As part of the Library’s newly opened, yearlong exhibit Baseball Americana, the Geography and Map Division will be featuring several blog posts describing the depiction and history of baseball stadiums on maps in major American cities. As the only city that has had more than one Major League Baseball franchise every year since the establishment of the American league in 1901, Chicago is a great place to start!
Historical baseball stadiums can be found mainly on two types of maps in the Geography and Map Division’s collections: panoramic maps and fire insurance maps. In the mid to late 19th century, local baseball diamonds in large cities were typically located near factories or industrial sites. The panoramic map, below, of Chicago published in 1892 shows a baseball diamond and grandstands near the railroad tracks and docks. One can only imagine that the proximity to the factory is associated with workers playing baseball at lunch or after work.
A more prevalent source for baseball stadiums on maps are large-scale fire insurance or real estate atlases of major American cities published in the late 19th century through the 1950s, which show the stadiums of many professional teams throughout the years. Fire insurance maps are highly detailed, large-scale maps of American towns and cities created for the purposes of helping fire insurance companies assess fire risk and insurance offerings for individual buildings. Today, these maps, especially those of the prolific Sanborn Map Company, provide a record of the built environment and changes over time.
Chicago is currently home to the White Sox of the American League, who play on the south side of the city, and the Cubs of the National League, who play on the north side. The history of both teams’ stadiums can be seen in the fire insurance maps.
The Chicago White Sox briefly played at South Side Park before moving to Comiskey Park in 1910. From 1911 until 1940, the Chicago American Giants, one of the most successful National Negro League baseball teams of all time, took over the park, seen on the Sanborn map below, and called it their home.
The first game at Comiskey Park was held on July 1, 1910. The baseball park served as home to the White Sox for 80 years until the team moved to a new and improved stadium in 1990. Comiskey Park can be seen in both the 1912 map and the 1950 map below, and the changes it went through are evident. In the 1950, the base line grandstands were made out of brick with iron pillars supporting a wooden roof, while in 1912, the outfield bleachers were entirely composed of wooden construction and the bleachers along the baselines had no roof.
Meanwhile, on the north side of the city, the Chicago Cubs played at West Side Park from 1893 until 1915. Although the map shown below dates from 1917 when professional baseball was no longer played in the stadium, this first park was used for other spectator sports until it was torn down in 1920.
The Cubs moved to a new stadium in 1916. From 1916 to the present day, the Cubs have played at what was first known as Weeghman Field, then Cubs Park, and lastly renamed Wrigley Field in 1927 in honor of the team’s owner and chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley. The park is the second-oldest in the majors after Fenway Park in Boston and the only remaining Federal League park.
An interesting fact about Wrigley Field is that it was the last major league stadium to play all its home games during daylight hours, as there were no lights to illuminate night time games. Lights were not installed until 1988! With such a rich baseball past, it isn’t hard to trace the history of the sport in Chicago through maps.