165: Opening Game, Cincinnati National League Park,
Opening Game, Cincinnati National League Park, Chicago Vs Cincinnati, 1912, Rare Panoramic Photograph
Panoramic silver gelatin photograph titled in the negative lower right: Opening Game / Cincinnati National League Park / Chicago Vs. Cincinnati / Attendance 27,366, and copyrighted in negative lower left: Kaufmann, Weimer & Fabry Co. / 425 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago. 1912. 18.5 x 50.5 in. (sight), matted and housed in wooden frame with engraved plaque attached that reads Geo. Eckard.
This grand panoramic photo puts you in the seats for the opening of the new ballpark in Cincinnati on April 11, 1912. Officially, 26,336 fans (or “bugs” as they were then called), the largest crowd to that date in Reds history, watched the inaugural contest between the Reds and the Chicago Cubs. This superb and rare photograph, taken from a photographer’s stand deep in the right field corner, captures nearly every one of the attendees on that day, plus the entire Reds lineup on the field.
The park, built by Cincinnati architect Henry Hake, opened with 20,000 seats, but the club sold 26,336 tickets for the opener (the photograph’s title mistakenly has 27,336) and, in the custom of the day, much of the overflow watched from the field of play, including a group sitting on the terrace in left field. And dozens others watched from the open windows of the adjacent factory buildings, while others took a precarious perch on the top of the outfield wall. The crowd on the field did not affect play much; this was the “dead ball” era and the dimensions of the park when it first opened were huge, including a right field dimension of 400 feet! In fact, Redland Field was so large and the ball so “dead,” that it was not until 1921 that a player hit a home run over the fence.
The name of the ballpark was not settled when it opened, which is reflected in the lettering on the photo referring to the “Cincinnati National League Park.” Club owner Garry Herrmann had been urged by friends to name the park after himself, Garry Park, or Herrmann Field. Herrmann demurred, and favored the generic “League Park” until a few days later when a fan suggested the name “Redland Field,” in honor of the club’s colors. Redland Field became official a few weeks later at the formal dedication ceremonies.
In 1934, Cincinnati businessman Powel Crosley bought the Reds, and, with an eye towards marketing his many consumer products that carried his name, he officially changed Redland Field to Crosley Field.
Redland/Crosley was built during a new ballpark boom in the early 20th century; the increasing popularity of the game and advances in building materials spelled the end of the smaller wood and iron parks, and gave way to larger concrete and steel structures. In fact, just nine days after this photograph was taken, Boston’s Fenway Park opened.
Most of the crowd in attendance arrived at the park via streetcars that ran along Western Avenue, just beyond the centerfield fence. Fans began lining up for the unreserved (25¢) bleacher seats at 8 a.m. The park opened at noon (game time was 3 p.m.) and according to one reporter, the mostly male crowd came with “cameras, opera glasses and cushions; smoked bad cigars and some good ones, drank green pop, ate molasses popcorn and ‘hot dogs...’” By the looks of the litter in front of the bleachers, a few brought whiskey bottles as well.
Prominent Reds players in the field include the right fielder, Armando Marsans, one of the first Latin players to play in the major leagues, and left fielder Bob Bescher, who the year before had set a National League record for stolen bases (81) that was not broken for over 50 years. At first base was Dick Hoblitzell, the Reds leading hitter, and later, when he played with Boston, Hoblitzell roomed with Babe Ruth. The Cubs, in dark blue uniforms, featured the Hall of Fame trio and the famed double-play combination of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. And, you will note just two umpires, as was the practice of the day. The Reds won this opener, rallying from a 5-1 deficit to win, 10-6.
This photo also documents two other Crosley landmarks, the terrace in front of the left field wall, and the industrial building just behind the left field wall. This building eventually became the “laundry”, the home of the Superior Towel and Linen Company.
In later years, the Reds changed the appearance of the park. They added additional seats to the ballpark, including field-level box seats, in 1927, directly in front of the main grandstand, which forced the club to move home plate out about 20 feet. They also double-decked the bleachers all the way to the foul poles (1939). Lights went up in 1935 (the Reds were the first Major League team with lights), and new and larger scoreboards were constructed in 1934 and 1957.
This photograph is a fabulous example of the large panoramic photos popular in this era. Similar photographs of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and other ballparks are housed at the Library of Congress (and can be viewed on their website, http://www.loc.gov/topics/baseball/photos/panorama.html). This is one of only two prints of this photograph known to exist. The other is the property of the Cincinnati Reds Museum.
Our sincere thanks to Cincinnati Reds Team Historian Greg Rhodes for providing us with this information.
Light toning to print.