Wahconah Park - Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member elyob
N 42° 27.730 W 073° 15.135
18T E 643694 N 4702571
Quick Description: Wahconah Park is on the west side of Wahconah Street between Seymour Street and the Pittsfield Cemetery.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 7/8/2019 8:21:52 PM
Waymark Code: WM10XZR
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
Views: 1

Long Description:
The following rearranged text is taken from the National Register Nomination Form.
A survey of all professional baseball parks was conducted in 1951 during the Truman administration. The only ballpark facing west was found in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which may no longer have a pro team. Perhaps as many as 98% or more of all ball parks are laid out in a conventional way, with the sun south of the first base side. The unusual orientation of the Wahconah ballfield was the focus of Mark J. McGuire’s 1992 article in the Albany Times Union, “Field of the setting sun, Pittsfield minor league park has charm all its own.” McGuire wrote, “In the middle of the Berkshires is a baseball stadium, a park really, where lefties are northpaws, owls hang from the rafters and games are delayed because of perfect weather. … this is one place where the stars do not outshine the sport. The drawing card here is a … field that rivals the charm of Massachusetts’ only other pro park, Fenway. With its enclosed grandstand, press box and old steel pillars, Wahconah is a … stadium that was built to last. It was also built backwards. Almost all open-air baseball parks are built facing east or east-northwest, so the sun sets behind the batters. But for some reason, presumably to offer a view of the Berkshire Mountains, Wahconah faces due west. The result? Blinded batters swing at rumors of strikes. For humanitarian purposes, not to mention batting averages, early season night games are often halted on sunny evenings after the second inning for more than 20 minutes. … in Pittsfield it’s the caliber of the park, not the game, that prompted more than 162,000 fans to come out over the past two years for a 39-game home schedule, many as far away as Albany and Troy. Like Heritage Park, home of the Double A Albany-Colonie Yankees, Wahconah’s grass is real, its outfield wall wood plastered with ads. But while Heritage is reminiscent of a Little League field on steroids, Wahconah is more like a major league stadium scaled down to fit Pittsfield. ‘This is a gorgeous park, a perfect minor-league park’, said new team majority owner William Gladstone, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Board of Directors. ‘There isn’t anything I would change.’ Some of the kids that play through Wahconah go on to the bigs. Most head to obscurity. … [but] they all recall Pittsfield, and the field of the setting sun. … Wahconah Park got it backward, but still got it right.”

The history of the ca.1892 ballfield at Wahconah Park portrays a continuous pattern of the evolution of organized baseball and other large group leisure activities in small American cities that have provided a recreational environment important for community enjoyment. The ca. 1950 grandstand is an example of small town ballpark design whose simple structure and human-scale proportions have enhanced the recreational activities shared there by community people. Together, the ballfield and grandstand have born silent witness to the creative use of the stadium in Pittsfield as a large open-air location for its citizens to join in civic entertainment and to gather for mutual support in a time of need. While the park has played an important role in the city’s recreational history, it has not been a static one. Rather, the services to which the park has been put have demonstrated its ability to remain a part of the living fabric of the city, adapting itself to functions requiring a large open-air arena...

The first event of any kind that took place at Wahconah Park was a baseball game on 9 August 1892 at 4:05 pm between the semi-professional Albany Gises and a hastily assembled Pittsfield team. The “Pittsfields’ ” convincing win that day and in three successive games played on 13 August, 20 August, and 27 August 1892 would forever pair Wahconah Park and baseball in the minds of Pittsfielders. Although Pittsfield’s entry into the New York State League in 1894 was a short lived association that would be concluded after 30 games, the city’s association with semi-pro leagues starting less than two decades later firmly established professional baseball at Wahconah Park.

Beginning in 1913 and 1914, there was a professional Pittsfield team based at Wahconah associated with a variety of minor leagues over the years. Among the more recent franchises were the Class AA Pittsfield Red Sox (1965-1969), the Pittsfield Senators and Rangers (1970-1975), the Berkshire Brewers affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers (1976), the Pittsfield Cubs (1985-1988) of the Eastern League, the Class A Pittsfield Mets (1989-1999) and Pittsfield Astros (2000) of the New York-Penn League, and the Berkshire Black Bears of the independent Northern and Northeast Leagues (2002-2003). On 15 April 1985 NBC’s Gene Shalit hosted the filming of opening day at Wahconah Park as 4,000 fans welcomed the minor league Pittsfield Cubs to their home opener, broadcast on NBC’s Today Show the next morning.

In the early years, Wahconah Park was host to professional African American teams of that era including the Cuban Giants and the Brooklyn Royal Giants who played at Wahconah in the late 1800s. The Boston Red Sox played two games in each of the 1921 and 1922 seasons against the Pittsfield “Hillies”, and again in 1928, with the Hillies winning three. In 1922 Jim Thorpe played baseball at Wahconah against the Pittsfield Hillies, once as a member of the Hartford Senators, and twice with the Worcester Boosters. Lou Gehrig, playing with the Hartford Senators, appeared in five games at Wahconah in 1924. In one, he blasted the ball over the center field fence in a drive that is still a topic of discussion. Charles “Casey” Dillon Stengel, “owner” and player-manager of the Eastern League Worcester team, played baseball at Wahconah Park on four occasions in 1925. One is memorable for Stengel’s banishment from Wahconah Park by the umpire for failing to obey the umpire’s directive to leave the playing field after being called out on strikes...

The first intercollegiate baseball game in history was held in 1859 between Williams and Amherst Colleges, on the corner of Maplewood Avenue and North Street in Pittsfield (NRDIS, 2002). To commemorate the Nation’s Bicentennial, the two colleges recreated the game on 1 June 1976 at Wahconah Park before a crowd of 2,000 fans.

Street address:
105 Wahconah Street
Pittsfield, MA USA
01201


County / Borough / Parish: Berkshire

Year listed: 2005

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Architecture, Entertainment/Recreation

Periods of significance: 1950-1974, 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899

Historic function: Recreation And Culture; Historic Sub-function: Sport Facility

Current function: Recreation And Culture; Sub-function: Sport Facility

Privately owned?: no

Season start / Season finish: From: 1/1/2019 To: 12/31/2019

Hours of operation: From: 12:00 AM To: 12:00 AM

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 2: [Web Link]

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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