Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Dodgers Part-Time Late 1880's Home Ballpark - Ridgewood Park

Several weeks ago, I wrote a little story about the Dodgers very first home field in Brooklyn - Washington Park I Stadium.  Go here to check that out.

Today, I wanted to share some information I was able to find out about their part-time home fields called Ridgewood Park. 

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 seasons.
From 1886 to 1889, the Dodgers played in a couple of other fields that they called home.  It's likely that Charlie Byrne, the Dodgers owner, saw an opportunity to expand his fanbase and sell more tickets by travelling to other parts of New York for Sunday matches.

Two of those parks are commonly known as Grauer's Ridgewood Park and Wallace's Ridgewood Park.  Both of these parks are located near each other in Queens.

The above map is a modern aerial view of where the two parks were located.  Below is a 1915 map that show the locations of the two parks.
(1915 Map of Ridgewood, Queens, via Wikimedia Commons)
Grauer's Ridgewood Park

Grauer's Ridgewood Park and Athletic Base Ball Grounds was one of many parks in New York that flourished during the time.  From what I understand, entrepreneurs would purchase large swaths of land, enclose them and charged patrons to picnic on the grounds.  These areas were well kept and profitable for a time.  

In 1885, George Grauer (who happened to own a brewery) expanded his picnic grounds to include a new 10 acre plot for Base Ball.  BTW, his entire park is bounded by Myrtle Avenue, Cypress Avenue, Seneca Avenue and Decatur Street; in a area now called Wyckoff Heights.  In the aerial photo above you can see the entire park grounds.  The area denoted by an arrow is where the ballpark was located.

The next year, the Dodgers decided to play a Sunday exhibition game on April 11,1886 on the diamond at Grauer's Ridgewood Park. Via Brooklyn
Such places were particularly popular on Sundays- while Brooklyn had strictly enforced blue laws, those in Queens were a little more relaxed, and residents of Brooklyn would head across the county line to drink, or catch a ballgame.
That afternoon, 3,000 fans came out to watch the Dodgers (or the Brooklyn Grays as they were known then), and news reports indicate that they were surprisingly orderly.  So, Charlie Byrne scheduled official American Association League Sunday games at Grauer's Ridgewood Park. 

The Dodgers would only play Sunday ballgames at Grauer's for one season; eventually moving to nearby Wallace's Ridgewood Park the next year.  There are a couple of stories to explain the move.  Charlie Byrne complained about his inability to turn a profit for the move; whereas George Grauer claimed he could generate more revenue by turning the ballpark grounds into a dance hall.  It's likely both stories are true.  I suspect Grauer raised the lease price, so Byrne moved the team a couple blocks south.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any photos available of the ballpark.  According to, the Dodgers played 14 games here.  Another source (Green Cathedrals by Philip Lowry) claimed the Dodgers played 15 Sunday games at Grauer's from May 2 to September 19, 1886.
Wallace's Ridgewood Park

Wallace's Ridgewood Park is located a couple of blocks south of Grauer's Ridgewood Park.  It was operated by William W. Wallace, who was secretary of the Ridgewood Athletic Association.  It is bounded by Wyckoff Avenue, Halsey Street, Irving Avenue and Covert Street.  Also, a railroad ran through the northern portion of the park.  As a result, the northern portion was used as picnic grounds, and the southern portion became the ballpark.

In the below map you can see where the grandstands were located.
(Sanborn maps 1888, via Brooklyn
In 1887, the Dodgers moved their Sunday ballgames to Wallace's Ridgewood Park, and remained there for three seasons.  According to, they played a total of 49 games there.

Per Brooklyn
The finest sequence for the Brooklyns at Wallace's Grounds took place on successive Sundays - May 20 and 27, 1888. First, Bob Caruthers pitched to the minimum 27 batters- allowing two hits but forcing a double play and benefiting from a man caught stealing - in defeating Kansas City 9 to 0. Seven days later, Adonis Terry did even better and pitched a no-hitter against Louisville before 4,872 fans. Four errors were made by Brooklyn, but Terry kept the shutout. The Brooklyns eked out a 1-0 lead in the sixth, and finally broke things open in the eighth to win 4 to 0 in "the finest exhibition of ball playing ever seen on the field since the park was opened."
After the Dodgers left in 1889 the grounds were used by the Brooklyn Gladiators of the American Association (they came to be after the Dodgers moved to the National League in 1890), the New York Highlanders (Yankees) for some exhibition games, various semipro ballclubs, the Negro League Royal Giants, soccer matches and football games.

Of special note, the highlanders (Yankees) signed a contract to play official American League games here in 1904, but the Brooklyn franchise claimed territorial rights.  As a result, the Yankees never played actual official Major League games here.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any period photos available of this ballpark.  Below is a 1922 photograph of the grandstands of Wallace's Ridgewood Park.
(pic via Wikimedia Commons, photo in public domain, taken by Eugene L. Armbruster)

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