Posts tagged Willie Keeler

A Room With A View Overlooking Baltimore’s Union Park

stambroseprogramIt was March 31, 1894, and the National League Baltimore Orioles soon would begin their 1894 campaign, which ultimately brought Baltimore it’s first baseball championship. The Orioles opened at home that year on April 19th with a game against the New York Giants.

A mere 120 years later, on March 31st – Baseball’s Opening Day 2014 – that Championship Season was celebrated by St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at the former site of Union Park, where the National League Orioles once played.

St. Ambrose's Green Room

St. Ambrose’s Green Room

St. Ambrose, whose offices are located at 321 East 25th Street, held an open house  celebrating the reopening of its “Green Room.” Named after one of its founders, the Green Room is located in the basement of the building and provides community space for the furthering of St. Ambrose’s worthy mission.

The building at 321 East 25th Street has great historical significance to our National Pastime as it was once located adjacent to Union Park’s grandstand and its parking lot was once part of the actual playing field. 

The back of the building can be seen in the 1897 photograph below – it is the house with the distinctive pitched roof just to the right of Union Park’s grandstand.

Union Park Grandstand (detail from The Winning Team, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Union Park Grandstand (detail from The Winning Team, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Here is that building today:

325 East 25th Street, Baltimore

321 East 25th Street, Baltimore

I had the pleasure of attending St. Ambrose’s open house as a guest speaker. After the event , I took a tour of the  building, heading to the third floor for a panoramic view of Union Park’s former playing field as seen through the two windows located just below the tip of the roof.

Interior of 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore

Interior of 321 East 25th Street, Baltimore, Third Floor

For nine seasons, from 1891 to 1899, the view through those windows was one of the finest in all of baseball, providing witness to the feats of some of the game’s greatest ballplayers, including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon and Joe Kelley. Indeed, on that spot, the Orioles won three consecutive National League pennants, from 1894 to 1896.

Site of Union Park's Former Playing Field, as seen from 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore

Site of Union Park’s Former Playing Field, as seen from 321 East 25th Street, Baltimore

Today that field is a parking lot, surrounded by row houses and brick garages. But 120 years ago, it was the center of baseball in Baltimore. St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center is proud of its connection to Baltimore baseball history and there is talk of honoring Union Park and the old Baltimore Orioles with a wiffle ball game to be played in the parking lot where Union Park’s infield once sat. Should those plans come to fruition, I will post information on this site.

The 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles As Seen Through The Sporting Life

Union Park and the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890’s play a prominent role in my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, and it is not often that I come across artifacts from the team or that era. When I do, they typically are way out of my price range. But as luck would have it, I was able to purchase at auction recently four copies of the Sporting Life that feature the 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles on the front cover, as well as a page out of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featuring a preview of the Orioles and the New York Giants in the Temple Cup.

The Leslie’s newspaper page is extraordinary for it’s pictorial history of early baseball star including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon, plus several New York Giants who appear in the team photo including John Ward, Amos Rusie, and Roger Connor.

1894 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

The Orioles won the National League pennant in 1894, the first year of a dynasty that would last almost until the team’s demise at the end of the century. The Orioles won three consecutive pennants from 1894-1896. This is reflected in the October 3, 1896, Sporting Life below depicting a Baltimore Oriole player standing next to Uncle Sam on top of the world with the inscription “the world is mine.”

October 3, 1896 Sporting Life

The 1897 season saw a turn of fortune for the Orioles, who lost the pennant to the Boston Beaneaters by two games that year (they came in second behind the Boston Beaneaters in 1898 as well). The May 18, 1897, Sporting Life foreshadows the Orioles fall from the top of the world that season, with a depiction of Uncle Sam presenting a Baltimore baseball player a letter that reads, “Uncle Sam – Some of the other clubs want the pennant this year. Respectfully yours: Uncle Nick.” The caption at the bottom of the page states: “Uncle Sam – Well son, what are you going to do about it.”

May 18, 1897 Sporting Life

The 1899 season would be the last for the National League Baltimore Orioles. The July 15, 1899, Sporting Life depicts Orioles Player/Manager John McGraw, who is said in the caption to be “The brilliant player and capable manager of Baltimore.” Although McGraw would remain in Baltimore as player/manager of the American League Orioles in their inaugural 1901 season and part of the 1902 season, McGraw would move to New York to manage the Giants towards the end of the 1902 season. It was in New York where McGraw achieved his most notable fame, where he is recognized as one of the greatest managers of all time.

July 15, 1899 Sporting Life Featuring John McGraw

On February 24, 1900, when the Sporting Life below was issued, Willie Keeler was still identified as an outfielder for Baltimore, however, by then he had been playing for the Brooklyn Superbas since 1899, alongside fellow former Orioles Joe Kelley, Aleck Smith, and Hughie Jennings. Additional former Orioles Harry Howell, Frank Kitson, Joe McGinnity, Jerry Nops, Gene DeMontreville, and Jimmy Sheckard joined Brooklyn after the 1899 season.

February 24, 1900 Sporting Life Featuring Willie Keeler

Of course it helped that the former owner of the National League Baltimore franchise, Harry Von Der Horst, also owned the Brooklyn franchise, back in the days of syndicate baseball. The Superbas would win the pennant in 1899 and 1900 thanks in part to the contribution of the old Orioles, including former Orioles Manager Ned Hanlon who joined the Superbas at the helm in 1899.

John McGraw and St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Baltimore

Three miles north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, at the intersection of Greenmount Avenue and East 22nd Street, is St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

St. Ann's Catholic Church, Baltimore, Maryland

The church is forever tied to Baltimore baseball history as the place where former Oriole and baseball Hall of Famer John McGraw married his second wife, Blanche Sindall, on January 8, 1902.

Interior View of St. Ann's Church Where John McGraw Married Blanche Sindall

St. Ann’s plays a prominent role in two of the latter chapters of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. However, in the interest of not spoiling the the story line, I will leave it at that. For those of you who already have read my book, here is a look at the church described in Deadball.

The Gothic-revival church is constructed of grey stone and white marble.

Side View of St. Ann's Church

The church has two steeples, one soaring high above the church to the right of the front entrance and a second, of lesser height, behind and to the left of the entrance.

The Two Steeples of St. Ann's Church

A pointed stone archway made of alternating blocks of marble and stone frames a set of red painted doors decorated with ornate iron hinges. A simple, yet elegant rose window, framed by a similar stone archway centered above the entrance adds an understated flourish to the front of the church.

Front Entrance to St. Ann's Church

The white plastic lettering of the church’s marquee sign next to the sidewalk announces that the church is “Anchored In Faith.”

Marquee Sign, St. Ann's Church

The reference to “anchored” is a pun, for resting alongside the cornerstone to the right of the entrance way is a large, gold-painted, allegorical anchor once belonging to Captain William Kennedy.

Captain William Kennedy's Anchor

Commander of the Baltimore clipper ship “The Wanderer,” Kennedy prayed for safe return when caught in a storm off the coast of Vera Cruz. He promised to build a church should his prayers be answered. They were, and Kennedy kept his promise, providing the land and money to build St. Ann’s. The good Captain is buried beneath the main floor of the church, along with his wife, both of whom died in 1873, the year the church was built.

Final Resting Place of Captain William Kennedy and his Wife

Behind the church on East 22nd Street is the rectory.

St. Ann's Rectory - The Anchorage

Next door to the rectory is  a three story tan brick row house with a first floor stone. It is the former home of Oriole Hall of Famer Joe Kelley.

Former Home of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley

Joe Kelley and several of McGraw’s teammates were in attendance at his wedding that day, including Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, Steve Brodie, and Hughie Jennings.

Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

In her memoir The Real McGraw, Blanche McGraw noted that St. Ann’s was overflowing with people for the 6 pm wedding, which was conducted by St. Ann’s Pastor, Father Cornelius Thomas, who himself was a big baseball fan.

A “church of baseball” or at least a “church with a baseball connection,” St. Ann’s can be visited on the web at

Verified by MonsterInsights