Warren Michaels, a lifetime resident of Brewerytown and self-professed local baseball historian, described the clubs and their history. "When the pro teams were first starting, they weren't really well organized. The teams became more organized in the 1900's, which led to baseball and guys like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Connie Mack, and teams like Baltimore and the Yankees. In the early times though, they were all around here," he said.
The Philadelphia Athletic Baseball Club, the first Philadelphia club to take the field professionally in the National Association of Baseball League Players in 1871, was the creation of James A. Kearnes. While Kearnes earned significant credit, many of the players were holdovers from the amateur teams of earlier years. The Athletics played their home games at the Jefferson Street Grounds until they were expelled from the NA in 1876. The Jefferson Street Grounds are also reportedly where the first National League game was played, between the A's and the Boston Red Stockings (see: Red Sox Nation) and the A's losing (of course) 6-5. The Athletics were the pre-cursor to what is now the Philadelphia Phillies.
Its an interesting glimpse into the distant past, seeing one of the many places that baseball can claim as it's birthplace. Even more humbling is seeing neighborhood children playing in a nearby playground, knowing that one day they will get to round the same bases as some of the players who helped start our national pastime. In the run up to our final project, we'll be checking back in periodically with those kids and folks like Mr. Michaels to help tell the story of these fields.
Eric, Andy and Steph
Below is a look at the Jefferson Street Grounds, where the Philadelphia Athletics played briefly before moving to 29th and Columbia.