Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When Allston was home to a Major League Baseball team

On August 18th, 1915. the Boston Braves of the National League opened the doors to their new baseball palace a mile west of Kenmore Square at Commonwealth and Gaffney Street.

The website describes it

Braves Field was the last and largest of the first wave of concrete-and-steel ballparks built between 1909 and 1915. Owner James Gaffney built a wide open ballpark conducive to inside-the-park home runs. A covered single-deck grandstand seating 18,000 wrapped around the diamond from well down each foul line. Two uncovered pavilions seating 10,000 apiece occupied the areas just past the grandstand up to the foul poles. The jury box, as it was called after a sportswriter noticed during a game that only 12 spectators were sitting in the section, seated 2,000 and was located in right field.

With the advent of the lively ball, baseball became a game of over-the-fence home runs for which Braves Field was ill equipped. So, in 1928 the fences were moved in and subsequently tweaked for years thereafter. After the Braves left in 1953, Boston University purchased the property, converted it for football and changed its name to Nickerson Field, where the B.U. Terriers played football until 1997. Field hockey and soccer games as well as commencement ceremonies are still held there. The old right-field pavilion has been incorporated into Nickerson's seating arrangement. The left field pavilion was replaced by an arena and the grandstand was replaced by three high-rise dormitory buildings. The first base ticket office and the concrete outer wall in right and center field are still standing.

Below is a photo of the scoreboard in the left field section of old Braves Field. The scoreboard made its debut during the 1948 season, a season in which the Boston Braves won their last National League pennant before their relocation to Milwaukee in the spring of ’53 The scoreboard rose 68-feet from the ground and cost $70,000, a hefty price back then. It started the trend that has led to today’s modern era of monster boards with their huge HD displays. When the Braves left Boston, the scoreboard was dismantled and shipped to Kansas City where their ballpark was being made ready to welcome another ball club on the move, the Philadelphia Athletics.

By the early 50's the Braves could no longer compete with the Red Sox and Ted Williams even though the team had won a pennant in 1948. Sadly the intergration of the National League played a role as Boston in those days was not tolerant to people of color. The team would move to Milwaukee in 1953 and won a World Series against the Yankees in 1957.

The Braves were the team of choice for fans living in Allston, Brighton, Newton Corner, Newtonville, Watertown, Cambridge and Somerville due to easy streetcar access.

The right field bleachers still stand today on the BU West Campus and on Gaffney Street you can still see the old ticket and business office of the Braves.


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