What do Washington, Brooklyn, the Bridegrooms and Cy Young have in common? At some point in years past, they were all used in the same sentence.
In what could be best described as a case of modern day fossilization, the New York Times published a feature on Washington Park, home to the Brooklyn Dodgers before they were the Dodgers.
At the foot of Park Slope, a block from the Gowanus Canal, is a Con Edison truck depot and storage facility bounded by First and Third Streets and Third and Fourth Avenues. Running the length of Third Avenue is a 20-foot-high stone wall that makes up part of a loading dock. The high, small windows of the wall have been bricked up.
From 1898 to 1912, Washington Park was the home of the team alternately nicknamed the Bridegrooms, Superbas and Trolley Dodgers.
“You sure?” said a security guard, Greg Montrose. “The Dodgers? Here?”
But baseball nostalgics will tell you that nothing exists today to commemorate a memorable place like Washington Park. Ebbets field has a plaque in Flatbush and the Yankees and Mets both plan to have markers delimiting where former greats (or goats) used to circle the bases.
Sadly, though, the only traceable part of the park that does exist today is a wall built as part of a renovation carried out in 1922, when the Dodgers already played in Ebbets field.
After the team’s move to Flatbush, a renovated Washington Park was the home of the Tip-Tops from the upstart Federal League for two years, and then sat unused until Con Ed bought the land in 1922. Only the wall survived.
According to the Times, Con Ed hasn’t said whether they’ll preserve the wall (right), but, as always, a call to baseball historians will entice you to make an appeal for the wall to be commemorated.
But Washington Park did have some memorable moments:
“Base ball” was a different game then — a 1908 contest against St. Louis used only one ball for all nine innings — but contemporary newspaper accounts painted a picture that was unmistakably Brooklyn.
It was here that the entire team, including the Hall of Fame Manager Ned Hanlon, was arrested several times for attempting to play baseball on Sundays.
It was here that Cubs Manager Frank Chance, after being bombarded with soda bottles for much of the game, returned fire with one, cutting a young boy’s leg. Chance had to be taken from the park in an armored car with a police escort.
And it was here that three of the hated New York Giants were jailed after entering the grandstand to assault a fan who heckled them.
Oh yea, and Cy Young played his last game there.
Who knows, maybe a group of new yorkers willing to gather for a game of Base Ball will convince the local leaders to let them keep a piece of history alive.