Friday, September 24, 2010

Flint Postcards: Baseball at Athletic Park

Thanks again to Tom Pohrt, who is digging deep into his Flint archives.

Update: According to The Picture History of Flint, Athletic Park was located "near downtown" and opened in 1907 and was demolished in 1955. (Just guessing here but there's a good chance it was replaced by a parking lot. Ha ha.) A photo in the picture history clearly shows residential houses visible along the third-base line.

16 comments:

  1. That is a really old picture. I played a city class B softball play-off game there in early fifties and it was on it's last legs then. A fellow by the name, Mr. Lyon was the keeper of that stadium I believe for the I.M.A. His sons, Tom and Bill were good friends of mine back then. It sure didn't look like that when I played there. It must have morphed into a smaller softball facility. Note the lack of a backstop. In it's hay day, I think the Joe Louis Punchers came to Flint and played there.

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  2. Where is/was Athletic Park? Is this now Whaley Park?

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  3. I believe the Athletic Park was in downtown Flint.

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  4. West and maybe a little north of where the IMA auditorium was located, if I remember right. It was 1952 and I was fifteen years old. Memories fade. The layout was such, that if you hit one over the left field wall, it was headed north. I remember every ball park in Flint where I played and their orientation. I only played one game in Athletic Park. The opposing pitcher was Gene Cheesboro, one of the best in men's softball at that time. He made me look like a fifteen year old....

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  5. Yep, I thought Whaley Park would be a good fit based only on the photo here, but not so. Clearly the stadium was immediately northeast of the IMA auditorium. Check out this ~1936 aerial photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jwilly48519/5029019648/

    The smokestack in the game photo, visible on the skyline, is across the river roughly where the Regional P.O. is now located. The aforementioned homes along the third base line would be the neighborhood north of the IMA property. The flat expanse behind the photo was the river, extended in apparent width due to the use of a very wide angle lens.

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  6. Ah yes, so it was in the general area of AutoWorld. It looks fairly massive, but I'm wondering if you could hit a monster home run down the right-field line and have the ball land in the river.

    And I'm not sure what was in this spot before AutoWorld, but I may have been right when I guessed they tore it down for a parking lot. Or is this the area where the Readmore bookstore near St. Mike's used to be located?

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  7. Since I am not computer literate by any means, I'm not successful with bringing up JWillie's aerial photo with suggested source. This is now a nagging inquiry of interest to me. If you could combine the hitting power of five long ball hitters, they wouldn't come close to the river over right field fence, I'm sure. Some of these old timers who played there are still alive. I will try to contact a couple for their memory of Athletic Park Stadium.

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  8. IIRC, the bookstore was located at the southeastern corner of the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Saginaw Street. There was a street one block east of Saginaw, north of the intersection of Harrison and Second Avenue, and that area was pretty much all businesses with a few houses in the mid 60s.

    Street X ran from Second north to Fourth Avenue, which ran all the way to James P. Cole and formed the northern boundary of Athletic Park. Street X then I think angled eastward, crossed Fifth Avenue, and angled eastward again until it turned northward in line with the current North Street, which now exists only north of Harriet Street.

    So...to finally respond to your supposition...I think when they "tore down the ballfield", that was just the wooden grandstands. I think I recall that area having open softball fields, maybe with "modern" chainlink backstops, in the mid sixties. No new parking lots involved...at least, not until Autoworld was built.

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  9. Thanks JWilly for the link to the great photo. It appears to have been the ideally scaled town at that point in time.

    Examining the picture, I noticed the old Flint High School building in the middle of a block in the southwest quadrant of the photo, and it got me thinking of the 1920 masterplan created by John Nolan, a prominant Cambridge city planner, whose work is reknown as some of the best of the "City Beautiful" period.

    As part of his concept, Nolan envisioned the old high school being replaced elsewhere by a larger building, (this would become Central H.S.), freeing up two square blocks for a grand "town square". At the point where Church St. would bisect this new park, a European style roundabout would encircle a monument to the Great World War called the "Place of the Allies". The square was to be lined by future high profile civic buildings including the new art museum, library, and city hall. Only the federal building was ever built as part of this plan.

    In true Flint style, the Montgomery Wards parking deck eventually became the 'grand civic focal point' at that location instead of the square. (It might be however, that the Cultural Center was a descendant of this overall idea).

    In those heady times for Flint during the 1920s, an entertaining weekly tabloid was published, called "Flint Saturday Night", geared to all things high brow, culturally elite, and otherwise socially distinguished in the world of Flint at the time. Nolan wrote several articles that appeared in this paper explaining his ideas, including the need for an air field, (which he placed in Dewey Woods/Forest Park), depressed roadways at railway crossings, (many of which I remember becoming hopelessly too narrow for modern traffic in later decades), and his propensity for placing parkways alongside urban waterways so that every citizen in the community could share these special vistas, (Boulevard Dr, Sunset Blvd, James P. Cole, and yes 'Nolan' Dr. are some of these parkways that came to be, but many others were planned - even a 'Devil's Lake Parkway' - along every creek in town.

    Getting back on subject, I do believe that the old IMA annex and its parking lot, built in the late 50s, was constructed on a good portion of the old Athletic Park site.

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  10. Thanks JWilly and GaryG. I'm learning a lot about old Flint from this post. Now how about some info on old baseball. What was the rule on wild pitches back then? With the vast expanse behind home plate, runners could probably make it home from first on a pitch that got past the catcher.

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  11. When the ball is thrown out of the field of play with runners on base, they may advance to the base they are headed for plus one. For example, on a passed ball a player on first could end up at third base. Providing he doesn't get thrown out upon retrieval by fielder.

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  12. Excellent post, GaryG. Good stuff.

    As usual, there's plenty about Nolen on the Net...for instance, at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/topics/nolen/index.asp.

    I grew up a few hundred yards from the west end of Nolen Drive and a mile from Sunset Drive, and never knew who Nolen was.

    As to old baseball/softball...I know nothing.

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  13. Is this where the Flint Arrows played? I remember nothing about that team other than from reading on a midf-1950's baseball card, that Frank House and Charley Maxwell played for the Flint Arrows before they became Detroit Tigers. This (Minor league?)team was gone by the time I was old enough to follow Baseball.

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  14. The Flint Arrows was a Detroit Tiger farm team. They played all their games at Atwood Stadium in the Central Baseball league. Which included, Saginaw Bears, Fort Wayne Generals, Dayton, Indians, Grand Rapids Jets,Bay City....Damn! I know all eight and I can"t remember em. I even remember my favorite players. Flint sent a lot of players up to Detroit that stuck. Dom Kolloway,Dick Kryoski, Al Federoff,Dave Jaska,Frank"Pig"House,Earnest Funk and more that I can't remember from late forties to early fifties.

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  15. Early in the 20th century, various well-off, civic minded industrialists and local leaders had wanted Flint to have a good multi-purpose (but primarily football) stadium. A site was chosen...a played-out gravel pit being used as a dump alongside the river, not too far from downtown on the "bad" (west, industrial) side, which could be joined to an unused island in the river where an early-days sawmill had once been located. The land was owned by the Atwoods, who had become rich in the hardwood sawmill days, and they considered it used-up and were willing to provide it.

    At one point, the prospective stadium was described as intended to be the best west of Harvard Stadium.

    Unfortunately, the general population wasn't too keen on the idea of paying a millage for a fancy stadium, the election failed, and the idea stalled.

    Some time later, the same civic minded folks came up with a better idea that would eliminate the need for a public vote. The funds to build Atwood Stadium came from the City selling Athletic Park to a new organization, the Industrial Mutual Association, which was set up by those civic minded folks as a way of providing entertainment and athletic opportunities to the local population--basically, their workers--whether they wanted it or not.

    The Industrial Mutual Association then proceeded to build its eponymously named auditorium/exhibition hall/ceremonial facility/basketball arena, the IMA Building, in the southwest corner of Athletic Park nearest downtown.

    So, the Arrows were really connected to Athletic Park, even though they didn't play there.

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  16. I beg to differ. The Flint Arrows were connected only to the Detroit Tigers who needed a place to locate their farm team. Atwood Stadium was leased for that purpose. It wasn't a home grown team. The Industrial Mutual Association facility was a "God send" as far as I'm concerned. It provided a hub for events taking place within Flint and from without. It hosted about every social and entertainment event that required a lot of seating and a roof over your head.

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