Posts tagged John McGraw

John McGraw’s and Wilbert Robinson’s Former Baltimore Homes Damaged By Fire

Chances are most people who live in the 2700 block of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland, have no idea that the two houses on their block that caught on fire on February 7th were once owned by two future baseball Hall of Famers, John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson.

2700 Block of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Where Wilbert Robertson and John McGraw Once Lived

2700 Block of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Where Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw Once Lived

McGraw and Robinson lived next door to each other at 2738 (McGraw) and 2740 (Robinson) St. Paul Street.

2738 and 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Where Wilbert Robertson and John McGraw Once Lived

2738 and 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Where John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson Once Lived

Both McGraw and Robinson played for the world champion Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s, when the team was a National League affiliate.Both players also were partners in the Diamond Cafe, located just two miles south of their homes, at 519 Howard Street in Baltimore. The Diamond is considered one of the first sports bar in the country.

Baltimore Orioles, 1897, John McGraw at bottom left  (laying down) and Wilbert Robertson second row, third from right

Baltimore Orioles, 1897, John McGraw, at bottom left (laying down) and Wilbert Robinson, second row, third from right

Robertson bought his house at 2738 St. Paul Street in 1898. McGraw bought the adjoining house at 2740 that same year. Robinson lived in the house with his wife and children. McGraw lived next door with his first wife, the former Minnie Doyle, and McGraw’s brother Mike. See The Real McGraw, by Mrs. John J. McGraw (p 112), The houses were located only two blocks north and four blocks east of the Orioles home ballpark, Union Park.

Rear of Row Houses at 2740 and 2738 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Former Homes of Wilbert Robertson and John McGraw.

Rear of Row Houses at 2740 and 2738 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Former Homes of Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw.

On February 7, 2015, a fire broke out in one of the homes and quickly spread to the other. Five people, including two children were injured in the blaze, although none appeared to be life threatening. Robertson’s home at 2740 St. Paul Street sustained the bulk of the damage. All of its front windows have been boarded up and the city has condemned the property because of the damage.

Fire Damaged House at 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Wilbert Robertson.

Fire Damaged House at 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Wilbert Robinson.

2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Circa 2013

Before the FIre, 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Circa 2013

Hopefully both buildings can be saved and restored. Although neither house is listed on any historic register, they should be given their connection to two Baltimore’s greatest baseball players.

Fire Damage To 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Forrmer House of Wilbert Robertson

Fire Damage To 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Forrmer House of Wilbert Robinson

Several other homes of former National League Orioles Hall of Famers still stand in Baltimore City. These include Joe Kelley’s former home at 530 East 22nd Street, which is located next to St. Ann’s Catholic Church, where John McGraw married his second wife Blanche Sindall, on January 8, 1902.

Former Home of Joe Kelley

530 E 22nd Street, Baltimore, Maryland (three story tan brick row house). Former Home of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley

A former boarding house where John McGraw and Hughie Jennings both lived also still stands, at 12 West 24th Street (just six blocks west of Union Park’s former site).

Former Boarding House at 12 West 24th Street , Baltimore, Maryland, Where John McGraw and Hughie Jennings Once Roomed

Former Boarding House at 12 West 24th Street , Baltimore, Maryland, Where John McGraw and Hughie Jennings Once Roomed

Another house where Jennings once lived also still stands, but just barely, at 529 East 23rd Street.

529 East 23rd Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Hughie Jennings

529 East 23rd Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Hughie Jennings

As Joni Mitchell once famously sang, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

Former Orioles and Baseball Hall of Famers Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

The past, as seen through these buildings, is with us today. Like Al Kaline’s boyhood home, these buildings are an important part of Baltimore’s history. They should be preserved and their history celebrated. Unfortunately, the passage of time and a lack of vision have  a way of allowing structures like these to slip away.

Thanks to local Baltimore baseball historian Ken Mars for contacting me about the fire.

A Room With A View Overlooking Baltimore’s Union Park

stambroseprogramIt was March 31, 1894, and the National League Baltimore Orioles soon would begin their 1894 campaign, which ultimately brought Baltimore it’s first baseball championship. The Orioles opened at home that year on April 19th with a game against the New York Giants.

A mere 120 years later, on March 31st – Baseball’s Opening Day 2014 – that Championship Season was celebrated by St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at the former site of Union Park, where the National League Orioles once played.

St. Ambrose's Green Room

St. Ambrose’s Green Room

St. Ambrose, whose offices are located at 321 East 25th Street, held an open house  celebrating the reopening of its “Green Room.” Named after one of its founders, the Green Room is located in the basement of the building and provides community space for the furthering of St. Ambrose’s worthy mission.

The building at 321 East 25th Street has great historical significance to our National Pastime as it was once located adjacent to Union Park’s grandstand and its parking lot was once part of the actual playing field. 

The back of the building can be seen in the 1897 photograph below – it is the house with the distinctive pitched roof just to the right of Union Park’s grandstand.

Union Park Grandstand (detail from The Winning Team, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Union Park Grandstand (detail from The Winning Team, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Here is that building today:

325 East 25th Street, Baltimore

321 East 25th Street, Baltimore

I had the pleasure of attending St. Ambrose’s open house as a guest speaker. After the event , I took a tour of the  building, heading to the third floor for a panoramic view of Union Park’s former playing field as seen through the two windows located just below the tip of the roof.

Interior of 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore

Interior of 321 East 25th Street, Baltimore, Third Floor

For nine seasons, from 1891 to 1899, the view through those windows was one of the finest in all of baseball, providing witness to the feats of some of the game’s greatest ballplayers, including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon and Joe Kelley. Indeed, on that spot, the Orioles won three consecutive National League pennants, from 1894 to 1896.

Site of Union Park's Former Playing Field, as seen from 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore

Site of Union Park’s Former Playing Field, as seen from 321 East 25th Street, Baltimore

Today that field is a parking lot, surrounded by row houses and brick garages. But 120 years ago, it was the center of baseball in Baltimore. St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center is proud of its connection to Baltimore baseball history and there is talk of honoring Union Park and the old Baltimore Orioles with a wiffle ball game to be played in the parking lot where Union Park’s infield once sat. Should those plans come to fruition, I will post information on this site.

The 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles As Seen Through The Sporting Life

Union Park and the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890’s play a prominent role in my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, and it is not often that I come across artifacts from the team or that era. When I do, they typically are way out of my price range. But as luck would have it, I was able to purchase at auction recently four copies of the Sporting Life that feature the 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles on the front cover, as well as a page out of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featuring a preview of the Orioles and the New York Giants in the Temple Cup.

The Leslie’s newspaper page is extraordinary for it’s pictorial history of early baseball star including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon, plus several New York Giants who appear in the team photo including John Ward, Amos Rusie, and Roger Connor.

1894 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

The Orioles won the National League pennant in 1894, the first year of a dynasty that would last almost until the team’s demise at the end of the century. The Orioles won three consecutive pennants from 1894-1896. This is reflected in the October 3, 1896, Sporting Life below depicting a Baltimore Oriole player standing next to Uncle Sam on top of the world with the inscription “the world is mine.”

October 3, 1896 Sporting Life

The 1897 season saw a turn of fortune for the Orioles, who lost the pennant to the Boston Beaneaters by two games that year (they came in second behind the Boston Beaneaters in 1898 as well). The May 18, 1897, Sporting Life foreshadows the Orioles fall from the top of the world that season, with a depiction of Uncle Sam presenting a Baltimore baseball player a letter that reads, “Uncle Sam – Some of the other clubs want the pennant this year. Respectfully yours: Uncle Nick.” The caption at the bottom of the page states: “Uncle Sam – Well son, what are you going to do about it.”

May 18, 1897 Sporting Life

The 1899 season would be the last for the National League Baltimore Orioles. The July 15, 1899, Sporting Life depicts Orioles Player/Manager John McGraw, who is said in the caption to be “The brilliant player and capable manager of Baltimore.” Although McGraw would remain in Baltimore as player/manager of the American League Orioles in their inaugural 1901 season and part of the 1902 season, McGraw would move to New York to manage the Giants towards the end of the 1902 season. It was in New York where McGraw achieved his most notable fame, where he is recognized as one of the greatest managers of all time.

July 15, 1899 Sporting Life Featuring John McGraw

On February 24, 1900, when the Sporting Life below was issued, Willie Keeler was still identified as an outfielder for Baltimore, however, by then he had been playing for the Brooklyn Superbas since 1899, alongside fellow former Orioles Joe Kelley, Aleck Smith, and Hughie Jennings. Additional former Orioles Harry Howell, Frank Kitson, Joe McGinnity, Jerry Nops, Gene DeMontreville, and Jimmy Sheckard joined Brooklyn after the 1899 season.

February 24, 1900 Sporting Life Featuring Willie Keeler

Of course it helped that the former owner of the National League Baltimore franchise, Harry Von Der Horst, also owned the Brooklyn franchise, back in the days of syndicate baseball. The Superbas would win the pennant in 1899 and 1900 thanks in part to the contribution of the old Orioles, including former Orioles Manager Ned Hanlon who joined the Superbas at the helm in 1899.

Touring the Lost Ballparks of Baltimore With Author Burt Solomon

Burt Solomon and Terry Hartzell Touring the Former Site of Union Park

As a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan and amateur  historian, one of my all-time favorite books is Burt Solomon’s Where They Ain’t, The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball, ranking right up there with James Bready’s Baseball in Baltimore, The First Hundred Years. Thanks to Terry Hartzell, a fan of both Burt’s book and my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, I had the opportunity to take both Burt and Terry on one of my Lost Ballparks of Baltimore Tours. Our first stop was the former site of Union Park at the corner of East 25th Street and Guilford Avenue, followed by a walking tour up Barclay Street to East 29th Street and the former site of American League Park, which is now a McDonald’s.

Burt Solomon and David Stinson Standing in Front of Memorial Stadium's Former Infield, Now a Youth Baseball Park Courtesy of the Ripken Foundation.

Next we walked across East 29th Street to the former site of Terrapin Park/old Oriole Park, where we confirmed that the 16 original row houses that sat behind what was once right-center field all remain at the site. After walking back to the car, we drove less than a mile from Union Park to the former site of Memorial Stadium, where pieces of brick and concrete from the stadium still can be found amongst the dirt, exposed by the weather.

After bidding adieu to Burt, Terry and I continued on to New Cathedral Cemetery, where four Hall of Fame Orioles are interred (John McGraw, Joe Kelley, Ned Hanlon, and Wilbert Robinson). Our final stop for the day was the former site of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where a young Babe Ruth was raised as a ward of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  The historic baseball site includes the field where Babe Ruth learned to play the game, a building from St. Mary’s dating back to Ruth’s time at the school (the former Industrial Arts Building), and the former St. Mary’s Chapel, which was converted into a school building prior to Cardinal Gibbons High School arriving there in 1962.

I hope to conduct another Lost Ballparks of Baltimore Tour some time this spring. If you are interested in coming along, just send me a comment to this post.

 

John McGraw and St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Baltimore

Three miles north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, at the intersection of Greenmount Avenue and East 22nd Street, is St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

St. Ann's Catholic Church, Baltimore, Maryland

The church is forever tied to Baltimore baseball history as the place where former Oriole and baseball Hall of Famer John McGraw married his second wife, Blanche Sindall, on January 8, 1902.

Interior View of St. Ann's Church Where John McGraw Married Blanche Sindall

St. Ann’s plays a prominent role in two of the latter chapters of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. However, in the interest of not spoiling the the story line, I will leave it at that. For those of you who already have read my book, here is a look at the church described in Deadball.

The Gothic-revival church is constructed of grey stone and white marble.

Side View of St. Ann's Church

The church has two steeples, one soaring high above the church to the right of the front entrance and a second, of lesser height, behind and to the left of the entrance.

The Two Steeples of St. Ann's Church

A pointed stone archway made of alternating blocks of marble and stone frames a set of red painted doors decorated with ornate iron hinges. A simple, yet elegant rose window, framed by a similar stone archway centered above the entrance adds an understated flourish to the front of the church.

Front Entrance to St. Ann's Church

The white plastic lettering of the church’s marquee sign next to the sidewalk announces that the church is “Anchored In Faith.”

Marquee Sign, St. Ann's Church

The reference to “anchored” is a pun, for resting alongside the cornerstone to the right of the entrance way is a large, gold-painted, allegorical anchor once belonging to Captain William Kennedy.

Captain William Kennedy's Anchor

Commander of the Baltimore clipper ship “The Wanderer,” Kennedy prayed for safe return when caught in a storm off the coast of Vera Cruz. He promised to build a church should his prayers be answered. They were, and Kennedy kept his promise, providing the land and money to build St. Ann’s. The good Captain is buried beneath the main floor of the church, along with his wife, both of whom died in 1873, the year the church was built.

Final Resting Place of Captain William Kennedy and his Wife

Behind the church on East 22nd Street is the rectory.

St. Ann's Rectory - The Anchorage

Next door to the rectory is  a three story tan brick row house with a first floor stone. It is the former home of Oriole Hall of Famer Joe Kelley.

Former Home of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley

Joe Kelley and several of McGraw’s teammates were in attendance at his wedding that day, including Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, Steve Brodie, and Hughie Jennings.

Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

In her memoir The Real McGraw, Blanche McGraw noted that St. Ann’s was overflowing with people for the 6 pm wedding, which was conducted by St. Ann’s Pastor, Father Cornelius Thomas, who himself was a big baseball fan.

A “church of baseball” or at least a “church with a baseball connection,” St. Ann’s can be visited on the web at anchoredinfaith.com.