SABR

Athletic Park (St. Paul)

This article was written by Stew Thornley.

The 1887 St. Paul team, a member of the Northwestern League, played at West Side Park, also known as West Side Grounds, according to stadium researcher Larry Zuckerman. The ballpark was on Eaton Street and Chicago Avenue, across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Paul (an area known as the city's West Side because it was on the west bank of the river, even though it was actually south of downtown).

In 1888, the team, now in the Western Association, started the season in this park before moving in June to a nearby structure known as Athletic Park on State Street. Athletic Park was sometimes underwater as it was prone to flooding in the spring.

Advertisements in the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Pioneer Press for games at Athletic Park included, "Game called at 4 p.m. Special motor train leaves the foot of Jackson Street at 3:45 p.m.," with the train taking fans to the ball park across a drawbridge spanning the river. St. Paul used Athletic Park for its Western Association team from 1888 to 1891 and for its Western League club in 1892 before the team moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in May.

In 1895 and 1896 the ballpark (now known as the State Street Park) was used for Sunday games, which were prohibited at the ballpark the St. Paul team was then using between Dale and St. Albans streets and Aurora and Fuller avenues.

In 2002, architectural historian Paul Clifford Larson found the building permit for the State Street park and discovered that the architect for the ball park was listed as the firm of Gilbert and Taylor, made up of James Knox Taylor and Cass Gilbert. Gilbert later designed the Woolworth Building in New York and the Supreme Court Building in Washington as well as the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. It's not clear if Gilbert actually had a role in the design or if it was handled by one of the firm's draftsman, although Larson said it is clear that Gilbert was not involved in supervising the construction, even though that was commonly the role of an architect at that time.

Sources

Telephone interview with Paul Clifford Larson, June 18, 2003.

Correspondence with Larry Zuckerman, August and September 1998.

1885 St. Paul map, volume one, Sanborn Map and Publishing Co.

Baseball: The Early Years by Harold Seymour, New York: Oxford University Press, 1960, p. 276.

"St. Paul's Forgotten Baseball Park" by Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune, Newspaper of the Twin Cities, Friday, July 5, 2002, p. B1.

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