Ballparks: Huntington Avenue Grounds

Huntington Avenue Grounds

Greetings gung ho baseball traveler. Are you looking for your next baseball destination? Are you unconcerned with time travel and its possible effects on you? If so, look no further for a travel agent. Ben is the name, but my close friends call me Benjamin, or is it the other way around? Sometimes the old memory doesn’t work too well. But, no worries either way.

So, where would you and your family like to go first? Maybe you’re a New York Yankees fan who is looking to visit Hilltop Park back when your beloved Yanks were called the Highlanders. No? What’s that? You hate the Yankees. Okay, okay, settle down, we’re all friends here. No need to rush, take your time, because there really is no such thing as time, especially when one can bend it to their will like yours truly.

Five Minutes Later

All set? Great! What’s the desired destination? Boston. Okay, Red Sox fan, huh? Who’s your favorite? Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski? Neither. Hmm. Wade Boggs or David Ortiz? No, as well huh? Then who? What was that? Treaker? Ahh, wait you’re a Tris Speaker man. And you want to go where? The Huntington Avenue Grounds. Yes, pre-Fenway. Great choice. When and for how long would you like to go? Next month for four days. Consider it done. See you in a month!

One Month Later

And here we are. Welcome to Boston and the Huntington Avenue Grounds. The year is 1909. Tris Speaker’s first full season as the starting center fielder for the Sox. And what a season he’ll have, batting .309 with 7 home runs (good enough for second in baseball, remember this is pre-Ruth, Deadball era) and a 150 OPS+. Look, there he is, roaming about the vast Huntington Avenue Grounds center field that measures 456 feet to dead center. You really had to be speedy to cover that much ground.

The Grounds were built in 1901 and were the first home of the Boston Red Sox in the new second major league known as the American League. Two years later in 1903, the first World Series was held here between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Americans (the Red Sox’s original name). The Americans would go on the win the Series in eight games, due much in part to the pitching of Cy Young who finished the Series with a 2-1 record and a 1.85 ERA. Well, that’s enough from me today. You folks enjoy the rest of the game and I’ll meet you back here tomorrow for another short history lesson about the Grounds.

The Following Day

Hey, what a game yesterday! And your guy, Speaker had three base knocks, stole a base, and drove one in. Not a bad day especially off of the hurler Eddie Plank. And you got to see the Sox beat up the Athletics. You know those guys from Philly can really play some ball.

Well, glad you enjoyed your first game, and thanks for meeting me outside. I just wanted to tell you a little bit about the construction of the Grounds.  As you know the place was built in 1901 out of wood and concrete. The park’s capacity was originally 9,000, but over the years has ballooned to 17,000 with the addition of bleachers in left field and center field. If you walk with me, we can enter over here through one of the four entrance gates.

Now that we are inside and the crowd hasn’t shown up yet you can get a feel for how vast this park really is. For the first four years of its existence, it was the largest park in the American League. And because of the immensity of the outfield, triples and inside-the-park home runs were more common than in other parks of its time. Also, if you look over to your left you will be able to see the grandstand of South End Grounds, home to Boston’s other major league team the Boston Doves, formerly known as the Beaneaters, and one day will become the Atlanta Braves.

Looks like batting practice is about to start. Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker of the Athletics should be fun to watch. Hopefully, for the Sox’s sake, they’ll get all of their hits out of the way before the game. Tomorrow is a day off, so enjoy the city and I’ll see you back here on Saturday for the conclusion of the series against Philly. Enjoy!

Last Day of Vacation

Well, you can’t win them all, but it’s always fun to watch a pitcher’s duel. Also, you got to see your guy hit a three-bagger and steal a base. Man, Speaker has some wheels, doesn’t he? I hope the city has treated you well.

Let’s head inside and find your seats. We have time to talk a little bit more about the Grounds before the game. Did you know that the Huntington Avenue Grounds was built on a grassy field that frequently hosted the circus? The field was also known to host Buffalo Bill’s traveling Wild West Circus. And that smell that you are surely enjoying is a mixture of coal smoke coming from the railyards over there and the chemical smell coming from the United Drug Company over there. Don’t worry, any effects on your lungs, if any, will be long-term and nothing immediate to worry about. Other businesses within walking distance of the Grounds are a couple of breweries, a warehouse, and a pickle factory.

And speaking of pickles, lunchtime approaches as well as game time. Enjoy your final game and I’ll meet you at the cosmic time travel trolley for the, let’s hope, smooth ride back to the 21st Century.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, David Ortiz, Tris Speaker, Cy Young, Eddie Plank, Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker