Baseball historian discovers photograph showing long-gone Maryland Park, Westport Baseball Grounds site

Baltimore baseball historians take note: A new discovery has unearthed a previously unknown photograph that details the exact location of Maryland Baseball Park, former home of the Baltimore Black Sox of the Negro Leagues.

Research by University of Delaware associate professor of English Bernard McKenna, a Baltimore baseball historian, uncovered the groundbreaking 1927 aerial photograph, which shows Maryland Park’s location on Russell Street, several blocks south of where M&T Bank Stadium now stands.

MarylandParkAerial.jpgThe photograph, shown at the right, was part of a collection of aerial photographs commissioned by the Maryland Port Authority, which wanted views of the city and the waterways that fed the Port of Baltimore. While many of the images were destroyed or lost over time, McKenna discovered this image had been digitized by Johns Hopkins University and made available online.

Maryland Park was located at Bush and Russell streets, on a small peninsula of land where the Wheelabrator solid waste incinerator facility now stands. Previously, researchers thought the ballpark was located just north of the site on Russell Street, approximately where the Holiday Inn Express now sits, but there was no photographic evidence of the structure.

The Black Sox, who played at Maryland Park from 1921-32, were started as an independent club in 1916 and were an original member of the Eastern Colored League, which operated from 1923-28. They played in the American Negro League in 1929, as an independent again for 1930-31, the East-West League in 1932 and moved to the Negro National League for the 1933-34 seasons.

Maryland Park played host to the 1924 Negro League World Series, when the Kansas City Monarchs and the Hilldale Club. Previously discovered photographs from that championship game show the teams lined up in front of jam-packed grandstands.

The Orioles wore replica Black Sox uniforms in a September 2007 to commemorate the the 75th anniversary of the Black Sox’s 1932 campaign, when the club moved to Bugle Field, the mostly wooden park that later housed the Baltimore Elite Giants.

McKenna’s research not only pinpointed the exact location of Maryland Park, but also helped to clarify the location of the Westport Baseball Grounds, which was constructed by Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for its employees’ semipro teams.

South of Maryland Park, across the mouth of the Gwynns Falls, are what appear to be the remnants of a baseball diamond with what’s left of grandstands and part of a wall, extending from the first base line and into right-center field.

McKenna, author David Stinson and others interested in Baltimore baseball history continue to search for a photograph of the Diamond Cafe, the Howard Street tavern owned by 1890s Orioles teammates and future Hall of Famers John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson. Duckpin bowling was reportedly invented at the bar.

Stinson’s Deadball Baseball blog has a more extensive report on McKenna’s discovery here.

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