#TBT: Crosley Field


Every team in Major League Baseball has a home field, obviously; however, some teams–like the Boston Red Sox–have only had one field for the majority of their history. Others, like the Cincinnati Reds, have had multiple places that they have called home.
The Reds started out at League Park (1884-1901), then moved to the Palace of the Fans from 1902-1911. The next season the team got a newly-renovated stadium, called Redland Fields, which was later renamed Crosley Field–after the team was purchased by Powel Crosley Jr. in 1934. The team played here from 1912 until Riverfront Stadium was opened in 1970. The team would remain there until the end of the 2002 season when their current home park, The Great American Ballpark, opened.

In this installment of our Throwback Thursday series, we will revisit the longest-tenured stadium in the history of the Cincinnati Reds–Crosley Field.

The history of Crosley Field begins with League Park. Built on the same site League Park (and later Palace of the Fans) were demolished to make way for the “new” way to build a Major League ballpark at the time–using concrete and steel.

Redland Fields was constructed and began service for the 1912 season seating a booming 25,000 people when it first opened! In the first few years of the park’s existence, there was some success seen by the team as they scored a huge upset in the 1919 World Series, defeating the heavily-favored Chicago White Sox. Of course, if you know your baseball history, you know that this was also the year that the White Sox were accused of a World Series fix (during the infamous “Black Sox Scandal”)–which tainted the victory of the Reds.

In 1934, a man by the name of Powel Crosley, Jr. purchased the team that had been battling mediocrity and falling attendance numbers since their 1919 World Series victory. The team was so inspired by the purchase that they renamed Redland Park to Crosley Field, to commemorate the hope that was found in the new ownership.

In 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, the Reds felt the end coming as attendance numbers fell even lower. To solve the problem the team petitioned the National League to be able to place lights in the stadium, because they believed that more people would be able to attend night games. On May 24, 1935, in front of a crowd of about 20,000 fans, the first Major League night game was played. The game ended in a 2-1 Reds victory.

The 1939 and 1940 seasons brought excitement and prosperity to the club again. In 1938, Crosley Field hosted the Major League All-Star Game, which started the ball rolling for a resurgence. In 1939, the Reds won the National League  pennant, before losing to the Yankees team that featured Joe DiMaggio.  In 1940, the team would return to the World Series and come out victorious against the Detroit Tigers.

By the end of the 1950s, Crosley Field had began to become obsolete. As people started opting for car transportation, rather than taking the train, parking and an uptick in crime around Crosley Field became a concern. The field, however, stayed in operation (with a seating capacity of about 30,000) until 1970–when the team moved to the new Riverfront Stadium.

With the move, the team was able to double the size of the stadium to 60,000 seats, while solving the problem that they had earlier with parking.

The move was also part of the plan to bring a professional football team to the Cincinnati area. Crosley Field had been the home stadium for the first attempt at having professional football in the city from 1933 to 1943. The ballpark also played home for the Cincinnati Tigers (1937), Cincinnati Buckeyes (1942), and Cincinnati Clowns (1943-1945) baseball teams from the Negro Leagues. The stadium also hosted concerts from The Beatles in 1966, plus the Cincinnati Pop Festival in 1970.

Crosley Field was finally torn down in 1972 to make room for buildings and parking lots. Many of the seats, and other Crosley Field memorabilia, were sold off; however, the parking lot that graces the side of York Street still has the declining slope of the left field terrace which plagued outfielders for many years.

There are not many people left that remember the stadium in its years of popularity, but as we learned in the baseball movie The Sandlot, “…heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

And so is the legend that is Crosley Field.