Game Day in Springfield, Mass

A banner in downtown Springfield advertising the Brown-Dartmouth football game at Hampden Park on November 25, 1905.  Photo from Springfield: Present and Prospective, published in 1905.

220_1900c-smugmug

The same view in 2014:

220_2014

In terms of sports, Springfield may be best known as the birthplace of basketball, but it was also once the site of several significant college football games.  Hampden Park, located near the North End Bridge, was once used for Ivy League games such as Harvard-Yale and, as is the case here, Brown-Dartmouth.  The history of Hampden Park is discussed further in this post, and the game pictured in the first photo on that post is likely the game referenced here on this banner, which Dartmouth ultimately won 24-6.

Not much else has stayed the same in this scene; all of the buildings are gone, although parts of the Massassoit House (far left) were incorporated into the Paramount Theatre.  However, the 1890 railroad bridge still exists, although the road grade has had to be lowered to accommodate larger vehicles.  I have re-created a few other photos of this general area, which can be seen here and here.

Hampden Park, Springfield, Mass

Hampden Park in Springfield, Mass, during a football game, probably around 1905. Photo from Springfield: Present and Prospective, published in 1905.

147_1905c spp

The approximate scene in 2014:

147_2014

First, a quick explanation: these two photos do not necessarily match up perfectly. They are both oriented in the same direction, but I don’t know whether this particular field was located here, or further south.  The baseball diamond is visible in contemporary maps; an 1899 city map shows it further south, while a 1910 map shows it at approximately the location of the present-day photo.  However, as I don’t know when the transition happened, I am left only to estimate when re-creating the 1905 photo.

In any case, Hampden Park (not to be confused with the major sports arena of the same name in Glasgow, Scotland) was used for a variety of athletic events for over a century.  First opened in the 1850s, the site, bounded by the Connecticut River, the railroad tracks, and Plainfield/West Street (North End Bridge), was originally used for horse and bicycle racing.  In 1861, it was used as the muster grounds for Civil War infantrymen, and later became a baseball field as well. It was here that in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first openly professional team, played against the Springfield Mutuals.  Cincinnati won 80-5 en route to a perfect 65-0 season.  A few years later, several National Association (the precursor to modern Major League Baseball) games were played here – first the short-lived Middletown Mansfields for a game in 1872, and later, for one game each year in 1873 and 1875, the Boston Red Stockings, now known as the Atlanta Braves, played at Hampden Park.

Later on, the park became home to a series of minor league baseball teams, with the location of the field changing several times.  Most recently, it was located in the northwest corner of the lot, closest to the North End Bridge. Built in 1922 as the creatively-named League Park, it was renovated and renamed Pynchon Park in 1940.  This field was home to minor league affiliates for the Cubs and later for the Giants; from 1950 through 1953, they were the Springfield Cubs, Chicago’s AAA affiliate. The last season of Springfield minor league baseball was in 1965, when the AA Springfield Giants played here; the next year, the team moved, and the park burned down.  The present-day photo above was taken from around the left-field corner of the park, with the former location of home plate being being behind me, around where the Pride gas station and convenience store now stands.

In the first photo above, the field is configured for a football game, likely an Ivy League college game.  From 1889 to 1894, the annual Harvard-Yale game was played here, as Springfield was a neutral site in between Cambridge and New Haven; after a particularly violent 1894 game, known as the “Hampden Park Blood Bath,” the game was suspended for two years, and the number of severe injuries called into question the future of the entire sport.  Later on, in 1905 and 1906, Hampden Park hosted the Brown-Dartmouth game, and it is possible that the 1905 game might be the one in the above photo.

Football at Fenway (2)

A football game at Fenway Park, sometime between 1947 and 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

093_1947-1956c-2Bbpl

The same view in 2006:

093_2006

As mentioned in my previous post, football was a common occurrence at Fenway Park. However, this photo was taken a couple decades after the other one – a couple telltale signs are the right field bullpens and the light tower, which was not added to Fenway until 1947.  I don’t know the exact date of the first photo, or whether this was a college or professional game, but it could be a Boston Yanks game.  The Yanks were a short-lived NFL team that played at Fenway Park from 1944 to 1948, which would put it within the time frame of the first photo, and the scoreboard above the bleachers has “Boston” and “Visitor” as the two teams, which suggests this was a professional team that regularly played home games here.

Football at Fenway (1)

Fenway Park, hosting a football game in 1934. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

092_1934-10-12-2Bbpl

The same scene in 2007:

092_2007

Football at Fenway may seem strange today, but the park was home to several professional football teams, including the Boston Redskins from 1933-1936, and the Boston Patriots from 1963-1968. The top photo was taken during the Redskins’ time at Fenway, but the game in the photo is actually a high school game – Dorchester High against Mechanical Arts High, on October 12, 1934.

The second photo also shows a lower-level team playing on a major league field – here, the Pawtucket Red Sox are warming up prior to its 2007 Futures at Fenway game. In many ways, Fenway Park is still very much the same as it was in the 1930’s, but one obvious difference is the lack of lights – Fenway would be the second to last MLB park to get lights, in 1947. Another change is the fact that the Green Monster was not yet green, and instead was covered in advertisements. Today, the green color is there, but as of late it has slowly been getting re-covered in ads, as seen in the 2007 photo.