Eastern Park in Brooklyn, New York (COURTESY OF BILL LAMB)

Eastern Park (Brooklyn, NY)

This article was written by Bill Lamb


Eastern Park in Brooklyn, New York (COURTESY OF BILL LAMB)

 

Erected in 1890 to furnish a home field for Brooklyn’s entry in the upstart Players League, Eastern Park served the ensuing seven seasons (1891-1897) as the base of operations of Brooklyn’s National League club. Handsome, spacious, and well-maintained, the two-tier ballpark was also a versatile venue, accommodating high school, college, and semipro football, soccer, and track and field events. Despite these attributes, the grounds were widely disliked by Brooklyn baseball players, fans, sportswriters, and club executives. Brisk winds regularly swept in from nearby Jamaica Bay, making the ballpark uncomfortably chilly for ballplayers and spectators alike into late July. Odd playing field dimensions — a short porch in left field and a cavernous center field — were another cause of complaint.

But Eastern Park’s primary problem was its location — in the East New York1 section of Brooklyn abutting the border with Queens. This isolated the ballpark from the population core of Brooklyn, then the nation’s fourth largest metropolis, separate and distinct from adjoining New York City.2 Eastern Park was situated about five miles east of convenient and fan-friendly Washington Park, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms’3 erstwhile home in what was then known as South Brooklyn. Beyond walking distance for most of the Grooms’ fan base, a time-consuming rail or horse-drawn trolley trip was needed to reach the new place. Attendance at games at Eastern Park was a disappointment to club ownership, never approaching the throngs attracted to Washington Park. As a result, the club was a money-loser through most of its tenure at Eastern Park.

With the start of the 1898 season approaching, newly installed club president Charles H. Ebbets secured ballpark-suitable property literally across the street from the franchise’s former haunts, and relocated the Grooms to speedily constructed Washington Park III. Abandoned Eastern Park, meanwhile, was slowly dismantled by real estate speculators, with the underlying grounds chopped up into building lots. The property languished on the market until its sale in late December 1898 to local interests who subsequently placed commercial and residential premises upon it. Today, the site of Eastern Park is a neighborhood eyesore, replete with derelict buildings and an automobile junkyard. The story of this short-lived, long forgotten late-19th- century ballpark follows.

The Players League Arrival in Brooklyn and the Construction of Eastern Park

The 1889 season was one of triumph for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. Under the direction of manager Gunner Bill McGunnigle, the Grooms posted an outstanding 93-44 (.679) record and captured the pennant of the then-major league American Association. Perhaps more important to primary club financial backer Gus Abell, a Manhattan gambler/casino operator who held a majority stake in club stock, some 353,690 spectators had paid their way into Washington Park II, setting a major league attendance record.4 Club revenues were thereafter enhanced by the Grooms’ participation in the 1889 World Series, regrettably lost in nine games to the National League’s New York Giants.

Notwithstanding success on the playing field and at the turnstiles, all was not well in Brooklyn. Fractious and maladroit American Association governance had become insufferable for club co-founder/president Charles Byrne, vexing him into removal of the Brooklyn franchise from the circuit and affiliation with the National League for the 1890 season. New York sports promoter Jim Kennedy thereafter patched together an AA replacement club, the Brooklyn Gladiators. This threadbare outfit gave Byrne and company little concern. Rather, all eyes were focused on an ominous new arrival on the major league scene, the Players League. The brainchild of visionary Giants shortstop John Montgomery Ward, the PL commanded the allegiance of most of the National League’s top playing talent. And its eight franchises were backed by deep-pocketed capitalists.

With the possible exception of New York — where dueling NL and PL clubs played in north Manhattan ballparks separated by no more than a ten-foot-wide alley and the stadium walls — nowhere was the inter-league conflict fiercer than in Brooklyn. Over the winter, the NL Bridegrooms managed to fend off raids on their roster and remained a strong club. Brooklyn’s new Players League team was also formidable, with Ward himself taking the helm. But the investors in the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders were a peculiar lot, without a baseball enthusiast among them. Instead, their primary interest was real estate. Investment in the Players League team was motivated by the property development possibilities that might attend placement of a major league baseball club in the underdeveloped East New York section (or 26th Ward) of Brooklyn.

On December 6, 1889, the Brooklyn Base Ball Club, Ltd., filed the articles of incorporation necessary to do business as a Players League entry.5 Field manager Ward was a figurehead incorporator. The real money men behind the enterprise were incorporator-stockholders George W. Chauncey, Edward F. Linton, Wendell Goodwin, and John Wallace, all principals of the Ridgewood Land and Improvement Company, a realty business active in East New York development. Given that, their purchase for ballpark construction purposes of a 400 x 900-foot plot of land situated near Eastern Parkway and elevated train stops in East New York was hardly surprising. But the acquisition price was steep: a reported $88,900.6 At an ensuing meeting of club backers, the four property men were elected to executive positions, with Goodwin assuming the club presidency.7 The collective lack of baseball experience among the new club’s leaders and their rather transparent intention of using the PL baseball franchise as a vehicle for development of East New York property was cause for concern from the very start.8 But for the time being, the Chauncey-Goodwin group was just the crew needed to get a new ballpark constructed.9

The ballpark design of architect Walter M. Coots called for “a palatial [two-tier] grandstand … shaped as a partial oval 433 feet long” behind home plate stretching from first base to third, and was initially intended to accommodate 3,200 spectators. At this point, construction and materials costs were unrealistically estimated at $24,950.10 Meanwhile, contracts for the iron works of the largely wooden edifice and grandstand seating were awarded.11 But over the winter, the future ballpark property — then “a plain meadow with an occasional house” situated on it12 — remained dormant. Finally in late February 1890, “the backers of the Brooklyn Brotherhood Club … decided to put a force of men at work on the new grounds,”13 but construction still did not begin for several more weeks. For the time being, only the name of the Brotherhood ballpark was unveiled: Atlantic Park (in honor of the championship Brooklyn Atlantics ball club of the 1860s).14

A building permit was thereafter secured, and erection of Atlantic Park commenced in earnest in mid-March. But the ballpark was far from completion when it opened unofficially on April 10, 1890 with a game between the Wonders and the Five A’s, an amateur team composed mostly of actors. While carpenters continued work on the structure, some 2,500 fans paid their way into the grounds to observe a 24-1 laugher played on a makeshift temporary diamond.15 Of interest, on that same date only 500 fans made the familiar walk to Washington Park to see the NL Brooklyn Bridegrooms trounce the Newark Little Giants of the minor league Atlantic Association. Even fewer fans (300) made the trip to Ridgewood Park II in Queens to see the American Association’s Brooklyn Gladiators throttle a minor league team from Jersey City.16

With the Wonders scheduled to begin the regular season in Boston, work continued at a frantic pace to get the PL ballpark ready. In the interim, a name change was decided. Heeding the complaints of proprietors of nearby premises dubbed Atlantic something — Atlantic Tavern, Atlantic Gardens, Atlantic Casino, etc. — the new Brotherhood ball grounds was rechristened Eastern Park.17 As the home opener drew near, 26 separate boxes and expanded grandstand seating for 5,046 spectators were installed. Completion of bleacher sections swelled the seating capacity to 7,200.18 By then, however, the ballpark building costs had skyrocketed to $150,000.19 And still construction of Eastern Park was not yet completed. Nevertheless, when the Wonders returned from a 2-3 opening road trip, Brooklyn prepared to welcome its new ball club with gala festivities. Then rain washed out the home opener.20

On April 28, 1890, Eastern Park entered the ranks of major league baseball stadiums by hosting the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Quakers. Unhappily for club management, the ballpark was little more than half-filled.21 Many of those patrons, moreover, were reportedly annoyed by the hammering of carpenters and other construction noise, as work on the premises continued while the game was in progress. Outfielders, meanwhile, complained about shadows cast by the Eastern Park grandstand, and sportswriters were irked by the ballpark’s lack of press accommodations.22 And though not a factor in the outcome of the home opener, the short (260 feet) left field foul line and the canyon-sized dimensions of center field would soon prove a detriment, skewing game action.

Unfinished construction work — completion of the grandstand; installation of a press box, player locker rooms, and spectator lavatories; landscaping, etc. — was wrapped up when the Wonders returned to the road.23 The ballpark to which the club came home proved a hospitable one: Brooklyn posted an outstanding 46-19 (.715) record in games played at Eastern Park. But a sub-.500 road record (30-37, .447) doomed the Wonders to a second-place finish in final Players League standings. Unhappily for investors, the club proved a keen disappointment in the attendance department, drawing only 79,272 fans (1,254 per home date).24 Indeed, major league baseball as a whole was suffering, plagued by an oversaturation of ball clubs in 1890. As the season came to a close, the National League and American Association were both in financial straits. But the Players League situation was even more unstable, with the circuit teetering on the verge of collapse. Following the example of the NL and PL Giants’ club owners, Wonders ownership opened franchise merger talks with their Brooklyn Bridegrooms counterparts.

While merger discussions were ongoing, Brooklyn’s PL owners garnered some revenue by leasing Eastern Park for autumn sporting events. With a large crowd expected for the late November Yale-Princeton football game, extra bleachers were secured from Philadelphia. Two hours before kickoff, a section of those bleachers collapsed, resulting in numerous injuries and a near panic on the grounds.25 After calm was restored, Yale administered a 32-0 thrashing to the Tigers. In the meantime, the Brooklyn press wondered where its now-consolidated baseball club would play in 1891.26

Consolidation of the Brooklyn Franchises and Relocation of the Bridegrooms to Eastern Park

The deal which effected the consolidation of Brooklyn’s National League and Players League franchises is a headscratcher. With virtually all the bargaining chips in the negotiation on its side, the Bridegrooms’ brain trust agreed to terms that redounded almost entirely to the benefit of the Wonders owners.27 For example, the Chauncey-Goodwin group was accorded a near half-interest in the surviving National League club for the fire sale price of $30,000 (which was never fully paid).28 But the misstep that proved most costly for Charlie Byrne and company was capitulation to the demand that the merged club play its home games at Eastern Park, still viewed by the PL club owners as the linchpin of their real estate speculation in East New York.29 Perhaps the merger’s only redeeming feature for the Grooms — aside from the acquisition of playing manager John Montgomery Ward — was the retention of the capable, baseball-loving Byrne as club president.

The ballpark into which the 1891 Brooklyn Bridegrooms were moving was a handsome, well maintained, if oddly configured, grounds. To normalize Eastern Park’s playing dimensions, Byrne relocated home plate farther away from the grandstand and reoriented the diamond so that the left field foul line was extended to 315 feet.30 This also had the effect of improving the view of game action for fans in the upper deck and rear grandstand seats. Additional improvements facilitated air circulation, while a ladies’ waiting room and a new press box added to the attraction of the premises.31 But Eastern Park remained hamstrung by the one thing that Byrne could not change: geography. The club’s attendance at the not easily accessed ballpark rebounded to 188,477 in 1891. But that was barely half the crowd attracted to Washington Park only two seasons earlier, and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms lost money playing in their new quarters. The defending National League champions did not fare very well in the standings either, falling to a seventh-place finish (61-76, .445). Right-hander Tom Lovett’s 4-0 no-hitter against the Giants on June 22 was doubtless the Eastern Park highlight of the Grooms season.

That fall, Yale football returned to Eastern Park, this time for a game against Columbia. The grounds also served as home field for a Brooklyn semipro eleven, the Crescents. Meanwhile, Bridegrooms club secretary Charles Ebbets was busy promoting Eastern Park as a venue for bicycle races, while club boss Byrne spent the winter denying reports that the Bridegrooms intended to vacate their East New York ballpark for a return to Washington Park. Among other constraints, the club was bound to Eastern Park by the five-year lease that it had signed in late February 1891.32

More renovations preceded the start of the 1892 season. A roof cover and folding chairs turned the right field bleachers into a shaded pavilion for patrons willing to shell out the 50 cents admission fee. Seats in additional bleachers extending from third base into left field went for a quarter.33 Gates at the main entrance to Eastern Park were designated by ticket price, and “a partition inside the fence will serve to separate the classes after they get in the grounds.”34 In time, the Eastern Park seating capacity reached 12,000.35 Meanwhile under Ward’s field leadership, the Grooms rose to third (95-59, .617) in the final standings of the now 12-club National League.36 But advancement did not carry over to the turnstiles; the 1892 home attendance of 183,727 was less than the previous year, and club owners lost another estimated $15,000 that season.37

In an effort to increase revenue generated by Eastern Park, the cycling track was upgraded to a world class one-third-mile oval in spring 1893.38 Wheel competitions were staged when the Grooms were on the road throughout the season.39 This evidently did no harm to the baseball field, described by a Brooklyn newspaper as “pleasing to the eye and much more beautiful than the Polo Grounds. Here, we have a clear-cut diamond, with a lovely green grass infield and outfield.”40 Under the command of new manager Dave Foutz — Ward had moved on to take over the New York Giants — the Grooms slid back to a tie for sixth-place (65-63, .508) in the NL pennant chase. Yet Eastern Park attendance climbed to 235,000 for the season. Still, the club lost money once again that season, and the patience of co-owner Gus Abell, the franchise’s largest individual stockholder and long the club’s financial angel, was wearing thin.41 Never a fan of Eastern Park to begin with and antagonized by the refusal of the Chauncey-Goodwin faction to contribute to club upkeep, Abell began to agitate behind closed doors for the Grooms to return to South Brooklyn. For the time being, however, the club’s lease militated staying in East New York.

The 1894 season saw more of the same: a mid-pack (70-61, .534) campaign on the field, but a 214,000 count at the gate somehow allowed the club to eke out a small profit, its first in five seasons. On the novelty front, club secretary/bowling enthusiast Charles Ebbets placed temporary lanes within the ballpark confines and staged a bowling match involving local keglers.42 A short-lived association football (soccer) league made use of Eastern Park that fall. Meanwhile, Abell was quietly trying to persuade streetcar magnate and erstwhile Players League financier Al Johnson to buy out the Chauncey-Goodwin group, but eventually to no avail.43 Nevertheless, Eastern Park’s status as home grounds of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms had now become tenuous.

Following the 1895 season — a virtual do-over on the field and at the turnstiles for the club — Abell went public with his displeasure with the Eastern Park situation. “I think it is hardly probable that we will renew the lease on Eastern Park,” he declared. The ballpark was “so much out of the way … and we now pay $7,500 a year [in rent] and that is entirely too much. I have a splendid ground in view … where we would have better attendance if they are secured because they are convenient to all parts of the city.”44 Abell declined to identify his prospective relocation spot, but it was presumed that he had Washington Park in mind. Unhappily for Abell, that property was then tied up in litigation and unavailable for the foreseeable future. As a result, club brass was obliged to ink a two-year renewal of the Eastern Park lease.45

Final Seasons

When the lease extension expired, the Brooklyn franchise was still treading water on both the field and at the gate. The Grooms completed the 1897 season with another mediocre record (61-71, .462) and an unprofitable 220,831 box office. But initiatives to relocate the club had been stymied by the failing health of club leader Byrne, who spent almost the entire season at a Virginia spa trying to recuperate. On a positive note, the Chauncey-Goodwin stake in the franchise was bought out by club secretary Ebbets late in the year.46 With that, a constant impediment to transfer of the club from Eastern Park was removed.

On January 4, 1898, 54-year-old Grooms boss Charles H. Byrne succumbed to Bright’s (kidney) disease. Days earlier, Ebbets had succeeded him as Brooklyn club president.47 Like Abell, the new franchise leader advocated abandonment of Eastern Park.48 But Washington Park remained encumbered by legal problems. This necessitated a return to Eastern Park at the outset of spring training in mid-March.49 Only days later, club brass announced that new grounds had been secured just across the intersection where Washington Park II stood.50 While sod was being broken for construction of Washington Park III, the following advertisement appeared in local newsprint:

For Sale, Eastern Park

Situated on Eastern Parkway and lately occupied by the Brooklyn Ball Club, this magnificent tract of land consists of 140 lots of land, with full equipment for exhibition purposes or athletic contests; the rapid improvement in the immediate vicinity will commend it to investors or speculators; no more desirable plot can be found in Kings County; full commission will be paid to any broker who will make the sale. D.&M. Chauncey R.E. Co., Ltd.51

Few mourned the passing of the East New York ballpark. “The removal of Eastern Park has received the stamp of approval not alone from the home enthusiasts, but every official in the league, as it means prosperity not alone to Ebbets but to his associates in other cities,” maintained the Brooklyn Eagle. “The players of other teams are also jubilant, because the more stationary atmosphere in South Brooklyn means increased batting and fielding averages.”52 Unloved by players, club executives, sportswriters, and fans, Eastern Park had nonetheless been a competitive stronghold for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. Over seven seasons, the Grooms posted an outstanding 295-182 (.619) record in games played at their unappreciated home grounds. The club’s mediocre placements in NL final standings were entirely the product of poor (188-289, .403) road performance.53

On April 30, 1898, some 15,000 fans attended the inauguration of Washington Park III, witnessing a 6-4 Brooklyn loss to Philadelphia. Ironically, the new venue would attract only a paltry 122,514 paid admissions — far fewer than the Grooms’ worst gate during their tenure at Eastern Park. While a bad (54-91, .372) Brooklyn club struggled to a ninth-place finish, its former home was slowly being dismantled. “The Eastern Park track and grounds are no longer the property of the Brooklyn Baseball Club,” reported the Brooklyn Times. The premises “have been put into the hands of real estate dealers who will as soon as possible cut the old grounds up into building lots.”54 The last discovered athletic event to take place there was a high school track and field meet conducted on May 14 during the deconstruction process.55

The Eastern Park site remained on the market until near year-end. Finally in late December 1898, it was announced that lots of various sizes had been sold to assorted buyers for an aggregate $37,950.56 Soon thereafter, all trace of the ballpark disappeared. In ensuing years, streets were cut through the property to stimulate development, but East New York never enjoyed great prosperity. Today, the area contains an unsightly collection of run-down buildings, junkyards, and other urban detritus, with the handsome, if inconveniently located, baseball park that once graced the neighborhood long beyond living memory.

 

Acknowledgments

This story was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and fact checked by Ken Liss.

 

Sources

Background sources about Eastern Park include Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks (New York: Walker & Company, 2d ed., 2006), and Andrew Ross and David Dyte, “Eastern Park,” accessible online via BrooklynBallParks.com. Sources for late-19th century baseball in Brooklyn include Andy McCue’s organizational history of the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers and John G. Zinn’s for Brooklyn’s Players League franchise, both accessible via the SABR website. Specific events involving Eastern Park have been culled from the articles cited in the endnotes, particularly those published in Brooklyn’s four daily newspapers of the 1890s: the Brooklyn Eagle, Times, Standard-Union, and Citizen. Unless otherwise specified, ballpark attendance figures have been taken from Total Baseball, John Thorn, et al, eds. (Kingston, New York: Total Sports Publishing, 7th ed. 2001).

 

Notes

1 East New York was known as the Town of New Lots before its annexation by Brooklyn in 1886. Some present-day references say that the park stood in the Brownsville neighborhood, which adjoins East New York on the west — see Steven A. Riess, Touching Base (Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1999) and Jeffrey A. Kroessler, New York Year by Year (New York: NYU Press, 2002). This placement is belied by the reportage of Brooklyn newspapers of the era, which invariably placed Eastern Park in East New York, as does such modern authority as Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals; Andrew Ross and David Dyte, “Eastern Park”; Andy McCue’s Los Angeles/Brooklyn team ownership history; and John Zinn’s Brooklyn Players League team ownership history. The Eastern Park plot was bounded by Eastern Parkway (now Pitkin Avenue), Vesta Avenue (now Van Sinderen), Powell Street, and Sutter Avenue. See the street map at BroooklynBallParks.com (http://www.covehurst. net/ddyte /brooklyn/eastern _park. html). The spot is on the Brownsville side of what is today’s East New York-Brownsville boundary. At the time of Eastern Park’s existence, however, it was uniformly considered to be located in East New York.

2 At the time, New York City only consisted of Manhattan and parts of the Bronx. Brooklyn and the other outer boroughs of present-day New York City were not incorporated into the city until January 1898. In 1890, New York (2.5 million residents) was the nation’s largest city, followed by rapidly growing Chicago (1.1 million) and Philadelphia (1+ million). Brooklyn (838,537) was the only other American city with a population approaching one million residents.

3 The nicknames attached to 19th century Brooklyn teams were unofficial and included Atlantics, Grays, and Trolley Dodgers. The moniker Bridegrooms was prevalent during the time of Eastern Park’s existence and thus will be the one used herein.

4 This despite a May 19 fire that had destroyed Washington Park I.

5 As reported in “In the Baseball World,” (Brooklyn) Standard-Union, December 7, 1889: 2; “Base Ball in Brooklyn,” Brooklyn Eagle, December 6, 1889: 6; and elsewhere.

6 See “The Sporting World,” Brooklyn Citizen, November 19, 1889: 6. See also, “The New Brooklyn Club,” Sporting Life, December 11, 1889: 5.

7 Per “Players League,” Sporting Life, December 25, 1889: 1. Goodwin, VP Linton, Secretary Wallace, and Treasurer Chauncey, plus Ward formed the ballclub’s board of directors. Later, Brooklyn businessmen Henry J. Robinson and George H. Wirth were added to the board.

8 See e.g., J.F. Donnelly, “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, December 18, 1889: 2.

9 The need to construct new grounds for the PL club was manifest, as the lease to Washington Park II, the only substantial ballpark then extant in Brooklyn, was held by the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The Brooklyn Gladiators of the American Association, meanwhile, were consigned to playing home games at Ridgewood Park II in neighboring Queens.

10 Per Andrew Bass and David Dyte, “Eastern Park,” accessible on-line via BrooklynBallParks.com. See also, “The Brotherhood Meets,” Brooklyn Times, March 11, 1890: 1.

11 Per J.F. Donnelly, “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, March 5, 1890: 2. The firms of Howell & Saxon, F.W. Davis & Company, and Brooklyn City Iron Works received the iron works contracts while Andrews Manufacturing Company was retained to supply folding chairs for the grandstand.

12 Same as above. Prior to the Civil War, “baseball as a juvenile pastime” had flourished on the site, per the Brooklyn Eagle, April 20, 1890: 10.

13 According to “Notes of the Diamond,” Brooklyn Citizen, February 26, 1890: 3.

14 Per “Tips from the Diamond,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 2, 1890: 2; “Sport of All Varieties,” Brooklyn Eagle, March 30, 1890: 9.

15 See “In the Sporting World,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 11, 1890: 3; “In the Baseball Field,” Brooklyn Times, April 11, 1890: 5.

16 Per box scores with attendance figures published in the Brooklyn Citizen, April 11, 1890: 3.

17 See “Eastern Park,” Brooklyn Eagle, April 12, 1890: 1; “Baseball,” Standard-Union, April 11, 1890: 3.

18 According to the Brooklyn Eagle, April 28, 1890: 1.

19 Per John G. Zinn, “Brooklyn Players League Team Ownership History,” accessible via the SABR website, and the Brooklyn Eagle, April 23, 1890: 2.

20 Nobody bothered to inform the 23rd Regiment Band of the postponement and the band arrived at Eastern Park in full regalia ready to put on the scheduled pre-game concert. Club VP Edward Linton, “knowing that the musicians would have to be paid for their attendance, threw open the grounds and persuaded the band to go through with the programme for the benefit of the 300 carpenters and laborers at work on the grounds,” per “The Players League,” Brooklyn Eagle, April 27, 1890: 20. See also, “The Decoration Day Road Race,” Sporting Life, May 3, 1890: 1.

21 Locally published box scores placed Eastern Park attendance at 4,750. See e.g., New York Herald, April 29, 1890: 11. Miles distant, only 2,509 paid admissions were recorded for the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms’ 10-0 win over the Phillies at Washington Park.

22 According to J.F. Donnelly, “A Chain in Figures,” Sporting Life, May 10, 1890: 1.

23 Per “Work at Eastern Park,” Brooklyn Eagle, May 10, 1890: 1.

24 Including two home doubleheaders, per The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, eds. (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 3d ed. 2007), 156. Over the season, the National League champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms (86-43, .667) handily outdrew the Wonders, but the club’s 121,412 season home gate was a massive fall-off from the 353,809 drawn to Washington Park in 1889. Meanwhile, the hapless (26-73, .263) American Association Brooklyn Gladiators drew so poorly at Ridgewood Park that the club relocated to the Polo Grounds in late June. Two months later, the franchise was transferred to Baltimore.

25 See “Almost a Panic,” Brooklyn Eagle, November 28, 1890: 1; “Fixing the Responsibility,” Brooklyn Times, November 28, 1890: 1; “It Collapsed,” Standard-Union, November 28, 1890: 1. Including 18,000 standees admitted to the grounds, around 30,00 spectators attended the game. The outcome of the inevitable lawsuits was undiscovered by the writer (but matters were likely settled out of court).

26 See e.g., “Will We Have a Club?” Brooklyn Times, December 4, 1890: 4.

27 Among other things, the Bridegrooms were the reigning champions of the surviving National League, not the runner-up of a dying circuit, the Players League; Grooms club president was the baseball-astute Charlie Byrne, not the real estate speculators who backed Brooklyn’s PL franchise; the pockets of Grooms financial angel Abell were far deeper than those of the Wonders owners, and the Grooms ballpark (Washington Park II) was situated in a heavily populated Brooklyn neighborhood (Gowanus) familiar and convenient to the great bulk of Brooklyn baseball fans, not in remote, underpopulated East New York.

28 The consolidation plan allotted a 50.4% share of Brooklyn club stock to the National League contingent. The Players League group was accorded the remainder. The latter eventually reneged on payment of $8,000 of the franchise buy-in price.

29 For more detail on the merger of the Brooklyn ball clubs, see Andy McCue, “Los Angeles/Brooklyn Team Organizational History” and John G. Zinn, “Brooklyn Players League Team Organizational History,” both accessible via the SABR website.

30 Other playing field dimensions for Eastern Park are unknown.

31 Per Bass and Dyte, “Eastern Park,” above.

32 See “Eastern Park,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 14, 1892: 6.

33 As reported in “Now, Ward, get a Move On,” Brooklyn Times, April 20, 1892: 1; “Collegians Play Well,” Brooklyn Eagle, April 3, 1892; “Twenty-Five Centers,” Brooklyn Citizen, March 30, 1892: 3; and elsewhere.

34 Per “Home Tomorrow,” Brooklyn Citizen, April 20, 1892: 3.

35 According to Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks (New York: Walker & Company, 2d ed. 2006), 35.

36 After the American Association expired over the winter of 1891-1892, the National League absorbed four of the AA franchises.

37 According to “Played a Losing Game,” Brooklyn Eagle, October 13, 1892: 2.

38 Per “Sporting Driftwood,” Brooklyn Citizen, March 20, 1893: 3; “Professional Cyclers,” Brooklyn Eagle, March 20, 1893: 5; “Signing the Players,” Brooklyn Eagle, February 27, 1893: 5. As with most franchise expenditures, the $7,000 bill for the track was footed by Grooms co-owner Gus Abell. See “Baseball Matters,” Brooklyn Citizen, February 8, 1894: 3.

39 See e.g., “Good Bicycle Races in Eastern Park,” Brooklyn Eagle, July 7, 1893: 2; “On the Moving Wheel,” Brooklyn Eagle, June 30, 1893: 10.

40 “Baseball,” Standard-Union, May 5, 1893: 3.

41 With Charlie Byrne and brother-in-law/casino operator Joe Doyle, Abell was a co-founder of the Brooklyn club and the bankroller of club expenditures. Although not a great baseball fan, Abell was in for the long haul, having bought out Doyle’s interest in the club in 1889, assuming the position of dominant Grooms stockholder. Fortunately for the ball club, Abell got along well with Byrne and generally deferred to his judgment on club-related matters.

42 Per “Bowling,” Standard-Union, May 14, 1894: 8.

43 See “May Be a Brooklyn Magnate,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 4, 1895: 4.

44 “Brooklyn Club to Move,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 10, 1896: 10. Abell’s displeasure was doubtless heightened by the fact that the Eastern Park rent was paid to the Ridgewood Land and Improvement Company, the realty business of the Chauncey-Goodwin faction of Grooms ownership.

45 See “Will Play in Eastern Park,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 16, 1896: 1.

46 For more on the sale particulars, see John G. Zinn, Charles Ebbets: The Man Behind the Dodgers and Brooklyn’s Beloved Ballpark (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019), 90-92. The stock purchase was underwritten by Henry Medicus, a wealthy Brooklyn furniture dealer and an Ebbets bowling pal.

47 Per “Ebbets to Control the Brooklyn Club,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 2, 1898: 22.

48 See “Work Ahead for Ebbets,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 31, 1898: 5; “Ebbets Talks of New Grounds,” Brooklyn Times, January 19, 1898: 8.

49 See “Ball-Players Ready,” Brooklyn Times, March 14, 1898: 2; “Baseball,” Standard-Union, March 14, 1898: 7.

50 Per “A Boom for Base Ball,” Brooklyn Eagle, March 16, 1898: 5; “New Ball Grounds,” Brooklyn Times, March 15, 1898: 2; “Brooklyn Club’s New Grounds,” Brooklyn Eagle, March 15, 1898: 18.

51 Brooklyn Eagle, March 19, 1898: 11. A similar ad was published in the Standard-Union. Note also that on January 1, 1898, the City of Brooklyn had passed out of existence, becoming a borough of newly expanded New York City. The Borough of Brooklyn and Kings County were coterminous.

52 “Cranks Getting Ready,” Brooklyn Eagle, April 10, 1898: 33.

53 Per Retrosheet, “Eastern Park in Brooklyn, NY,” accessible via the SABR website. Including the home record of the 1890 Brooklyn Players League club raises the Eastern Park home team record to 339-201, .623.

54 “The L.I.I.A League Meeting,” Brooklyn Times, April 2, 1898: 9.

55 See “St. Paul’s by 24 Points,” Brooklyn Eagle, May 15, 1898: 33.

56 As reported in “Real Estate News,” Standard-Union, December 6, 1898: 6. The aggregate purchase price was well above the $17,500 assessed value of the property.

© SABR. All Rights Reserved