Object of the Month

Cy Young and other baseball players at the Huntington Avenue Grounds

Cy Young and other baseball players at the Huntington Avenue Grounds Glass plate negative

Cy Young and other baseball players at the Huntington Avenue Grounds

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by Laura Wulf

Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds

Built in 1901, the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds was the home of the American League Boston Americans. The stadium was built for $35,000 and had a capacity of just under 12,000. Built on a former circus lot, the outfield had large patches of sand and there was a tool shed in center field. The field was demolished in 1912 when the Red Sox moved to the larger and newly-built Fenway Park.

The Huntington Avenue Grounds was the site of the first modern World Series, played in 1903 between the Boston Americans of the American League and the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League. In the best-of-nine series Boston won the final four games to capture the championship five games to three. The Grounds was also the site of the first perfect game of the modern era, pitched by Cy Young against the Philadelphia Athletics on 5 May 1904.

A closer look at the photograph reveals the names of advertisers along the outfield fences-Gillette razors, Regal shoes, El Pro cigars, Pfaff’s lager and the Copley Square hotel are just some of the businesses- and visible behind right field is the dome of the Mother Church of the Christian Science Church, built in 1894 and still standing today. Deep in fair territory in center field is the tool shed and rough ground around it, surely a challenge for any outfielder trying to track down a fly ball. Cy Young can be seen in the foreground, walking away from home plate, towards the photographer, with a bat dangling from his right hand. The uniform he is wearing, with a red stocking angled across the front, was introduced in 1908, the year that the team officially became known as the “Red Sox”.

A Two-Team Town

From 1871 until 1952, Boston also supported a National League team, the Boston Braves (formerly known as the Red Caps or the Beaneaters), who played in the South End Grounds, just across the tracks of the New York-New Haven-Hartford Railroad line from the Huntington Avenue grounds. In August 1915, the team moved to Braves Field on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. The Braves allowed the Red Sox to use this stadium for home games in the 1915 and 1916 World Series, because its capacity, at 40,000, was larger than that of Fenway Park. Braves Field was demolished in 1955 and Boston University’s Nickerson Field was built on the site.

Who Was Cy Young?

Denton True Young was born in Gilmore, Ohio in 1867, the son of McKinzie Young, Jr. and Nancy Mottmiller. He played baseball professionally from 1890 until he retired in 1911, playing for the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) from 1901 until 1909. Known for his powerful fastball, his teammates early in his career gave him the nickname ”Cy”, short for “Cyclone”.

The hard throwing Young had a great impact on the game that he played for 22 seasons. In baseball’s early history, pitchers threw underhand. It wasn’t until 1884 that pitchers were even allowed to throw overhand. Other adjustments were made over time, such as the distance between the mound and home plate, and the height of the mound, in order to achieve a competitive equilibrium between the pitchers and the batters.

When Young began his career, pitchers stood 55 feet  6 inches away from home plate, but, partly due to his powerful pitching, in 1893 the league moved the mound back another 5 feet, to the modern distance of 60 feet 6 inches. His 511 wins, 316 losses, 7,356 innings pitched, 815 career starts and 749 complete games all still stand as major league records. In 1937 he was voted into the Hall of Fame. In 1956, a year after his death, Major League Baseball created the Cy Young Award, given to the single best pitcher in the league. In 1967 the award was expanded to recognize the best pitchers in both the American and the National leagues.

The Site Today

Today, just steps from the Green Line train, you can visit the site of the old Huntington Avenue Grounds. The Cabot Center Arena, part of Northeastern University’s Athletic Dept., stands on the footprint of the old field, and a plaque on the building marks the location of the former left-field foul pole. As you stand on the sidewalk along busy Huntington Avenue and  look up at the plaque, imagine the sounds of a baseball game being played, right there, more than one hundred years ago.

Behind the Scenes Photographs on Exhibit through July 8, 2017

Rare photos of the Red Sox “Impossible Dream” 1967 season taken by retired Boston Globe photographer Frank O’Brien and a collection of 1967 artifacts including Carl Yastrzemski’s jersey will be on display at the Society’s headquarters, 1154 Boylston St., Boston, Mass., from June 24 through July 8th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Foulds, Alan E.  Boston’s Ballparks & Arenas. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2005.

Masur, Louis P. Autumn Glory: Baseball’s First World Series. New York: Hill and Wang, 2003.

Stout, Glenn. Red Sox Century: One Hundred Years of Red Sox Baseball. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Whalen, Thomas J. When the Red Sox Ruled: Baseball’s First Dynasty, 1912-1918. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011.

A medal awarded to Red Sox players for their victory in the 1912 World Series is in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.