“The Mission Has Always Been The Home of Baseball”
“The Mission has always been the home of baseball.” So said Anita Day Hubbard in 1924.
Here we see some rather mind bending perspective:
- a 1920s patron of Recreation Park on 14th and Valencia (enjoying whiskey and chicken specials)…
- looking forward to a “splendid” new venue to be built in the 1930s (that we once knew as Seals Stadium)…
- that will be built a block from the site of the first baseball game to be played in California in the 1850s…
- and looking back on their previous baseball park from the 1870s, Recreation Grounds, at 25th & Folsom.
Arrgh, head hurts. Someone get me some chicken and whiskey.
Oh, and for those of you asking, nope – Recreation Park ≠ Recreation Grounds. Yes, I am going to tell you about ANOTHER epic baseball stadium in the Mission.
In 1924, Anita Day Hubbard wrote an epic series of articles in the SF Call Bulletin on the history of the city and the Mission which contain a staggering (wait, let me reformat that) — <blink><a href=”www.holycrap.com”>STAGGERING</a></blink> — amount of historical detail. But since we’re talking baseball let’s stick to that otherwise my head might explode.
The first baseball game in the city and the state was held at 16th and Harrison 151 years ago.
Drama in the Mission! Red Rovers refuse to finish the game! Eagles win!
So where was the game? Hard to say, but given the location of Mission Creek my best guess is the northwest corner of 16th (i.e. Center) and Harrison (as I doubt they played ON the bridge). While our favorite 1860s Calisphere view sadly does not capture anyone playing baseball (just slacker proto-hipsters), the field of baseball through time and space is captured quite nicely (click to zoom).
Here’s the 1859 US Coast Survey map, with red showing my wag at the location of the 1st game, and green the future diamond of Seats Stadium.
In the 1860s games were played behind the old Mission church, and by 1868, dedicated baseball grounds were built at Folsom and 25th.
Once again the Mission keeps Oakland down. But the Eagles were soon to feel the same fate.
The Cincinnati Red Stockings were the baseball team of the day. In September 1869, they took one of the first transcontinental train to battle their western foes. At Folsom and 25th, they proceeded to blow out our Eagles 35-4 on the 25th. The Eagles dusted off and… lost again. Even more badly, 58-4.
The Eagles, not to be deterred, played Cincinnati yet again. And were crushed yet again, 66-4. The Eagles local rivals, the Pacifics, got spanked 54-4, and the Atlantics’ attempt at coastal deception failed miserably, 76-5. The “San Francisco Pickled Nine” made a respectable offensive effort by only losing 46-14.
Thankfully for the San Francisco fans, I have evidence of a SALOON on site.
I suspect Mr Donnelly made a lot of money that week.
We’re lucky enough to have pictures of Recreation Grounds via the SFPL as well as the Online Archive of California. This OAC view is looking to the northwest from around 26th and Harrison, with Twin Peaks in the background. (Click to zoom.)
Crop on the players with my guesses on the positions.
Another view from around 25th and Harrison looing to the SW. (Bernal is in the left.) Click to zoom. SFPL dates this view as 1875, and I am pretty sure this and the above photo were taken on the same day.
Note the fans sitting on the edge of the outfield. We’re just about looking down the 3rd baseline and I believe the gaggle of players on the right are behind home plate.
Naturally, I’ve been trying to figure out where the baseball diamond was. Unfortunately the Sanborn maps don’t start up until after Recreation Grounds were built over, and none of the Library of Congress birds eye maps from the 1870 show anything.
But a very interesting point of reference is the row houses behind the grandstands that I’ve numbered 1-7.
All seven houses on the 2900 block of Folsom are still there today!
And the 1889 Sanborn map of Folsom at 25th lines up perfectly with Google Earth. (West is up.)
I hereby anoint this row of houses “The Folsom Ladies”!
Using this a point of reference along with my lettered trees, guesses as to the depth of the grandstands (red) and some burrito parallax, I figure that that first baseline could very well have run down Lucky St, with home plate about 6 houses south of 25th.
And north from 1st back to home:
Granted I could be off by a dozen feet to the east or west, but a lot more fun to think of it in the alley than a yard (unless it were your yard, I suppose…) Any and all feedback/suggestion/criticism welcome.
And what was there before Recreation Grounds? We have to remember that in 1868 it was built smack in the middle of the old Pioneer Race Course owned by George Treat (yes, that Treat), just above the stone wall marking the northern border of Bernal’s rancho (yes, that Bernal).
One last note — these guys from 1875-77 could very well be the ones playing in the pictures of Recreation Grounds above.