Friday, July 9, 2021

Brewer's Park

The Beck Cultural Exchange Center posted about Baseball Parks in Knoxville.

One of the parks mentioned in their article is Brewer Park, later to be known as Booker T. Washington Park.  In 1920 the Knoxville Giants, part of the Negro Southern League, would play their home games at Booker T. Washington Park.

What was it before then?  The first sporting event I can find is for the Knoxville College football team to host Fisk University in a football game in mid November of 1907.

The Journal and Tribune - November 15, 1907
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The first baseball game mentioned was the next year, in 1908 when the teams of Knoxville College played the YMCA.

The Journal and Tribune - June 8, 1908
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A week and a half later the Colored YMCA hosted the Athens team at Brewers Park.  Pitching for the locals was Beck, presumably James Beck.

The Journal and Tribune - June 17, 1908
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Where was Brewers Park located?  A 1916 city engineering map shows the location at the corner of Spring Avenue (now Lay) and Harrison Street.

1916 Knoxville Engineering map of Brewers Park

In the spring of 1908 improvements were planned for Brewer Park.  A pavilion and grand stand were in the works.  

The Journal and Tribune - May 14, 1908

In mid June of 1908 citizens of Park City filed an injunction against William A. Brewer, manager of Brewer Park, to have the park closed.  The citizens were concerned about the behavior of those congregating at the park.  They were considered to be intoxicated and indulged in coarse, profane, loud and vulgar language and immoral practices.

The injunction was dismissed in June of 1909 because there wasn't sufficient evidence.  Residents then wanted to appeal the court's decision and close the park

The Knoxville City League scheduled games at the end of June, 1908.  These games show that the park was open to white teams as well.

In early May of 1909 the park opened for its second season.

Near the end of July 1909 white fans were invited to attend a game between the Coca-Cola Stars of Knoxville and the Chattanooga Giants.

Brewer Park wasn't only used for baseball and dancing.  In August of 1909 it was announced that the First Annual Fair of the Colored Race was to be held.  Agriculture, live stock, mechanics, and women's exhibits were to be a part of it.  Booker Washington was scheduled to make an address at the three day event.

In the spring of 1910 William H. Brewer died.  He is buried at Freedman's Mission Historic Cemetery (Knoxville College).  The next month it was reported that the sale of Brewer Park from Allie S. Brewer (William's wife) and Lewis Spears to Walter Kennedy was being filed in Chancery Court.

Throughout much of the decade of the 'teens, the park was used for both Colored and city league games, as well as other activities such as the Negro Commercial Celebration (1912), Concerts and Picnics (1914), Negro Masons Grand Lodge 45th Grand Communication (1915), Emancipation Day Activities (1917), Liberty Bond Meeting (1918), and a Fourth of July Celebration (1919).

1920 saw another change at Brewer's Park.  A Negro stock company purchased the park, renamed it Booker T. Washington Park

Knoxville Sentinel - April 29, 1920
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The formation of the Negro Stock Company is too involved to be included in this post.

So, what is on the land now?  Homes.

Location of Former Brewer's Park / Booker T. Washington Park
image from Google Maps

Monday, February 22, 2021

Condon Park of 1904

Knoxville News Sentinel
June 22, 1904

Recently on Facebook David Waite asked:  

I just learned that Ty Cobb once played baseball in Knoxville at a place called Condon Park. Where was Condon Park?

Several commented on the origin of the name and possible locations. From my earlier research I couldn't ever remember a Condon Park.  Could it have been named after Martin Condon, Knoxville base ball player and then team manager/owner?  (Condon was later Mayor of Knoxville from 1888-89.)

Ty Cobb played for Anniston in the 1904 Tennessee-Alabama League. The League was not part of organized baseball, but more of an outlaw league. Cobb started with Augusta that year, but after two games he bailed. [source]

Knoxville, under the leadership of Frank Moffett, was also a member of the TN-AL league.  Well, it was going to be called the Tri-State League, despite the clubs being in only two states.

The new owners of Chilhowee Park and the Knoxville Traction company (Park, Bacon & Davis, of New York)  wanted to upgrade and make improvements at the Park.  New attractions ("House of Trouble", "The Cave of the Winds", and "Helter Skelter"), expand the auditorium, perform upkeep of the miniature railway, and all of the walks and promenades, according to the Knoxville Sentinel of February 17, 1904. 

The baseball diamond will be regraded and made larger and the place will be made an ideal one for all kinds of sports.  [source]

According to the March 12, 1904 Knoxville Sentinel manager Moffett was hoping:

to play at Baldwin Park again this season, but he says unless the Knoxville Traction company builds a line out Asylum avenue, he feels that it would not justify him in again playing there.  The result is that he may select a site on the Park avenue car line, or elsewhere, for the games to be played.  [source]

According to the May 6, 1904 Knoxville Sentinel, the local team would be making use of Baldwin Park, which:

has been put in excellent condition for the opening of the league.  A new grand stand has been built and no longer can the crowds stand on the bank south of the railroad and see the game.  An iron fence eight feet above the old one has been erected which entirely obscures the view. [source]

Knoxville hosted Chattanooga for the opening of the season at Baldwin park where they won by the score of 7-4 in front of 750 spectators.  [source]

By the end of May there were some shenanigans going on, or so it would seem.  The L&N road crew were out on Dale avenue early in the morning, trying to lay new rails so that they would cross the Southern lines.  And part of Baldwin Park, according to the May 30, 1904 Knoxville Sentinel.  [source]

On that same day the Knoxville Sentinel also reported that Moffett's team, as they were heading on a road trip to the south, was considering moving to Chilhowee park for the remainder of the season.  The team hoped to play their first game there on June 16.

(Chilhowee Park) Manager C.H. Harvey said today that the deal had not been closed for the grounds at Chilhowee Park.  All agree it would be a great move for the baseball people and for the park company.  [source]

Just a week later, June 6, the Knoxville Sentinel reported that the Knoxville Traction company and the Tennessee-Alabama baseball league reached a deal that the league would play the remainder of the season at the Chilhowee park grounds.  

The old baseball grounds in the vicinity of the spring will be graded and placed in condition for the games at once.  The grounds will also be fenced in and a grandstand will be built.  [source]

Then, just two days later the Knoxville Sentinel ran a story about A. Anderson & Co., St. Louis contractors, who were awarded the contract for building the baseball park at Chilhowee park.  They were also building the power house for the L&N depot in Knoxville.  [source]

Just a day before the new park was to open (June 16) there was a report in the News Sentinel that work is still being done on the grandstand and the grounds.

S.P. Condon, the contractor, has a force at work grading the hill which skirts the south end of the baseball grounds and will finish his work today.  This hill is being graded in order that the fielders may not be inconvenienced by its steepness.  For the present, the grounds will be fenced in on the west side by an 8-foot fence, while afterwards the grounds will likely be encircled.  The carpenters are pushed for time and are compelled no to do some temporary work.  The baseball diamond was placed in good condition, today. [source]

S.P. "Steven" Condon, former road commissioner of Knox county, was the local contractor for this renovation.

Knoxville News Sentinel
June 16, 1904

Anniston, with young Ty Cobb, did come to play the Knoxville team at the new park.  Here's the box score for the game on the 21st of June.

Knoxville News Sentinel
June 22, 1904

Cobb only went 1 for 5 that day, but his one hit was a triple.  

My best guess is that Condon Park was named, albeit briefly, for S.P. Condon, contractor.  That name seemed to go out of favor.  I could not find it in the local papers after June 23, 1904.  In early July it was reported that games were being played at Chilhowee Park.  [source]

Not only did the Condon Park name leave Knoxville in the summer of 1904, Frank Moffett did as well, taking a portion of his team and relocating to Brevard, North Carolina.  Knoxville was leading the TN-AL league.  It appears the move was motivated by lack of local support.  [source]

Friday, September 20, 2019

Naming the 1909 Knoxville team

Knoxville Sentinel - July 5, 1909

In July of 1909, professional baseball returned to Knoxville.  The Charleston Seagulls, of the Class C South Atlantic League, folded and Knoxville picked up the team.  But what to name them?

The Knoxville Sentinel asked fans for their suggestions.  Following are the names submitted as of July 5, 1909.

  • Reds 
  • Cherokees 
  • Mountaineers 
  • Colonels 
  • Moonshiners 
  • Gray Eagles 
  • White Caps 
  • Red Sox 
  • Billikens 
  • Exiles 
  • Orphans 
  • Pioneers 
  • Skyscrapers 
  • Moguls 
  • Knoxville Knockers 
  • Smokies 
  • Kildees 
  • Gila Monsters 
  • Boosters 
  • Chilhowees 
  • Sentinels 
  • Marble City 
  • Knoxville Reds 
  • Knoxall 
  • Marbleites 
  • Hillbillies 
  • Hoosiers 
  • Volunteers 
  • Marbles 
  • Greater Knoxvilles 
  • League Savers 
  • Bootleggers 
  • Crackerjacks 
  • Carpet Baggers 
  • The Highlanders 
  • The Haymakers 
  • Imperials 
  • Boosters 
  • Marble Hearts
The team took the name Pioneers, although they were often called Orphans in the press.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

1868 Championship of the State

The Knoxville Holstons were the state champions of 1867. They were challenged to play a match for the championship of the State by the Phoenix BBC of Nashville.

Republican Banner (Nashville, Tenn.) - August 25, 1868

A few weeks later they headed west.

The Athens Post (Athens, Tenn.) - September 18, 1868

There is a wonderful four column write up in the Republican Banner of Nashville.  Each play described in detail for every inning.  Too large to reproduce here and probably would violate some spirit of copyright law issues.  I present just the box score.

Republican Banner (Nashville, Tenn.) - September 13, 1868

The Nashville team would come to Knoxville to face the Holstons again later that same month.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

1888 Vanderbilt Field Day

In the spring of 1888, early May to be specific, athletes from various universities in Tennessee, came to Nashville to compete in various athletic and scholastic competitions.  Track and field events were scheduled, as well as am oratory contest.

The highlight would be the base ball games between the Vanderbilt and University of Tennessee clubs.

The Daily American - May 4, 1888

The first day started with field sports beginning at 2:15pm with the ball game to begin at 4 o'clock.

The Daily American - May 4, 1888

Vanderbilt was to be the victor in the first game, winning 9-6.

The Daily American - May 5, 1888

A second game was sceduled for the next day.  Vanderbilt, again, was victorious.  This time the score was 9-1.

The Daily American - May 6, 1888

These are the first recorded meetings of the two school's baseball teams.   The University of Tennessee says that their first official baseball team was formed in 1897.  I might argue, but not too strongly at this time.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

UT vs Indiana

The University of Tennessee Volunteers have played against the Hoosiers of Indiana University just three times before this weekend's series.  1917, 1921, and 2011.  UT won the first twp of those games.

The Hoosier's Record Book (pdf file) and Game Notes (pdf file) have the two teams only having played twice (1917 and 2011).  The Vols' Game Notes (pdf file) have the teams playing three times.

Here's what my research produced.

IU plans a southern tour, scheduling UT on Wednesday, March 28, 1917.  Here's what was happening that month: The Jones Act was created, Puerto Rico territory created, US citizenship granted. In the Stanley Cup: Seattle Metropolitans (PCHA) beat Montreal Canadiens (NHL), 3 games to 1 - Seattle is 1st US team to win Stanley Cup.  The US is the first nation to recognize the new government of Russia.

As reported in newspapers around the nation, UT downs IU, 5-2.

The Indianapolis News explains why.

Four years later, the Hoosiers return to Knoxville and drop the game, 13-3.  Events of that month include: Iowa imposes the first state cigarette tax. Albert Einstein lectures in New York City on his new "Theory of Relativity". KDKA broadcast first radio sporting event, a boxing match (Ray-Dundee, 10 round, no decision from Pittsburgh's Motor Square Garden).

90 years later, on March 5, 2011, the Hoosiers found revenge, besting the Vols 6-3.  Some events of that month were: The Space Shuttle Discovery makes its final landing after 39 flights. A reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melts and explodes and releases radioactivity into the atmosphere a day after Japan's earthquake. Charlie Sheen is fired from the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men". 52nd SEC Men's Basketball Tournament: Kentucky beats Florida, 70-54.

Jumping ahead to 2019, the Vols have already taken the first game of the series, 5-1 and as I type this, are up 2-0, at the top of the third inning of the second game.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Lone Stars of 1891

The Knoxville History Project posted a year ago about The Origins Of Knoxville's Bicycling. They mentioned a
Charles Porter, a black man, ran his own bicycle shop on North Central near the White Lily building by 1898, and was in the bike business for several years. He later founded the Lone Star Bicycle Club, which bought, sold, rented, and repaired bicycles on East Jackson, near Florida Street.
The words "Lone Star" rang a bell with me.  In 1891 both cycling and base ball were of interest the city of Knoxville.  The front page of the March 22, 1891 edition of The Knoxville Journal spoke of reviving the local baseball team and the formation of a new cycling club.

The Knoxville Bicycle Club held regular meetings, hosting picnics and other social events.  They had committees on badges ("entirely of gold and will represent a bicycle.  The Letters K.B.I.C. are neatly interwoven at the center."), uniforms ("entirely black with the exception of the belt, which will have a small gold strip running through the center of it"), and quarters ("The building on Church street, just east of Gay and opposite Dr. Boyd's office was finally agreed upon as the home of the club.").  Organized and active according to The Knoxville Journal of March 18, 1891.

On the baseball side of things a player named Dreschell was brought in as the manager of the Knoxville Base Ball Association team, known as the Reds.  That was probably Benjamin F. Drischel.  The team disbanded by the end of May.

Filling the void was the Lone Star ball club.  I can find a few articles that mention the team in 1879, but I'll share here what I found for them in 1891.  They are only mentioned for a few weeks at the end of June and early July.

Knoxville Daily Journal - June 26, 1891

Knoxville Daily Journal - June 29, 1891

Knoxville Daily Journal - June 30, 1891

Knoxville Daily Journal - July 3, 1891

Knoxville Daily Journal - July 5, 1891

Knoxville Daily Journal - July 6, 1891

The July 3 article mentions two players by name, Cheatam and McEwen.  I have looked at the Knoxville City Directory for that year and was not able to determine a first name for either of those men.

Was the term Lone Star somehow connected with the African-American community?  Were there other Lone Star teams across the nation?  Questions that I'd like to know the answers to.

images from