A glance outside today will yield few reminders of summer days at the ballpark. The sound of ball connecting with bat or the smell of hot dogs on an open grill are buried beneath several inches of frozen snow.
But a new book that documents every know park, field or stadium to have featured a professional baseball game in New York State could provide a hint of summer warmth to come as it elicits memories of departed diamonds, from Brooklyn to Ogdensburg to Buffalo.
“New York’s Great Lost Ballparks,” published in 2022 and written by Bob Carlin, offers 300 pages in meticulous detail of New York’s appreciation for baseball, through city-by-city and town-by-town lists of facilities that once spotlighted pro ball. From the most primitive to the state of the art, some of the “lost” parks remain standing, repurposed for recreational or collegiate games, while others are long gone.
Presented in guidebook format, Carlin separates the old parks by region and lists the North Country’s former pro parks under “The Northern Tier” chapter, documenting ballfields in Watertown, Ogdensburg, Massena, Gouverneur, Canton, Malone and Potsdam.
Other chapters include the New York City Area, The Southern Tier, Western New York State and Eastern New York State.
Each park is listed alphabetically under the city with as many details as Carlin could uncover. For example, information on Massena’s Alcoa Field includes its location (Bishop Avenue), the teams that played there (Massena Grays, Massena Alcoas), the leagues (Can-Am League, Northern League), the year it was built (1916), years of operation (1936, 1940-41) and several “fun facts” about the park (bleachers were made from aluminum).
The book provides more than a page’s worth of information on Watertown’s Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, the site of New York-Penn League teams in the 1980s and 1990s and old Can-Am, Border and North Country Baseball leagues prior to that. But facilities in Canton, Gouverneur and Potsdam that housed games in the old Northern New York Baseball League around 1900 yield only a few lines as little information is known.
Carlin also documents famed past parks such as Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and old Yankee Stadium. The New York City parks fill the first 70 pages of the book and several contain multiple anecdotes. Carlin also often lists how the park met its demise (fire, demolition) and what is located on the grounds now, for example, a shopping mall fills the space of Ebbets Field.
Several of the NYC area parks document the beginnings of professional baseball, going back to the 1850s. Carlin mentions in the introduction how baseball’s popularity began primarily in the Northeast and particularly in New York. Traveling teams then spread the game’s popularity throughout Upstate New York. The beginnings of the first pro league, the National Association, developed in Troy in 1871.
The publication also includes pictures, diagrams and maps of the old parks. Each park listing provides references and also links.
Carlin explains in his introduction how he decided which parks to include, stating: “‘New York’s Great Lost Ballparks’ covers all baseball venues (1) that have hosted (my very loose definition of) ‘professional’ organizations that no longer exist and (2) have passed from use by teams that paid their players and charged admission.”
Carlin also lists African-American teams and women’s teams “wherever possible” in an attempt “to help right prior societal wrongs,” he says in the introduction. He also explains that he was somewhat restricted under the COVID constraints in place when he was researching. He was unable to visit several archive libraries but relied on his own collection of New York baseball books as well as several online sources.
The back of the book includes nearly 20 pages of references.
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