Wesleyan Academy Baseball Field, Wilbraham Mass

The baseball field at Wesleyan Academy (today Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, probably around 1900.  Image courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The field in 2015:


These photos show the same field as the one in this post, just from a different angle.  The historic image here was probably taken at a later date; the one in the other post dates to the early 1890s at the absolute latest, while this one is probably about 10 years later.  This game certainly seems to have attracted a bigger crowd, although obviously the game itself has not started yet – if nothing else, the table sitting on the first base line should give that away.

Wesleyan Academy is now Wilbraham & Monson Academy, and the field is still there, although today it is used for soccer and lacrosse.  The three houses in the background are also still there, and are part of the academy campus.  From left to right, they are: the 1854 Morrow House, the c.1814 Brewer House, and the 1878 Winchester House.  Like most of the other buildings on campus, they are well-preserved, and they make up part of the Academy Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places site.

Wesleyan Academy Baseball Game, Wilbraham Mass

A view of a baseball game in progress at Wesleyan Academy (today Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The field in 2015:


The first photo is a rather remarkable scene showing an early baseball game.  Most 19th century baseball photos are staged studio portraits that loosely imitate in-game action (see this photo from the Library of Congress website, where the string holding the ball is clearly visible and it looks more like a magic levitating trick than anything one might encounter at a baseball game), so it is fairly rare to see real, in-game action from the 1800s.  This particular photo was taken no later than 1892, the year it was published, and no earlier than 1878, when the house on the far left was built.  Most likely though, it was probably taken shortly before publication.

By the time that the photo was taken, the game of baseball was well established as the most popular sport in the country, at both the professional and amateur levels.  For the most part, the game 125 years ago wasn’t all that different from baseball today – this scene is instantly recognizable as a baseball game.  However, there was one last major change in the rules that happened a few years after this photo was taken.  A close examination of the photo shows that the pitcher is standing on flat ground, and appears closer to home plate than in modern baseball.  Prior to 1893, the pitcher released the ball 55.5 feet from home plate, and stood on flat ground rather than a raised mound.  In 1893, the distance of 60.5 feet was established; this remains the same today, and was such a major change that many baseball historians consider 1893 to be the beginning of modern baseball.

I don’t know which team is the home team, but this was taken at what was once Wesleyan Academy, and is now Wilbraham & Monson Academy.  My great grandfather attended the academy in the late 1880s, and I don’t know whether he played baseball there, but depending on the exact date of the photo, he could easily be among the players or spectators – some of whom seem to be standing dangerously close to the batter.  Today, the campus has grown significantly since the first photo was taken, but the field is still there and is still used for sports, although baseball is now played on a different field on the other side of the campus.

Hampden Park from Round Hill, Springfield, Mass

The view of Hampden Park from the North End of Springfield, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated (1882).


The view in 2014:


The location of the second photo isn’t exact – the actual location would be somewhere in the southbound lane of Interstate 91, so I did the next best thing; I took the 2014 photo from a bridge over the highway.  Either way, not much remains the same today.  The railroad tracks are still there, as is the Connecticut River, but otherwise it’s a completely different scene.  Hampden Park is visible in the distance; this was home to bicycle races, minor league baseball games, and even the occasional college football game.  A more in-depth history of the park is explained in this post.

In later years, the part of Hampden Park closest to the North End Bridge became Pynchon Park, and was the home of several different minor league teams until the 1960s.  Today, the former site of Hampden Park is now primarily industrial, with warehouses and other facilities on the spot where Harvard and Yale used to play early college football games.  Pynchon Park is now a Pride station, and can barely be seen through the trees just to the left of the billboard on the right-hand side of the photo.

Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston (3)

Half of a panoramic view of Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, in 1903. The other half can be found here. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The scene in 2014:


The photo at the top is the other half of the panorama from this post, and it shows the home plate area of Huntington Avenue Grounds, the original home field of the Boston Red Sox.  However, when the first photo was taken during a game against the Chicago White Sox on September 22, 1903, they weren’t the Red Sox; they were the Boston Americans, and in their third year of existence they had already clinched the pennant and were soon to face (and defeat) the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series.

According to the research conducted by the writer of the Baseball Researcher blog, the batter in this scene is Nixey Callahan, Chicago’s manager and third baseman.  Behind him is Boston catcher Duke Farrell, a journeyman catcher who had been playing in the majors since 1888, and was now playing in his fourth major league.  He only played in 17 games in 1903, and was likely starting in order to allow the regular catcher, Lou Criger, to rest now that the pennant race was no longer in doubt.  Behind Farrell is the umpire, Frank O’Laughlin; he would go on to umpire in the American League until 1918, when he died from the Spanish Flu that spread across the world that fall.

Today, no distinguishing features from the 1903 photo remain today, and Northeastern University is now located on the site of the former field, where the team played until after the 1911 season.  The actual location of home plate is now located underneath Churchill Hall, the building seen in the 2014 photo.

See the Library of Congress site for the complete panorama.

Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston (2)

Half of a panorama view of Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, in 1903.  The other half can be found here. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The scene in 2014:


A lot has changed at the site of the original home of the Boston Red Sox. It seems as though they have played at Fenway Park for forever, and for good reason – they just finished their 102nd season there.  However, before Fenway Park, before Babe Ruth, and even before the name Red Sox, there was Huntington Avenue Grounds.  The first photo was taken on September 22, 1903, and is one half of a panoramic photo (see this post for the other half) that was taken by the studios of Elmer E. Chickering, a Boston photography company.  See the “then” photo in this post for a very similar scene showing pitching legend Cy Young.

Thanks to the efforts of the writer of the Baseball Researcher blog, we are able to identify not only the day that the photograph was taken, but also the players who appear in it.  Boston’s pitcher is Tom Hughes, an average pitcher who was in the midst of what would be a career year for him, with a 20-7 record.  The first baseman is Candy LaChance, with second baseman Hobe Ferris visible to the left, and right fielder Buck Freeman can be seen in the distance.  Freeman would go on to lead the American League in home runs, with 13, and Ferris came in third, with nine.

Boston would end up losing this particular game, 7-0, but it probably didn’t phase the team too much – they were up 14.5 games with eight left to play, so they had already clinched the American League pennant and were just over a week away from hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates here in Boston for the first World Series, which Boston would go on to win five games to three.

Today, the site is part of the Northeastern University campus, but all is not forgotten; there is a statue of Cy Young on the left-hand side of the photo in the distance, in front of the bushes.  It was largely thanks to Young’s pitching that the Red Sox won the 1903 World Series, and the statue made in his honor is placed approximately where the pitcher’s mound once was.  There is also a home plate marker, 60 feet away from the statue, around where this photo was taken.  However, this was not the actual location of home plate – the real location was about 90 degrees to the right, under what is now a campus building.

See the Library of Congress site for the complete panorama.

Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston (1)

Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, around 1903. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The same location in 2014:


The first photo shows the stands along the third base line at Hunting Avenue Grounds and its expansive outfield. The field measured 350 feet down the left field line, and at the time of the 1903 photo center field measured an almost unheard-of 530 feet, which was later expanded to 635 feet in 1908. Beyond center field is the apartment block that is visible in the photos on this post, although none of the buildings are visible from this spot today, and there is no evidence here that a ballpark ever existed. The building that dominates the foreground here is the Cabot Center, an athletic facility on the campus of Northeastern University.