New ball field for New Haven: The Elm Citys get ready for Howard Avenue

The lay out of the Howard Avenue Grounds, located on the western side of New Haven

The layout of the Howard Avenue Grounds, located on the western side of New Haven

With Manager Billy Arnold working diligently to procure adequate players for the New Havens, the Board of Directors began work on constructing a new ball field.

They decided to lease a field from a party in Philadelphia located near Howard Avenue and Spring Street on the western side of the city. The trapezoid shaped field had a width of 600 ft. and a length of 700 ft. and needed a bit of grading to get it ready for play.

This block between Cedar St., Spring St., and Howard Avenue was a baseball field in 1875. Courtesy of the New Haven Register

This block between Cedar St., Spring St., and Howard Avenue was a baseball field in 1875. Courtesy of the New Haven Register

The directors contracted for the construction of an eight-foot high fence to enclose the Howard Avenue Grounds. They anticipated it would take a day to finish the project. This isn’t a small detail. In the early days of the game, the difference between professionalism and amateurism was often simply an enclosure. With the fence in place (and high enough to deter those unable or unwilling to purchase a ticket), Elm Citys leadership could protect their product. They also were, perhaps, the first professional baseball team to sell advertising space on their fence, a common practice today.

Much was made in the local press of Captain Charles Gould’s first task as manager, which was to lay out the location of the diamond. Home plate was placed by the Howard Avenue railroad bridge. The bases were laid out on a diagonal line with the corner of Sperry and Cedar Street and the bridge. “This will place the nine on the field with the run in the eyes of the first baseman only,” according to the Daily Palladium. The paper didn’t note that Gould, as first baseman and by far the most experienced player on the team, would be dealing with the difficulty of the sunlight.

The ownership intended to build 1,200 seats along Howard Avenue for the general customers, and a grandstand for “season ticket holders and reserved seats for ladies” behind home plate, adding capacity for 600 higher priced seats.

The final major project intended for the site was the creation of a rudimentary press box furnished with the 19th century version of Twitter – a telegraph machine happily provided by one J. Murray Fairchild, the manager of New Haven’s Western Union telegraph office.

The device used to send game results to newspapers across the country in real time

The device used to send game results to newspapers across the country in real time

There was a railroad terminus near the field, a selling point for team ownership who also believed that if they could changed the train schedule slightly it would be possible to draw fans (although that was not the term used for baseball patrons at that time) from as far away as Bridgeport.

New_york_new_haven_hartford

In addition to the ticket revenue from the ball games, Elm Citys ownership intended to install a quarter mile race track to go around the diamond “for the purpose of giving during the season a class of races similar to those which have been so popular at Barnum’s Hippodrome the past winter,” the Palladium said. “A prominent horse man in New York has made an offer for the grounds for a meeting of three days during the summer.”

Barnum's Hippodrome in New York City

Barnum’s Hippodrome in New York City

However, despite the best intentions of the Elm City board of directors, the club would not see its new home for another month, well after the season begins.

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