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League Ball Park 1924
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
This wonderful aerial photograph of League Ball Park was taken by east coast photographer Hamilton Maxwell for the News -Sentinel, and published in their rotogravure section on February 23, 1924.
According to research by Bill Griggs and Jim Nitz for the Society for American Baseball Research, this low lying flood plain called the “thumb” which was created by the St. Mary’s River and is now known as Headwaters Park, was first developed as a baseball venue in the
spring of 1883 with a grandstand constructed that would hold 1,500 fans and included room for another 500 standing (center of map - #24). This area is where formerly circuses visiting the city had annually pitched their tents.
The grandstand location was east of Calhoun Street on the “Jailhouse Flats”, the area so named as it was across from the city’s first jail, and where public hangings took place up until the early 1880’s. Through the years, the grandstands were rebuilt and expanded a number of times as the result of the popularity of baseball, condition of the venue, and damage incurred during the 1913 flood during which the entire area was underwater. During the 1920’s the League Park grandstands were rebuilt to hold 5,000 fans. Suspected arson later leveled the structure to the ground in July of 1930 including destroying all equipment and uniforms. Afterwards much smaller grandstands were then constructed holding about 1,500 patrons.
As the New York Central (later Penn Central) ran through Fort Wayne on its way from New York City to Chicago as well as other railroads bisecting the area, Fort Wayne’s large League Ball Park became a common stop off point for major league exhibition games in the 1920’s. The result was that such baseball legends as fence-busters Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and pitcher Cy Young played games against the local teams at League Park.
The 1930’s and the onslaught of nationwide depression saw Fort Wayne sharing the St. Mary’s River thumb with the new National Guard Armory (1930), League Ball Park, and with our own “Hooverville” as hundreds of families lived in shacks
and shanties in the undesirable flood-prone area. By the late 1930’s the tide had turned, baseball had left the “flats”, and commercial businesses had taken over.
The numbering on this map was done circa 1924 by Fort Wayne historian Bert J. Griswold who wrote the seminal books on local history , “The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne Indiana” (1917), and Builders Of A Greater Fort Wayne”
(posthumously - 1926). This hand-notated map is in the collection of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Department and is courtesy of same.
Randy Harter is a local historian, author and the history/architecture guide for Fort Wayne Food Tours.