January 20, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Crosley Field crazy update!

Crosley Field

Almost eleven years after the last such update, the Crosley Field diagrams are now 100% up to my highest standards of accuracy and detail. Separate brand-new diagrams for the upper and lower decks show the positions of the structural beams and entry portals, which are important benchmarks for getting other details just right. Everything was going smoothly and I thought I was all done three days ago, but then I noticed a small discrepancy that almost drove me crazy, as I will explain below. Once again, several straight days and nights of photographic scrutiny and pixel-tweaking finally paid off with a worthwhile result.

Right off the bat (!), you'll probably notice the inclusion of peripheral fences and buildings such as the clubhouses where the two teams went to shower after the games. Another obvious difference is the fact that the rear portion of the grandstand consists of distinct line segments rather than a continuous curve. Crosley Field was like Fenway Park in that respect. To compare the new diagram to the old, you can roll the mouse over the thumbnail image above, or click on the diagram on that page. (Clicking on the thumbnail above will display the "intermediate" diagram revision of 2013, which I never released because of lingering doubts.)

Among the recent "discoveries" I have made, the original (1912) distance to the backstop was about 80 feet, not 38 feet as reported in Green Cathedrals (2006), by Phil Lowry. That's a rather large difference: more than double! It all stems from the not taking into account the fact that Redland Field (as it was originally called) was much smaller until 1927, when approximately 13 rows of seats were added in front of the grandstand (excluding the pavilions extending along the foul lines). Likewise, my estimate of the backstop distance as of 1927 is 72 feet (rather than 58 feet), and almost the same for the latter years: 73 feet (rather than 78 feet). It remains an open question exactly when they added extra rows of seats in front of the pavilions. Based on the drawings I have seen, I'm pretty sure it was after 1927, but no later than 1935, when lights for night games were first installed.

I also noticed that the inner fence that reduced the distance to right field by about 20 feet from 1942 to 1950, and from 1953 to 1957, was not parallel to the front side of the bleachers. The gap gradually narrowed as the fence approached center field. In addition, for some years there was a bend in that inner fence toward the center field side, so that it intersected with the regular fence at the corner where the light tower was. Furthermore, the flag pole that was originally located near that corner was moved toward the scoreboard left of center field in 1939, more or less. By 1942 it was enclosed by a small fence, and any ball going into that area was a ground rule double.

Another small detail I just discovered was that the roof did not cover the front row of seats in the upper deck. The roof on the main portion of the grandstand (near the infield) was nearly flat, whereas the roof above the portions of the grandstand extending toward the respective foul poles (and of the single-deck pavilions before 1939) were slightly peaked toward the front.

The angst-inducing discrepancy I discovered late in the process involved the position of the two dugouts relative to the diamond. I knew that the foul territory was bigger on the first base side than on the third base side, but the extended baselines intersected the dugouts at the wrong position. Did I need to reposition the whole grandstand to make it right? Fortunately, no. I discovered that the third-base side dugout was about 10-12 feet farther from the corner of the backstop than the one on the first-base side. Problem solved!

Another trivial discovery late in the process was that there was no sidewalk at all behind the left field wall! You can see this in the "the site today" diagram, which shows that York Street was virtually flush against the stadium. There was probably nothing more than a curb and gutter.

As for the diagrams themselves, they now include the height of the outfield wall and the grass slope in front of them, as well as the huge "L"-shaped wall near the right field foul pole. Just for the heck of it, I also included a football diagram variant, since they did play semi-professional football at Crosley Field for a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It is purely conjectural, however, as I have never seen such a photograph or text description of the gridiron layout. (And speaking of football, those were quite dramatic and controversial NFC and AFC championship games today, weren't they?)

In my haste to finish rendering diagrams over the past few months, I have neglected to calculate revised estimates of fair and foul territory. I just did so for Crosley Field, and fair territory comes out to 106,700 square feet, the same as before. Foul territory is now 30,400 rather than 31,300 square feet, but that may go back up again if I get a clearer view of the right field corner, which is a bit of a mystery.

It was a bit nostalgic for me to read about the stadium page upgrades on that 2008 blog post mentioned at the top. Believe it or not, this leaves only four stadiums remaining on my diagram update priority list: Griffith Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Olympic Stadium, and Forbes Field! I currently plan to make Forbes Field my last one, but I'm famous for changing plans, so who knows? In any case, I'm getting ready for a big celebration when all that is over and done with...

Stadium upgrades: 1920s-1940s

It is curious that, whereas Crosley Field was the last of the Classic Era and Early Modern ballparks (1909-1932) to undergo a major expansion (1939), it was nevertheless the very first one to have light towers installed for night games (1935). This made for an awkward situation when they began the expansion work, as the light towers that had just been built on top of the single-decked pavilions along the first and third base sides had to be removed before construction began.

The table below compares when the expansions and light tower installations took place at the 15 stadiums in this group, in order of when the first major expansion occurred. It includes alternate names in cases where the changes took place while a different name was in use. (Baker Bowl is excluded from this listing, as it was not expanded significantly during this period, and never had lights installed.) Crosley Field was called "Redland Field" until 1934, when manufacturing entrepreneur Powell Crosley bought the team and stadium. It was at his initiative that major league baseball embarked on the new era of night games under the lights.

Stadium name When was it EXPANDED? When were LIGHTS installed?
League Park 1920 * NA
Griffith Stadium 1921, 1924 *, 1925 1941
Polo Grounds 1923 1940
Wrigley Field 1923 *, 1928, 1938 * 1988
Shibe Park 1925 1939
Forbes Field 1925 1940
Sportsman's Park 1926 1940
Navin Field / Briggs (Tiger) Stadium 1926, 1938 1948
Comiskey Park 1927 1939
Yankee Stadium 1928, 1938 1946
Ebbets Field 1932 1938
Fenway Park 1934 1947
Crosley Field 1939 1935
Cleveland (Municipal) Stadium NA 1939
Braves Field NA 1946

* Expansion involved the lower deck (including bleachers) only. All other expansions listed above included the extension of an existing upper deck, or the construction of a new upper deck where none existed before.

The mail bag??

Mike Zurawski let me know about further progress on the "Ballpark Village" across the street from Busch Stadium (III) in St. Louis. See ballparkdigest.com. I need to incorporate that into my diagrams at some point...

Slowly but surely, I will get to the other e-mails I have received. Trying to focus my brain and get these diagrams done and still communicate with normal human beings can get to be a challenge sometimes. Thank you for your patience and understanding!