A Major League Game in Grand Rapids?

This article was written by L. Robert Davids

This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal


Many fans and researchers recall that the Brooklyn Dodgers, to stimulate gate receipts, played 7 games in Jersey City in 1956 and in 1957. For the same reason, the Chicago White Sox played 9 games in Milwaukee in 1968 and 11 in 1969. That was in the period when Milwaukee did not have a team in either league.

Before 1900 it was considered good promotion to play a game in a neutral city to stimulate attendance late in the season. John Tattersall has pointed out, in fact, that the first major league grand slam homer was hit by Roger Connor in Albany, N.Y., but it was a game between Troy and Worcester.

Since 1900 the neutral field contest has been more rare, and the primary reason for leaving the home park was to escape Sunday baseball restrictions. In the period 1902-05, Cleveland played “home” games in Canton, Columbus, and Dayton, and in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Detroit played in Columbus, Toledo, and in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Boston NL club played in Providence, R.I. All these were regulation games.

These were not crucial games, but they provided an opportunity for additional fans to see such great stars as Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, Willie Keeler, Ed Delahanty, Jesse Burkett, Sam Crawford, Jimmy Collins, and Addie Joss. These games also added a certain dimension in that George Mullin, for example, was the only major leaguer to win a game in Grand Rapids, and Roger Bresnahan was the only player to hit a major league home run in Dayton. Weak hitting Hobe Ferris of Boston was able to homer in both Canton and Columbus, Ohio.

Here are capsules of games played in non-major league cities in 1902-05.

Dayton, Ohio, June 8, 1902 – Baltimore beat Cleveland 6-2 before about 4900 fans. Tom Hughes and Harry Howell pitched for the Orioles, and Earl Moore lost for the Indians. Moore and Joe Kelley hit doubles, Lajoie and Seymour triples, and Roger Bresnahan, playing third, hit the only homer. Wilbert Robinson caught for Baltimore.

Canton, Ohio, June 15, 1902 – Boston beat Cleveland 5-2 with an overflow crowd of about 6000 ringing the playing area of Mahaffey Park. Outfield hits into the crowd went for two bases. There were 10 doubles hit, Buck Freeman getting 2. Hobe Ferris, the batting star with 3 for 4, hit a homer into the RF stands. The Canton crowd wanted Cy Young to pitch, but he had worked the day before. Winters defeated Wright.

Fort Wayne, Indiana, June 22, 1902 – Addie Joss of Cleveland beat Carrick of Washington 6-4. Cleveland catcher Bemis was 3 for 5. Keister had 2 doubles, and Jimmy Ryan hit a triple. The crowd was only 2500.

Columbus, Ohio, August 3, 1902 – Washington beat Cleveland 5-2 before 4500 fans. Carrick beat Bernhard, who was injured and replaced by Otto Hess, making his debut, who was the loser. Ryan and Clarke hit doubles. Harry Bay was 2 for 3, and Keister was 2 for 4 with 2 stolen bases.

Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 31, 1902 – Boston beat Cleveland 3-1 in 11 innings, Cy Young over Addie Joss. Ferris went 4 for 5, getting 2 doubles and a triple. Bradley had a triple and 2 singles for the Tribe. The crowd was about 3500.

Canton, Ohio, May 10, 1903 – Earl Moore hurled Cleveland over Detroit and Mal Eason 6-2. Elmer Flick went 4 for 5, getting the game’s only homer. Carr had 2 doubles for Detroit. Hickman, 2 for 5, played 2B in place of the injured Lajoie. The crowd was nearly 5000.

Columbus, Ohio, May 17, 1903 – Cleveland defeated New York 9-2, Joss over Clark Griffith. Willie Keeler was hitless. Flick was 3 for 5. He hit a triple, along with Bay, McCarthy, and Courtney. Dave Fultz was not in the lineup for New York because he opposed Sunday ball.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 24, 1903 – Detroit, behind Mullin and Deering, defeated Washington 5-4. Townsend lost. Pitcher Al Orth played SS for Washington and hit a double. Crawford was hitless for Detroit. Attendance was 6000.

Canton, Ohio, June 21, 1903 – Boston won a slugfest over Cleveland 12-7 before 6000 fans. Buck Freeman was the star, going 5 for 6 and knocking in 6 runs. Hughes won out over Ed Walker and Gus Dorner, who took the loss. The English-born Walker was 6 foot 5 and weighed 245, the biggest player of his era. Freeman’s hits included a homer and a triple; Hickman had 2 doubles, and Lajoie was 3 for 5.

Toledo, Ohio, June 28, 1903 – Chief Bender of the A’s beat the versatile Joe Yeager of Detroit 7-3 before 4500 fans. Davis, Pickering, and Seybold hit doubles and were all 3 for 5.

Toledo, Ohio, August 16, 1903 – Mullin of Detroit, a native of Toledo, defeated Tannehill and Deering of New York 12-8 before 6000 fans. Crawford was the star with 5 hits, including 2 doubles and a triple. Lush of Detroit also tripled, and Keeler doubled for New York.

Providence, R.I., September 6, 1903 – The Boston NL team beat the Phils 3-2 at Rocky Point park. Willis won over McFetridge. Cooley was 3 for 3 for Boston, hitting a double and stealing a base. Manager Chief Zimmer of the Phils, who was 42 years old, caught a good game, was 2 for 3, and stole a base. There were 5600 fans.

Newark, N.J., July 17, 1904 – The New York AL club played this Sunday game at Wiedenmayer’s Park, with Griffith beating Mullin and the Tigers 3-1. Griff allowed only 3 hits, one a double by Mullin. Dougherty had 3 hits for the Highlanders. Attendance was 6700.

Columbus, Ohio, July 23, 1905 – Boston beat Detroit 6-1, Cy Young over Kitson. Jimmy Collins was 4 for 4. Catcher Criger and Ferris were 3 for 4. Jesse Burkett, nearing the end of his career, was 1 for 4. SS Charlie O’Leary started 5 double plays for the Tigers.

Columbus, Ohio, July 24, 1905 – For the second day in a row, the Red Sox beat the Tigers at Neil Park. Bill Dinneen won over Mullin 7-1 before about 5000 people. Selbach had 3 singles in 4 trips. Ferris hit a homer in the sixth.

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