Played Here: Cincinnati
Opened: April 11, 1912
First night game: May 24, 1935
Last game: June 24, 1970
Owner: Cincinnati Reds
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Most Memorable Moments
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
April 11, 1912: The original Opening Day - the Reds beat the
August 23, 1961: The San Francisco Giants hit a record five
home runs in a twelve-run ninth inning to beat the Reds
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
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.
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.
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:
Home Run Leaders at Crosley - Visitors:
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.
field: 360 (1912), 320 (321), 352 (1926), 339 (1927), 328
in left-center: 380
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)
field: 383 (1955)
corner: 387 (1944)
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)
38 (1912), 58 (1927), 66 (1943), 78 (1953).
Center field (incl. canvas shield above fence to protect against street light
glare): (1935 to June 7, 1940)
field: 18 (1938), 12 (1957), 14 (1962), 18 (1963)
on top of scoreboard: 58 (1957), 45 (1967)
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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