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Mudville: July 19, 2024 11:24 pm PDT

Lost Ballparks Found

In an era where baseball has lost its way, Lost Ballparks has found a home.

Here, you will find yourself walking into a time machine. Memories of ballparks come alive at Lost Ballparks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

And just this week there is a new Lost Ballparks podcast to enjoy with Boys of Summer, Carl Erskine, the first guest. Oisk at 95 is still as sharp as ever.

At The Story we celebrate baseball in different ways. We take on those who are trying their best to ruin the game and congratulate those who are trying to save the game. Mike Koser, a voice over artist based in Escondido, Ca., started Lost Ballparks as a way to have fans connect to some of their favorite ballparks of yesteryear because of his love of the golden age of baseball ballparks.

What he found was what so many fans are looking for in this era of greed and loss of common sense in today’s game, the peace and comfort that an old ballpark brings.

History and memories come alive here. Stories of past experiences are told with passion. The pictures are magnificent in their uniqueness as the old ballparks, what I like to call the Fields Collection – Forbes Field, Ebbets Field, Crosley Field, Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, San Diego’s Lane Field and every other Lost Ballpark you can imagine are awakened again in our memory.

“There is nothing sadder than watching a ballpark rot away,’’

Someday I need to count all the ballparks I have visited, starting with the real Yankee Stadium in 1960. That is a lot of ground to cover. Even the Lost Stadiums of the multi-purpose parks are celebrated.

Frank Sinatra’s There Used To Be A Ballpark comes to mind:

And there used to be a ballpark

Where the field was warm and green.

And the people played their crazy game

With a joy I’d never seen.

And the air was such a wonder

From the hot dogs and the beer.

Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here.

Both major and minor league ballparks are highlighted. I especially love it when the remnants of an old ballpark I was not aware of show up in pictures and memories. Such was the case recently when nine photos of Madrid Oscar Huber Memorial Park popped up on Lost Ballparks, eight from today and the final shot from nearly 100 years ago.

The park is located in Madrid, New Mexico and is said to be the first park to have lights. It was built in 1920 by the Employee Club in days of coal mining and extensive stonework was added by the WPA in 1935. The photos were submitted by a fan, Jason Christopher, who recently took his son to the site. This was home to the Madrid Miners- a AA team with a pennant-winning history.

This team brought a town together.

Too much of the past and how great we once were as a nation is either being forgotten or being re-written and it is important to remember the real past and the little things that made us special – like the Madrid Miners.

“I’ve always been fascinated with old ballparks,’’ Koser, 49, told BallNine. “When I was in college, my fiancée got me a book of just photos of old ballparks and that just really drew me in. I wanted to learn more about them. I was captivated by their unique characteristics.’’

Alisa, who soon became his wife, gave Mike a wonderful gift.

Mike Koser, visiting the Forbes Field wall.

“Fast forward to 2012, now with Facebook, and I thought it might be fun to start a Facebook page where I will post a photo of an old ballpark each day with some details about what made that ballpark unique,’’ Koser said. “What I quickly realized was that there were a lot more people interested in the history of Lost Ballparks than me, and so I eventually expanded to Twitter and then Instagram.

“What I’ve discovered is that while the posts and photos are interesting, what makes Lost Ballparks great are the comments, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. People on Twitter are not getting the full experience.’’

Koser is so right about that. The comments take it over the top and here are some he pointed out that bring Lost Ballparks to life.

“There were small holes in the left-field wall (at Crosley Field in Cincinnati) that you could peep through and see the players. I used to sit on the old bulldozers when they were building I-75 and you could look down into the stadium. I just couldn’t see the outfielders. Then when it got dark, I had to run like hell to get home safely.” – Ted Beerman Photo/1961

“As a boy growing up in Pittsburgh in the 60s, I saw many games at Forbes Field. I can still smell the cigar smoke in my nose, hear the call of the hot dog and beer vendors in my ears and see the vibrant green of the field on a hot summer night.’’ – J. Gary Sutton.

“My grandfather was friendly with Duke (Snider) and Jackie (Robinson) and several other players who lived in their neighborhood and shopped at his deli/grocery.’’ – Geoff Melkonian

“I was 13. Sat in 50 cents bleachers. Great memories. Saw the lights on night games from my house.’’ – Ira Feldman

“Walking into Connie Mack Stadium as a 6-year-old in 1969. Coming out of the tunnel and seeing that beautiful green grass and hearing the players taking batting practice was what got me hooked on baseball for life.’’ – Rick McElhattan

“The kid in the middle in the NY cap was me at Gate 6 (Yankee Stadium) in 1958. Used to scramble for autographs outside the clubhouse after those games, get up close for a few moments to Moose and Yogi and Whitey and the rest (except Mantle, cops used to form a human wall so he could exit unscathed). Long time ago now and all those heroes are gone but the memories are rich and sweet.’’ – David McDonald

“Little guy by the batting cage spent many summer days at Ebbets Field because of my grandfather’s long relationship with both the players and management (especially the Boys of Summer) and most especially Jackie. Ebbets Field was my personal sandlot … and that’s Howard Cosell standing behind Duke Snider.’’ – Richard Stevens.

Howard Cosell at Ebbets Field

How about one more memory? These ballparks even made going to the dentist a pleasure.

“As a kid, I went to a dentist whose office had a view of Ebbets Field from his examining chair!’’ – P. Cusumano

All that is gold.

“When they started commenting, that’s when this whole thing came to life,’’ Koser said.

There was this comment from Kevin Murphy, who at the age of seven learned a valuable lesson from his father at the Polo Grounds. “I clearly remember my father saying, we stay until the game is over. That’s the thing about baseball, you always have a chance until your last out … he took me to see Stan Musial play in 1963, ‘Watch that guy.’ It was the same with Mays. ‘Watch Mays.’ ’’

Explained Koser, “I have never been to the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field, but I can live vicariously from some of these people who were there.’’

Koser visits sites when he can and loves Forbes Field and League Park in Cleveland, the site of the 1920 World Series and Babe Ruth’s 500th home run. The old ticket house, which has been restored is a treat as well.

“What I’m really fascinated with is going to the places where the ballparks used to exist,’’ Koser said. I can agree with that statement, in my travels it is fun to find where the ballparks used to be located and what remains now.

“Portions of Braves Field in Boston still exist on the campus of Boston University (Nickerson Field),’’ Koser said. “The Braves played at Braves Field from 1915-1952. After the ’52 season they moved into County Stadium in Milwaukee.’’

Another stop is Columbus, Ohio. “Crazy to think that this is what’s left of Cooper Stadium, where a 21-year old Derek Jeter batted .317 in 1995 for the AAA Columbus Clippers.

“I grew up going to Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, which is not the most attractive ballpark in history, but you talk to people like me who went there, we love that place – because of the memories we had there,’’ Koser said. “I was in Pittsburgh this summer to see the remnants of Forbes Field. They have a marker on the sidewalk where Bill Mazeroski hit the game-winning home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. I love that.’’

Cooper Stadium

Baseball has always been a game of fathers and sons, yes, fathers and daughters too.

“I had a Sunday afternoon with my dad, so it took an hour to get there,’’ Koser said of his days going to Municipal Stadium. “Three or four hours for a game, an hour to get home, so I had my dad’s undivided attention for a whole afternoon.’’

Time spent with Dad is always important.

Don’t worry if your old photo of an old ballpark is not perfect if you send it in to Lost Ballparks. It’s not about perfection.

“These are not photos taken by pro photographers,’’ Koser said. “It captures what their view was and [what] their experience was that day. It could be just this guy who grew up in Detroit in the ‘70s and snapped some photos on Camera Day.’’

Koser learns about ballparks too and ran a photo this week of Tiger Stadium in the process of getting a paint job.

“It was green first but then in ’77-’78 they started the process of painting it blue,’’ Koser said. “I posted that picture someone sent to me that I had never seen before they were in process, so the upper deck is still green, the bottom deck is blue.’’

History comes alive. In your mind you can again walk past the centerfield monuments at Yankee Stadium like I did so many times as a kid at Yankee Stadium.

“One of my favorites moments was when a lady sent me a photo of Ebbets Field that she had framed,’’ Koser explained. “Behind the photo was a hand-painted sign, a Roy Campanella sign that said: To be presented to Roy Campanella 1953 Most Valuable Player.’’

Koser ended up buying the sign from the woman. He spoke to Keith Olbermann who did research on the sign and discovered the sign sat in the rotunda at Ebbets Field while Campanella’s 1953 MVP Trophy was on display.

That is some fascinating Lost History at Lost Ballparks.

“That sign now sits above my studio where I do the podcast,’’ Koser said proudly “It was a framed photo the woman’s aunt had passed down to her. She went to replace the frame and found the hand-painted sign.’’

At Lost Ballparks you can find an occasional comment from a former player or baseball figure. There is a great shot of Dick Allen at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium in a fielding pose – and did you know the Milwaukee Braves would bring in a relief pitcher on a Harley-Davidson Topper Scooter?

“A few months ago Vin Scully started following Lost Ballparks,’’ said Koser, who is hopeful of getting Vin on the podcast. “I started the podcast with the idea if it is interesting to me, hopefully it will be interesting to other people.’’

It’s fascinating.

“I’m like a kid in the candy store just being able to hear these people talk about their experiences,’’ Koser said. “I have all the equipment because I do voice overs so this is a natural progression for me.’’

He will have everything from former players like Steve Blass, broadcasters, even a batboy from Connie Mack Stadium and Nancy Faust, the organist for the White Sox for 40 years.

And, of course, he has read Lawrence Ritter’s classic Lost Ballparks.

Koser is a huge proponent of commemorating some of these parks.

“There is nothing sadder than watching a ballpark rot away,’’ Koser said. “I think about Tiger Stadium and its last days and how the city of Detroit could just not get out of its own way to do something to preserve part of the grandstand. Granted, they still have the flagpole that sits out on the field where the Police Athletic League play, but there is more that could have been done.’’

Parts of Yankee Stadium also could have been saved as well. Instead, it was all lost to history.

Lost Ballparks is there to remind us of the ballparks and the glory of their times.

There are even parts of old ballparks to find. Did you know the light towers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium came from the Polo Grounds?

I was at Candlestick Park for the 1989 World Series when the earthquake hit – that’s The Story for another day ­– and I still have a small chunk of concrete that came crashing down that day.

“This is a dream come true,’’ Koser said of Lost Ballparks. “I’m like a fly on the wall listening to history.’’

History seen through the eyes of happy fans and their heartwarming photos.

Lost Ballparks is quite the find.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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