Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Dodgers First Home in Brooklyn - Washington Park I

The 2014 Baseball season is around the corner, so Dodger fans can look forward to some new upgrades to Dodger Stadium.  As I had previously reported, the Dodgers home will include expanded outfield pavilions that will now be connected to the rest of the stadium, a seating section overlooking the bullpens and new restaurants.

I think it's fair to say that these upgrades (included improvements from last year) were sorely needed, and makes me wonder how we ever survived a game at Chavez Ravine before Stan Kasten's group.  Then, I wondered about the previous stadiums the team resided in, and I realized, other than Ebbets Field, that I didn't know much about them.

So, I thought I'd share with you my journey as I take a look back at some of the stadiums the Dodgers used to play in.

As a point of reference, below is a quick guide of past Dodger home fields:
  • 1883-1891 -- Washington Park I
  • 1886 -- Grauer's Ridgewood Park
  • 1887-1889 -- Wallace's Ridgewood Park
  • 1891-1897 -- Eastern Park
  • 1898-1912 -- Washington Park II
  • 1913-1956 1957 -- Ebbets Field
*Please note that the dates above may not be exactly correct.  Various sources I found conflicted on this, so consider it approximate.  Also, it appears that the team played at several different ballparks during some season.

The stadium first thought of as the original home of the Brooklyn franchise was at Washington Park I; on the corners of 3rd Street and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.  Do not confuse this ballpark with its reincarnation built some 8 years after the Dodgers left Washington Park I (and located a couple blocks northeast of this field). 

Washington Park I was situated in an area of Brooklyn called Park Slope.  It was bounded by 3rd and 5th Streets, and 4th and 5th Avenues, and still exist there today.  Below is an aerial view of where Washington Park I Stadium once stood.

And below are original drawings of how the field sat on the land, per Brooklyn  The pic on the left was drawn by the teams founders in 1883, and on the right is from 1888.  (Click to embiggen)  The cost of building the ballpark was $13,000.00 in 1883, and it was said to be able to seat up to 2,500 fans in the stands and another 2,000 in standing-only areas (usually the outfield).  Later on, it expanded to seat another 3,000 fans in the stands.  According to, the dimensions of the field were as follows:
  • 335' to left field;
  • 445' to center field; and
  • 215' to a short porch in right field

Also, at the top of this post is a public domain photo of Washington Park I found at Wikimedia Commons.  This is a photo I've seen in the past as a postcard.  The postcard made note that the photo was taken on Decoration Day (the former name for Memorial Day) in 1887, which was on Monday, May 30th, in a game between the Brooklyn Grays and the St. Louis Browns.
(pic via Dodgers website)

Baseball Reference tells me that they played a doubleheader on this day.  Unfortunately, Brooklyn lost both games; 8 to 7 and 9 to 3.  I suspect another photo I saw on the Dodgers website was also taken on this day.  You can see it on the right.

(By C.J. Taylor, 1884)
BTW, during the winter the field was flooded into a pond and frozen over for ice skating.  In fact, it was here where several baseball games were played on ice as noted by Mark Langill on a blog post at Dodger insider.  See the woodcut on the left.

As for the parks historical significance, Washington Park I Stadium sits on land where General George Washington once led revolutionary forces against the British in the Battle of Long Island (also known as the Battle of Brooklyn).  This was the first battle after the states declared their independence.

A house, once called Vechte-Cortelyou House (today called the Old Stone House), sat on the grounds of Washington Park I, and is an important relic from the Battle of Long Island and to the Dodgers.

General George Washington used it as his headquarters prior to evacuating his forces to Manhattan.  As you may know, this was a major defeat for the revolutionary forces as they would eventually be driven from the state of New York after several more losing battles.

The Brooklyn team used that same house as their clubhouse when they resided at Washington Park I, over 100 years later.

Today, the Old Stone House still exist and can be visited.  Here is its website.  The original stone house was destroyed and burned to the ground in 1897, but was rebuilt in the 1930's using original stones excavated from the site.  Also, it was moved slightly from its original location. 

Below is a pic of the Old Stone House; the former home of the Brooklyn franchise and one-time headquarters to General George Washington.
(pic via Dmadeo at Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, there are very few other photos of this old ballpark.  It would be great to see more pics of the stands and its facilities.  If you happen to know where more can be seen please let me know.

In the meantime, check out an old 1888 Joseph Hall cabinet photo of the Brooklyn team that was taken at Washington Park I.  You can see the grandstands in the background.  BTW, this cabinet card is scarce and valuable.  This particular example sold in 2004 at Legendary Auctions at $8,348.00.

Here is another Joseph Hall cabinet photo of the 1888 Cincinnati Red Stockings taken at Washington Park I.  In this photo you get a much clearer view of the stands.

Joseph Hall was a noted Baseball photographer based in Brooklyn, so he naturally photographed many of his subjects at his home teams stadium.  The below cabinet card sold in 2008 at Robert Edwards Auctions at $3,525.00.

Also, 1888 Old Judge tobacco cards and cabinets of the Brooklyn team appear to have been taken at Washington Park, as well. See a couple below found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, here and here.  As you can see, the stands were built into the bank of the park.

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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