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Capacity: 29,488
Crosley Field, a.k.a. Redland Field

Crosley Field - 1940 World Series

 

Area of fair territory: 104,000 sq. ft.

Area of foul territory: Average

 

Fences: LF to RCF - 18 ft

            Scoreboard in LC - 37 ft

            RF - 10 ft.

 

Dimensions - 1970:

LF foul pole - 328 ft

LF foul pole - 366 ft

CF fence - 387 ft

Power alleys -380 feet

 

      The dimensions remained the same for the life of the ballpark, except for two five-year spans (1946-50 and 1953-57) when a screen installed in front of the right-field bleachers shortened the distance to 342 feet from 366.

Elevation: 550 feet

 

General Information

Who Played Here: Cincinnati Reds (NL)
Opened: April 11, 1912
First night game: May 24, 1935
Last game: June 24, 1970
Demolished: 1972

 

Architect: Harry Hake
Owner: Cincinnati Reds
Cost: $225,000

 

 

 

 


History

 

     Crosley Field was a green-carpeted oasis in the middle of the brick and smokestack-filled desert that is Cincinnati's deteriorating West End.  The cozy, tightly carved ballpark fitted snugly into its neighborhood, the angled streets that surrounded it, oozing charm and personality, simplicity and intimacy from its every nook and cranny.  The famous flag pole in left center field, for instance, was 82 feet high, and was in play - occasionally it would knock back a monster shot that would have been a home run anywhere else.  Buildings marked "Merchants Paper" and "Lackner Neon Signs" stood sentry over the center and right-center field walls on Western Avenue.  Billboards dotted the right-center field skyline, hawking attractions and products like Coney Island, Hudepohl Beer ("Get moody with Hudy"), Shillito's department stores, Young & Bertke sheet metal company, Coca-Cola and Petri wine.

     Crosley Field was an experience that transcended the game - it was about the smells, the sights and the sounds.  It was about superfan Harry Thobe, dressed in his customary white suit with red tie, doing a victory jig; Smitty's Band, Ronnie Dale's organ music and public-address announcer Paul Sommerkamp's voice.

 

Renovations:  To be a Reds fan required patience and an ability to accept change.  Between its 1912 christening as Redland Field and its 1970 farewell as Crosley, no park underwent more renovations - most of them after Powel Crosley purchased the team in 1934 for $450,000.  Its roofed double-decked grandstand was extended from two-thirds of the way down both lines to the left and right field corners, portable seats were installed, removed, re-installed and removed in various areas of the park, home plate was relocated twice, a right field screen went up and down several times and a state-of-the-art scoreboard, with a 7-foot, 10-inch Longines clock perched on top, replaced the old ground-level board in 1957.

     The Reds played baseball at the intersection of Findlay and Western Avenue, on the site of an abandoned bricyard, for 86 years - from May 1, 1884, to June 24, 1970.  Originally, the ballyard was known as League Park, but the old wooden structure burned down in 1900.  A new wooden grandstand was built - it, too, was known as League Park, though it also went by the wonderful name "The Palace of the Fans" - but after Shibe Park revolutionized ballpark construction in 1909, a concrete-and-steel ballpark emerged in 1912 that would become the Reds home for the next six decades.

     Its centerpiece was a covered double-decked grandstand that curved around home plate and extended about 30 feet past home plate.  Covered single-deck pavilions continued along the foul lines.  In addition, a bleacher section in right field seated 4,500 fans - the total seating capacity in 1912 was 20,000.

    As the Reds began winning in the late 1930s, attendance began to pick up, so in 1939 roofed upper decks were added to the left and right field pavilions, giving the park the overall appearance it would retain for the next 32 years.  The Sun Deck was a colorful name for the right field bleachers that were backed by the intersection of Western Avenue and Findlay Street. The bleachers intersected at a point with the center field fence, necessitating a white line to the right of which a hand-painted ground rule pronounced, "Batted Ball Hitting Concrete Wall on Fly to Right of White Line - Home Run."

     Big Ted Kluszewski tested the line more than once.  So did Vada Pinson and righthanded power hitters such as Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick, Gus Bell, Wally Post and Frank Robinson.  But the righthanders were more likely to take aim at the laundry and a small sign, perched above the roof in left-center field, which challenged hitters to "Hit this sign and get a Siebler suit free."  Post was the unofficial suit champion with 16 free suits; among visitors, the champ was Willie Mays with 7.

 

     An old-fashioned touch that never changed was the locationb of the home team and visitor clubhouses: both were located behind the left field stands.  Players had to walk through a public area, which was usually full of fans, to get to the field.

 

Powel Crosley, Jr.: Crosley Field opened in 1912 as Redland Field, but was renamed when Powell Crosley bought the Reds in 1934.  Crosley was a well-known manufacturer of refrigerators, radios and automobiles who was a little bit ahead of his time - in the mid-1930s, he tried to market a small compact car that was not much different from the Volkswagen Beatle that would sweep the nation a generation later.

     Crosley and Reds General Manager Lee MacPhail - the abrasive, brilliant, blustery innovator - were also responsible for fundamentally changing the game for the fans. This was the scene of baseball's first ML night game on May 24, 1935; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt flicked a special switch in the White House which turned the lights on.  Night games were enormously successful - other teams were forced to follow suit despite the opposition from owners and players to playing at night.

 

The Mill Creek Flood of 1937: In January 1937 the park virtually disappeared when a massive flood (known as the Mill Creek Flood of 1937) covered it with 21 feet of water.  Reds pitchers Lee Grissom and Gene Schott posed for a wire-service photo rowing a boat over the center field fence.

 

The Luebbers/Rohr Replica: Crosley Field was abandoned by the Reds for Riverfront Stadium - home plate was transported to the new multipurpose ballpark, and many of the other parts were auctioned off.  The city of Cincinnati impounded towed cars there before it was torn down.  Much of the park was bought by a Reds fan named Larry Luebbers, and he began the task of reconstructing the park - life-size - on his farm in nearby Union, Kentucky.  His version had about 400 seats, the 40-foot incline near the outfield wall that served as a warning track, the 60-foot flag pole from left-center field, the scoreboard, the ticket office and some of the original walls.

     Unfortunately, a fate befell Luebber's recreation that many baseball card collectors are all too familiar with - his mother sold the land and the old Crosley was thrown out as garbage.  Luckily, another fan named Mark Rohr found a few of Luebber's pieces in a faraway dump site, and he began gathering the missing pieces.  Bit by bit, Crosley has risen again - this time in Blue Ash, Ohio, about an hour from downtown Cincinnati - and by 1988 it was substantially revived.

 

 

Ten Most Memorable Moments

 

1. Night baseball - May 24, 1935:  The first night game in Major League history was played right here at Crosley Field, with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt throwing a switch in the White House to turn on the lights.  The Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1, behind the pitching of Paul Derringer's six-hitter.  Officially, there were 20,422 fans in attendance. 

     MacPhail was on to something - night baseball proved extremely popular.  A few months later, on July 31, he sold out a night game with the St. Louis Cardinals, including thousands of tickets to fans from adjoining states - West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.  When their trains were late, Reds management allowed fans holding general admission seats to move down into the choice sections.  When the out-of-towners arrived, shouting matches and near fistfights erupted - it turned out that over 35,000 seats had been sold to the game.  Eventually, thousands of fans ended up standing in the outfield, behind ropes.

 

     Initially, owners resisted the idea of baseball under the lights, and General Manager Larry McPhail and owner Powel Crosley were limited to seven games one against each team - under the 632 bright lights on eight tall towers.  McPhail thought night baseball would provide desperately-needed revenue to the game - and he was right: the Reds averaged 18,000 fans in their seven night games, while averaging just 4,600 in their day games.

 

 

 

 

2. October 3, 1919: Game 1, World Series - The first game of the first World Series that the Reds played in.  Of course, eight members of the White Sox had conspired with gamblers to throw the Series - reportedly, the signal that the fix was in was for Chicago's Eddie Cicotte to hit the first batter with a pitch.  When Cincinnati's Morrie Rath  was indeed hit betwen the shoulders, the pact was sealed, and a flood of money was promptly wagered on the Reds.

     The first two games were played at Crosley Field, and both were won by the Reds.

 

3. October 8, 1940: Game 7, World Series - In a series fraught with emotional overtones, Paul Derringer's pitching brings home the first untainted Reds world championship (in 1919, the Black Sox had conspired with gamblers to throw the Series).  Detroit's Bobo Newsom won Game 1, and his father - who had come up from South Carolina to see the game - unexpectedly died the following morning.  Grief-stricken, Bobo dedicated the rest of the Series to his father, and won Game 5 with a marvelous three-hit shutout.  But in Game 7, pitching on one day's rest, Derringer edges him, 2-1.

     The Reds had their own emotional overhang - catcher Willard Hershberger cpommitted suicide at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston on August 3.  He left no note, so it wasn't entirely clear why he slit his own throat with his roommate's razor, but he had suffered from severe depression for quite some time.

 

4. May 27, 1937: Left-hander Carl Hubbell stops the Reds in a rare relief appearance and is credited with the victory - it is his 24th straight win (still a record).

 

5. June 11, 1935: Johnny Vander Meer pitches the first of two consecutive no-hitters, beating Boston 3-0 - the feat has never since been duplicated.

 

6. June 14, 1965: For 10 innings, Cincy's Jim Maloney was unhittable, literally.  But he loses the no-no and the game in the eleventh - on a home run by Mets outfielder Johnny Lewis (who had previously struck out three times).  Maloney struck out 18 hitters on this day.

 

7. April 11, 1912: The original Opening Day - the Reds beat the Cubs, 10-6.

 

8. August 23, 1961: The San Francisco Giants hit a record five home runs in a twelve-run ninth inning to beat the Reds 14-0.

 

9. June 22, 1947: Cincinnati's Ewell Blackwell almost duplicated Johnny Vander Meer's feat of two straight no-hitters.  After blanking the Boston on June 18, he goes 8 and 1/3 innings against the visiting Dodgers, before Brooklyn's Eddie Stanky singles in the ninth.

 

10. June 10, 1944: 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall, the youngest player in major league history, pitches two thirds of the ninth inning for the Reds - he gives up five runs on five walks, two hits (both singles), and a wild pitch.  The final score is: St. Louis Cardinals 18, Cincinnati Reds 0.

 

 

Analysis


     Here's a clue as to how difficult it was to hit a home run in old Redland Park: in 1920, the Reds pitchers gave up a grand total of one dinger to opposing hitters in their home park.  Back then, the park was symmetrical - it was 360 feet down each line and 420 feet to center.  The park was open almost a decade before Pat Duncan hit the first over-the-fence home run, on June 2, 1921.  And in 1924, just 6 home runs were hit at Crosley, while the Reds and their opponents smacked 60 in the Reds' road games.

 

     In 1938, the park was altered - home plate was moved twenty feet closer to center field, resulting in the following dimensions: 328 feet to left, 387 feet to center, and 366 to the right field foul pole.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Crosley played as a significant hitter's park, boosting run production by 15%, and home runs by substantially more than that.  Even more runs would have scored if the area of foul territory behind home plate hadn't been increased substantially - the backstop was extended to 78 feet in back of the plate in 1953, about 18 feet more than average and 12 feet longer than it had been.

     The ballpark didn't have a warning track, but like many old time parks it had an incline near the outfield wall to slow down outfielders as they chased fly balls.  The ground sloped upwards in left field - and to a lesser extent left-center - such that the although the left field fence was 14 feet high, the top of th efence was 18 feet higher than home plate.  Originally, the incline was only in left, but in 1936 it was extended from foul pole to foul pole.  The incline was both a conversation piece and a source of vituperation for outfielders - on May 28, 1935, Babe Ruth (then at the end of his career) tripped on the incline while chasing a fly ball and fell on his face.  He left the field, cursing, and retired a few days later.

 

     A laundry, the Superior Towel & Linen Service, covered much of the left field wall on York Street, providing an inviting target for righthanded power hitters until the area was cleared after the 1960 season to make room for parking.  Through the constant makeovers, Crosley retained its irregular dimensions.  After 1938, the left field foul pole measured 328 feet, center was a friendly 383 and the right field line was a whopping 366, except for two periods when seats were installed in front of the Sun Deck bleachers, cutting the distance to 342.  The so-called "Goat Run" was expected to aid the muscular, sleeveless Kluszewski, but his booming line drives seldom took advantage of the fly ball-friendly seats.

 

All-time Home Run Leaders at Crosley:

 

Player Home Runs
Frank Robinson 176
Ted Kluszewski 145
Vada Pinson 111
Gus Bell 105
Wally Post 104

 

 

All-time Home Run Leaders at Crosley - Visitors:

 

Player Home Runs
Eddie Matthews 50
Hank Aaron 43
Duke Snider 35
Willie Mays 35
Stan Musial 34

 

 

 

Park Factors

 

Year Run Index HR Index
1912 81 22
1913 109 73
1914 113 25
1915 106 44
1916 99 41
1917 90 39
1918 97 58
1919 103 56
1920 76 16
1921 99 14
1922 88 29
1923 89 15
1924 95 10
1925 88 26
1926 84 28
1927 97 25
1928 90 28
1929 97 36
1930 78 38
1931 92 14
1932 91 23
1933 98 21
1934 108 53
1935 86 36
1936 94 46
1937 83 31
1938 92 74
1939 101 89
1940 93 106
1941 92 72
1942 99 86
1943 95 65
1944 81 49
1945 87 62
1946 104 129
1947 82 93
1948 111 135
1949 93 98
1950 112 121
1951 99 77
1952 100 67
1953 102 116
1954 112 170
1955 113 130
1956 117 128
1957 118 149
1958 114 138
1959 111 134
1960 99 109
1961 106 91
1962 102 107
1963 108 87
1964 104 100
1965 110 125
1966 134 160
1967 117 141
1968 133 122
1969 99 115

 

 

Location

 

Cincinnati, Ohio: Crosley Field was located in the western end of Cincinnati, at the intersection of Findlay Street and Western Avenue, less than a half mile north of Union Terminal (now the Cincinnati Museum).  Left field (N), York Street; third base (W), Crosley Field Way and the C&O Railroad tracks; first base (S), Findlay Street; center field and right field (E), Western Avenue.

Capacity - history

1912: 25,000 

1927: 30,000 

1938: 33,000 

1948: 30,000

1952: 29,980 

1958: 29,603 

1960: 30,328 

1961: 30,274 

1964: 29,603 

1970: 29,488

 

Dimensions

Left field: 360 (1912), 320 (321), 352 (1926), 339 (1927), 328 (1938)

Scoreboard in left-center: 380

Center field: 420 (1912), 417 (1926), 395 (1927), 393 (1930), 407 (1931), 393 (1933), 407 (1936), 387 (1938), 380 (1939), 387 (1940), 390 (1944), 387 (1955)

Right-center field: 383 (1955)

Deepest corner: 387 (1944)

Right field: 360 (1912), 384 (1921), 400 (1926), 383 (early 1927), 377 (late 1927), 366 (1938), 366 (1938), 342 (1942), 366 (June 30, 1950), 342 (1953), 366 (1958)

 

Backstop: 38 (1912), 58 (1927), 66 (1943), 78 (1953).

 

Fences - history

Center field (incl. canvas shield above fence to protect against street light glare): (1935 to June 7, 1940)

Left field: 18 (1938), 12 (1957), 14 (1962), 18 (1963)

Clock on top of scoreboard: 58 (1957), 45 (1967)

Left-center to right-center: 18 (1954), 14 (1962), 13.5 (1963), 23 (9.5 plywood over 13.5 concrete, 1965) 

Right field: 7.5 (4.5 wire above 3 concrete, 1938), 7.5 (4.5 wire above 3 wood, 1942), 10 (7 wire above 3 wood, 1949), 12 (9 wire above 3 concrete June 30, 1950), 10 (7 wire above 3 wood, 1953), 10 (7 wire above 3 concrete, 1958), 9 (6 wire above 3 concrete, 1959)

Flagpole in left-center: 82, in play.

 

Fun Facts

  • The park was known as Redland Field from 1912 to 1933.
  • Scene of the first major league night game (vs. Phillies) on May 24, 1935.
  • In January 1937 Mill Creek flooded, covering the playing field with 21 feet of water.
  • The press box was erected in 1938.
  • Largest crowd ever: 36,691 on April 27, 1947.
  • Both home and visitor clubhouses were located behind the left-field stands.
  • After Crosley Field was demolished, Dalton Street was extended through the site of the former ballpark.
  • A business park occupies the site of Crosley Field and the parking lots that surrounded it.  Many of the businesses proudly display authentic red deats on their front lawn.
  • A plaque on a stone pedestal was placed near the corner of Findlay and Western in 1998 to commemorate Crosley Field.  The terrace that went up to meet the walls is still partially visible, half-covered with pavement.
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