Boston right fielder Jimmy Bannon tried to stomp out the blaze when a gust of wind increased the fire in intensity and the 3,500 fans enjoying the afternoon game were forced to evacuate as the fire began to consume the outfield seats and the two story pavilion.
My favorite day of the year arrived last week, Spring Training closed and the first of 162 games that make up a baseball season began. Several years ago we looked at several fires at the Sportsman Park in St. Louis in the 1800’s. St. Louis however is not the only ballpark to become victim of fire; before the Famous Fenway Park and the green monster were constructed there was the South End Grounds in Boston.
Like most construction in the 1800’s it was completely stick build, making it extremely prone to fire. The double decker area behind home plate had turrets with flags flying atop that reminds me of something out of Walt Disney, or a young girl’s doll house.
Early in the 1894 season a fire broke out at South End Grounds that would burn more than just the ballpark. During the 1893 season the ballpark featured seating in center field, however by the start of the 1894 season the seats had been removed. Beneath some remaining seats there still remained remnants with pieces of lumber and wood shavings. Several stories are told on how the fire started, one will tell you it was a group of kids playing under the stands while another talks about a carelessly discarded cigarette. Either way a fire that would devastate Boston began as a small fire under the stands during the 3rd inning.
What started as a small fire quickly grew larger when there was no water close to extinguish the growing blaze. Boston right fielder Jimmy Bannon tried to stomp out the blaze when a gust of wind increased the fire in intensity and the 3,500 fans enjoying the afternoon game were forced to evacuate as the fire began to consume the outfield seats and the two story pavilion. Within the hour the entire facility was burning and the wind was starting to cause bigger problems.
Structures along the street surrounding the ball park started going up in flames, and while the firefighters work to contain the blaze they were largely unsuccessful. A total of over 110 buildings were completely lost due to this blaze.
The park was rebuilt but only lasted until 1914 when it was demolished for a larger ballpark built of newer and safer products known as concrete and steel. The Boston Braves were one of the cities two major league teams, the second the Boston Red Sox called Fenway Park home.
In the early years there were many fire in ballparks and it was after one such fire that Philadelphia’s Shibe Park became the first concrete and steel stadium used for professional sports.
Here is to baseball fans everywhere as we celebrate 150 years of the first professional team who feature ten salaried players in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.