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]

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