Cy Young statue commemorating Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston, Massachusetts (Source: LP, 2002)

Boston Pilgrims Logo (Source:

Huntington Avenue Grounds
400 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA

Home of the
Boston Americans
a.k.a. Somersets, Pilgrims, Red Sox


World Series
- 1903: Boston/Pittsburgh

All-Star Games

- Opened: 1901
- Updates: Undetermined
- Signature: Tool shed
- Closed: 1911
- Demolished: ca.1912
- Remains: None
- Site: Northeastern Univ

Site Memorials
- Cy Young Statue
- Home Plate Plaque
- Left Foul Line Plaque
- Memorabilia Display

Vital Stat Links
- Official History - Map
- Aerial View (Cached)
- Diamond Legends

Photo Links
- Boston Public Library 1
- Boston Public Library 2
- NU (360 viewer)

Article Links
- 1
- 2
- Boston Globe, 1903
- Boston Magazine
- Elysian Fields Quarterly
- Lou Criger
- NU: Charles Fountain
- NU: First World Series

Cy Young Pages
- Baseball-Almanac Obit
- Hall of Fame
- May 5, 1904
- Official Bio Site

Related Pages Here
- Fenway Park
- Ballpark Commentary

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Home Plate Marker (Source: LP, 2002)

Huntington Avenue Grounds: Forever Young

By Rick Prescott
Fall 2002

[an error occurred while processing this directive] At the heart of the campus of Northeastern University in Boston stands a reminder of baseball's glorious past: a statue of Cy Young, poised to pitch near the very same spot where the legend himself threw in the first ever World Series. This quiet quadrangle, appointed with trees, quaint lamp posts, benches, and gently curving walkways, is where the infield of Huntington Avenue Grounds once stood.

The tranquility and refined nature of the courtyard is a long way from the more rough and tumble ballpark which once stood here. The massive playing field, which boys used to climb tall poles to see, is now covered with burly academic buildings, tightly packed together in a positively Tetris-like fashion. Yet somehow, in a stroke of good fortune, the buildings part right where needed to memorialize an unforgettable park and pitcher.

Other forces have conspired to make sure that another aspect of the site has not changed in the intervening century: it is still bordered to the north and south by active railroad tracks.

1911 panoramic view (Source: Boston Public Library)

In the foreground of the above photo you can see the trolley tracks running down the middle of Huntington Avenue. No doubt this is how most of the fans arrived at the park. Today these tracks carry the MBTA Green Line subway trains, and still stop just about where the park entrance used to be. In the background, the dark buildings and roundhouse straddle what is today an Amtrak commuter line, but back then carried mostly freight trains. These dingy and ominous buidings -- and their plumes of smoke -- give a glimpse at why the site was ultimately abandoned. (Just beyond those buildings, though not discernible in this photo, was the home of the other Boston baseball team.)

Brief History

Boston got its American League team in 1901 when the league was formed. The site for this park was selected by none other than [an error occurred while processing this directive] Connie Mack, dispatched for the task by league founder Ban Johnson. Seeking cheap land and a strategic location, he settled on this parcel, controlled at the time by the Boston Elevated Railroad, and typically used for traveling circuses, carnivals and rodeos. Best of all, it was just across the tracks from the rival National League park, the South End Grounds. This provided unusually high visibility for the new team and the new league, which had acquired some great players (like Young) for their venture. By locating so close, and setting prices at half what the National League was charging (25 cents versus 50 cents), they could assure quick success.

The park itself was built hastily in the two months before opening day at a cost of about $35,000. Made primarily of wood, it would turn out to be unfortunately prone to fires, and it's location (while good for business) also turned quickly into a liability due to excessive smoke from the nearby train [an error occurred while processing this directive] yards. In little more than a decade, the whole thing would have to be abandoned in favor of a better situated and more modern steel-and- concrete home: Fenway Park.

But in those wild 11 years, the park saw not only the first World Series but also the first modern perfect game, which was thrown by Young on May 5, 1904, against the Philadelphia Athletics. For a more detailed history, read the very fine article found at RedSoxConnection.

Sand, Wood and Smoke

It is said that the playing field, made up mostly of weeds and sand, sloped upward toward deep center. But this would have been only one of many hazards associated with playing here. Balls hit into a tool shed out there (which would have had to travel over 600 feet) were in play. Probably the most formidable obstacle might have been the fans who, when they weren't standing on the field behind ropes, apparently came out of the stands to aid in arguments with the umpires. That may be what happened to result in the unusual image shown below from a 1910 game against the Tigers.

Play has stopped during a 1910 game against the Tigers (Source: Boston Public Library/LP)

Despite wearing hats and coats to the games, it appears that this was a pretty rowdy bunch. It is well documented that they came primarily to gamble and drink (some things never change). They can be seen in photos to climb over fences both to get into the park -- and again to get out of it. There is only evidence of a single entry point for the entire structure yet it is apparent that those sitting in the distant centerfield bleachers could take a shortcut across the field to get to their seats. Given the bad field conditions, groundskeepers probably didn't mind.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] But the fans on the field strategy reached its most absurd heights with the groups of dignitaries, such as the Royal Rooters, being seated directly behind home plate -- with no screen! Even though it was 90 feet to the backstop, this still seems like a recipe for bruised politicians and dented tubas.

Though many of the photos which survive show large crowds, this was not typically the case. With an official capacity of around 11,000 (and an unofficial capacity closer to 20,000), a typical game saw only about 5,000 fans. Still it is interesting to note that the strategy to draw fans away from the competition across the tracks appears to have worked: during this period the Nationals were typically drawing only 2,000 per game.

Finding the Site

Finding the university campus was easy, but finding the monuments took two trips, a bit of work, and a bit of luck. On our first pass, Vic and I walked from Fenway Park south and east about a mile, passing through the famous Fens, and arriving at Huntington Avenue. From there, I headed off through some construction into the campus, sure that the statue would just jump up in front of me. It did not, mostly because I had mistakenly headed down Field Street (or was it Parker Street?) [an error occurred while processing this directive] -- two blocks west of my target. The construction threw me off a bit, but so did the utter lack of street signs.

On the second pass, we took an MBTA Green Line E train to the NEU stop (for a 360- degree view, visit the NEU campus tour), and entered the campus through a courtyard quadrangle directly south of the tracks. There, to my relief, was a campus map which directed me right to the spot. A short walk around one building and there he stood: Cy Young, perpetually studying the sign from an invisible catcher behind the marble home plate exactly 60 feet 6 inches away. Ballpark magic.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] A passing policeman told me how to find the plaque on the outside of the gymnasium, and mentioned the memorabilia display inside. (Alas, it was not open this day.) Something to be aware of when visiting: if you stand at the home plate plaque on World Series Way and imagine where the left field foul pole marker must be, you'll get it wrong. The orientation of the memorial battery does not match the original, but has been adjusted to match the layout of the courtyard. If the statue of Young were facing about 45 degrees to his left it would be closer to the original.

Strolling along Huntington Avenue, the left field plaque is quite easy to locate. It's also easy to imagine those kids climbing over a fence on the same exact spot a century ago.

The park was decidedly asymetrical, starting with the main grandstand. Its roof covered the area from just to the first base side of home to well beyond third base, almost to the point where the stands cut in across the left field line. (In fact, the stands initially cut in at about 320 feet down both lines.)

Originally, the grandstand roof appears to have had six separate sections, each one complete with one or two flag poles. But by 1911 one of the roof sections had been modified to install a press box of sorts. Not much is known of the area beneath the grandstand, except to say that there was reportedly some standing room which was used to wait out rain delays.

The remainder of the stands, all made of wood, were uncovered. Out in straight-away center, they were also very remote from the action. This is what apprently led to the practice of allowing fans to form a de facto fence behind ropes strung across the outfield. This in turn led to the unusual practice of awarding ground rule triples for balls hit beyond the rope-constrained fans but not all the way to the wooden fence. It's fair to wonder if opposing players ever met resistance from fans while trying to make catches right at that squirming perimeter...

A seldom-mentioned feature of this park is the inclusion of simple arched windows at the rear of the main grandstand. [an error occurred while processing this directive] Though they only had a view of the walkway behind the stands, they did serve to connect the park with its surroundings. Of course, this park was not just connected with its surroundings, it was inundated by them -- especially their scents. Neighbors to the park included a bean factory, pickle factory, breweries, stables, numerous saloons, and a particularly noxious chemical plant.

Bulky neighbors also dominated the view. Directly beyond left field across Huntington Avenue, the Boston Storage Warehouse (visible in a photo at made for a formidable -- and very visible -- neighbor. And right next door to the warehouse,

What Did They Drink?

They came to drink, but many were drinking root beer, and some were even drinking coffee!

That's the story told by the ads in the photographs. Mardi Gras Coffee appears prominently, but some of the largest and most frequently photographed ads were for true curiosities like Dr. Swett's Original Root Beer and Pureoxia Ginger Ale (which turns out to be a variation on regional favorite Moxie Soda).

With prohibition imminent, there may have been reasons why ads for alcohol beverages were a bit more scarce. Though there was at least one very large ad for "whisky," much of the alcohol advertising was for one specific location to drink: "Third Base," the tavern owned by "Nuf Ced" McGreevey, which was heavily marketed as "the last stop before home."

There are, alas, no reports on what the restroom facilities may have been like...

beyond the stands in left-center, was the classical facade of the Boston Opera House. These two buildings were as much a part of this park as the tool shed.

To the south, the round- houses, warehouses, and other support structures of the rail yard also regularly made their presence known. It's well documented that there were times when the wind was blowing just right and the fans might be overcome by smoke from these buildings or even passing trains. Ultimately, it was the neighborhood which determined the fate of the Huntington Avenue Grounds, and led to the birth of one of the game's greatest parks ever.

Well Remembered

After its all-too-brief glory days, the park was abandoned, and the land reverted to being home to circuses, large outdoor events, and most notably something called Billy Sunday's Tabernacle. Sunday was a traveling evangelist who drew extremely large crowds [an error occurred while processing this directive] to his tent revivals. The Royal Rooters followed the Red Sox to Fenway Park, but the famous McGreevey saloon disappeared when the country went dry.

Northeastern University acquired the site many years later, and erected the plaque honoring the site's history on the outside of Cabot Center in 1956. Nearly 40 years later in 1993, the president of the university, John A. Curry, initiated the project which would lead to a more elaborate memorial to the park in the courtyard now known as World Series Way. The university, together with the Yawkey Foundation, commissioned sculptor Robert Shure to create the statue of Cy Young.

"The location of the statue was dictated by the buildings and the park, which were designed and built years before the statue," explains Vin Lembo of Northeastern University. "It faces the wrong way, west instead of southwest, so that we could install a home plate on the mound of grass in the middle of the part 60 feet 6 inches away from the statue." The misalignment he speaks of is evident from the aerial photographs. The original park's orientation was essentially northeast/southwest.

So is the statue really where Cy Young used to pitch -- even if it does face slightly the wrong direction? By superimposing [an error occurred while processing this directive] the detailed 1908 Bromley survey map over a modern aerial photo and scaling them to the same size, it's possible to confirm that it does indeed sit on or very near to the original location of the pitching mound. And while approximating the location would certainly be forgiveable, it appears that fortune smiled upon the designers of the campus, and made this remarkable detail possible.

Standing near the statue on a sunny summer day, this place does feel like it's still a part of the game. Of course, the games and seasons here ended long ago, and like all ballparks will eventually, this one has faded away. But what happened here has not. What Cy Young did here a century ago is the yardstick by which pitchers forever will be measured. That makes this little patch of ground unique, and makes it feel relevant to what's going on just across the Fens, and around the world of baseball. That's certainly some lingering ballpark magic.

Cy Young in 1908 (Source: LOC)