston Braves moved to town in 1953, fielded top-tier teams from 1878-1901.

 

Milwaukee

Clearly a city proud of its adult beverage-producing heritage. Keep in mind how there seems to be a general lack of cohesion between the stadiums, aside from Miller Park being built next door to old County Stadium.

 

Pittsburgh

Two things I learned while reading up on the Steel City: (1) After calling the municipality of Allegheny home for their first 25 years, the Pirates moved in to Pittsburgh proper two years after that city absorbed their former home north of the intersection of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers; and (2) while they played in Forbes Field, some four miles and a river away, for over sixty years, the club moved back to almost the same spot where they played before when Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970.

 

Cincinnati

Interesting how the Reds played in several stadiums within a few blocks of one another for a period just short of 90 years, then moved a couple of miles away to be closer to the river. It’s like the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds all got together at some point in the ’60s and decided baseball was better played near a river that drained in to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Chicago

Pretty crazy how, though the Cubs have used it for 100 years now, Wrigley Field looks like an outlier in Chicago ballpark history. The bizarre twist, given the north side / south side rivalry in the Second City, is that the Cubs actually played basically right on top of the modern-day site of the White Sox’ US Cellular Field for a couple seasons in the 1890s. Just imagine how many stadiums would be on this map if Comiskey and Wrigley didn’t last 80 and 100 (and counting) seasons, respectively!

 

Cleveland

Pretty impressive that a team founded in 1901 is still only on its third stadium. For sake of comparison, the Mets (1962) are also on their third, and the Expos/Nationals franchise (1969) is on its fourth (fifth if you count the 44 games they played in Puerto Rico in 2003-04). I also elected to count the Blues’ and Spiders’ first homes as non-MLB since neither survived in to the 20th century. It just happened to work out that the latter’s primary home, League Park, also hosted the Indians for 46 seasons.

Out of the Rust Belt and in to the Beltway!

 

Baltimore

Much like Milwaukee’s Brewers, here’s a city proud of its ornithological connection. So, I guess that’s something. I like how the old American Association / National League O’s pretty much stayed around the same area, near Johns Hopkins University, building and occupying three stadiums in a radius of a few blocks, in the span of about a decade. Also, no connection between the AA / NL Orioles, the AL Orioles (who moved to New York and became the Highlanders, and eventually Yankees, in 1903), and the *other* AL Orioles, who moved from St. Louis in 1954.

 

Washington, D.C.

The capital’s professional diamonds seem far-flung, but that should be expected from a rapidly-expanding city that built stadiums for three different franchises in three different time periods: the original Senators in 1901; the expansion Senators in 1962 (they played in the former’s home in their inaugural season, 1961); and the Nationals in 2008 (who used the 2nd Senators’ home for their first few seasons in town.

Side note: That must have been weird for members of the 1961 Minnesota Twins who had been with the franchise the previous season–Harmon Killebrew, for example. They played 1960 in Washington at Griffith Stadium as the Senators, then played eight games there the following season as the Twins against the expansion Washington Senators (present-day Texas Rangers).

Side side note: Seriously. We can’t come up with better nicknames than “Senators” or “Nationals?” Eight major league clubs have called the nation’s capital home, yet only one bore a different nickname–the short-lived Statesmen (1891) of the American Association. By my count, the score is currently Nationals 4, Senators 3.

And from the capital to the hub of places intimately associated with the founding of our beloved country…

 

Boston

I was actually a little surprised at how comparatively boring Boston’s map looks, considering the Braves played there for over 75 years and the Red Sox, going on 116. The unique thing here is, each team only occupied two stadiums while calling Boston home. Even cooler, I think, is that, from 1901-1911, the two teams played about a home runs’ distance apart. The Sox moved less than a mile northwest to Fenway Park in 1912; the stadium the Braves occupied from 1915 until their departure following the 1952 campaign was still just over a mile away from Fenway. Also, it’s a good thing, given the city’s apparent penchant for the color red when affiliated with baseball, they didn’t name the *other* club the Red Braves. That would’ve been pretty racist.

 

Philadelphia

Another city where two MLB franchises played mere blocks apart–the AL Athletics moved in to Shibe Park less than a half-mile from the NL Phillies’ Baker Bowl in 1909; the two teams shared the former from 1938-1954, after which the Athletics departed for Kansas City. I like how seven of the ten stadiums depicted were all less than two miles apart (albeit not concurrently). Then the Phillies got the same idea several other teams did in the ’60s, and moved in to The Vet, a cookie-cutter stadium near a river, in 1971. Citizens Bank Park, their current home, is right next door. That’s almost literally the same story as the Reds.

 

New York

The pièce de résistance, the Big Apple.

For starters, the Giants and Yankees shared Polo Grounds III (the Giants’ home for over twenty years prior) for a decade until 1923, when the Yankees opened the aptly named Yankee Stadium directly across the Harlem River. You may recall, from a previous post, that the Yankees and Giants contested three consecutive World Series (1921-1923) without bothering to invite anyone else. The first two, then, were played solely at the Polo Grounds, and the third required quite the road trip. They would contest three additional World Series (1936, ’37, and ’51) before the Giants skipped town for the Bay Area following the 1957 season; the Yankees, naturally, won all three.

polo13963

The proximity of those two teams for over 50 years (the Yankees began life in New York on the island of Manhattan, still less than a mile from the Polo Grounds) makes you wonder if the Dodgers, 11+ miles away down in Brooklyn, ever felt like the third wheel. On the other hand, with all the intra-city World Series that were played in New York from 1921-1957 (13 over those 37 years), perhaps it’s the rest of the baseball world that should have felt like they were being left out.


 

If you feel like I missed some important ones, don’t worry, I didn’t. The Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park is only their third stadium, and the city only had one other major league club in its history (the NL Wolverines, from 1881-88). The Twins, too, are on their third. With neither Minneapolis nor Detroit hosting two teams simultaneously, it didn’t make for quite as visually-appealing a map.

The Bay Area, while still accommodating two teams, hasn’t seen significant stadium turnover. The A’s are still in their original home, and the Giants are only on their third. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers and Angels have been playing in their current abodes since 1962, which is pretty crazy considering everyone out their gets a new face, hair, and boobs every six weeks or so.

If there’s one you want me to do, feel free to mention it in the comments, and send me money.

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One thought on “Ballparks in the Bigs

  1. This was an awesome post. I went to Boston University as an undergrad and our field, Nickerson Field, is on the site of the old Braves Field. I lived in a dorm overlooking the field as a sophomore. There’s a plaque nearby commemorating the old stadium and I always loved that bit of history.

    Liked by 1 person

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