Thorn: Before the Polo Grounds, New York’s first ballpark was built for women’s baseball

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on May 20, 2019:

While baseball had been played at open grounds in Manhattan since the 1820s — notably at Madison Square by the Knickerbockers and the Gothams — no one had thought to construct an enclosed park with a grandstand: i.e., seats for which an admission might be paid. The first such parks in the region — the Union Grounds and the Capitoline — were converted from skating ponds in Brooklyn in the 1860s. (Brooklyn was a city separate from New York until merging with it in 1898.)

Then in 1879 a ramshackle ballpark, built especially for women to play baseball — went up near where Bloomingdale’s department store is situated today. One year later, entrepreneurs built the first Polo Grounds at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.

For some of the material below I rely upon Baseball 1845–1881: From the Newspaper Accounts, self-published by Preston D. Orem in 1961. Other material derives from my own Baseball in the Garden of Eden and my storehouse of baseball imagery.

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Originally published: May 20, 2019. Last Updated: May 20, 2019.