On April 20, an enthusiastic group of baseball aficionados braved the chilly morning air to witness the dedication of a standalone plaque commemorating the St. Louis Maroons’ Union Baseball Park of 1884 to 1886. The park’s grandstand behind home plate was located at the southeast corner of Jefferson Avenue and Howard Street in north St. Louis. The ceremony took place one block south at Jefferson and Mullanphy, where opera chairs extended seating from the grandstand.
The April date was chosen to coincide with the 127th anniversary of the first major league game played at the park that some call the “Palace Park of America.”
Leading up to the official unveiling, the crowd heard comments by Ballpark Marker Committee member Joan M. Thomas, property owner Nelson Reed, Ted Lucas, and Norm Richards, president of SABR’s Bob Broeg St. Louis Chapter. Then, Richards directed Ted Lucas and his father, JBC Lucas III, in the official uncovering of the 24-inch-by-18-inch aluminum alloy marker.
JBC Lucas’ great-uncle, Henry V. Lucas, was the Maroons’ owner and builder of the Union Baseball Park. Moreover, JBC’s grandfather, JBC Lucas II, was president of the National Association’s St. Louis Brown Stockings of 1875, one of the city’s first major league clubs.
Photo gallery: View photos from the plaque dedication ceremony
Today, a large portion of the grounds where the Union Park stood is occupied by Zone Reed Industries. The relatively new cinder block building that houses the company is, coincidentally, a shade of maroon.
A baseball fan and history buff, owner Nelson Reed happily granted SABR permission to place the plaque near his company sign.
In addition to 15 SABR members, Nelson Reed and Ted and JBC Lucas, others attending the event included JBC’s wife, Mary; their daughter, Suzie Echelmeyer and her husband, Tom Echelmeyer; a dozen Zone Reed employees; Clark Reed of Reed Rubber; Ben Hilliker, CEO of Hilliker Corporation, a well-known St. Louis commercial real estate firm; and Roger Webb, son of the late Normal “Tweed” Webb, revered baseball historian.
Following the dedication, SABR members and invited guests gathered at the Lafayette Fire Company No. 1 Restaurant in historic Lafayette Square for a relaxing lunch and friendly conversation. There, Norm Richards gave a short talk about SABR, and invited everyone present to introduce themselves. Then Joan Thomas delivered a brief account of the Maroons and their ballpark’s history, and committee chairperson Barb Sheinbein recounted the five markers placed by the committee beginning in 2006, and culminating with the one at the site of the Union Park. Chapter secretary and former president Jim Rygelski spoke about St. Louis and major league baseball during that bygone era. Then, after a delightful lunch which included baseball-motif cupcakes, the group adjourned.
Originally published: April 22, 2011. Last Updated: April 22, 2011.