In honor of Opening Day, I’ve changed my desktop background at the office (which was the Rock of Cashel in Ireland) to this image of Swampoodle Grounds, a 19th-century baseball field that, as you can see, was quite close to the Capitol Building, roughly (about a block away) from where Union Station stands now. Here, in a single image, are three of my passions combined — baseball, politics, and history.

Swampoodle was Washington’s Irish neighborhood, and the ballpark was open for four seasons 1886 to 1889. (My great-grandfather Allyn and his family moved from Washington, DC to Baltimore during that period.) It could hold about 6,000 people, about the capacity of a decent minor league park. (York’s baseball field and Harrisburg’s FNB Field each hold about 6,000.) I know of one other image of Swampoodle Grounds, and baseball scholars believe that Connie Mack, who would be associated with the Philadelphia A’s, is in the photo.

I don’t know of any images of the grandstand. Ballparks of that era had an interesting feature — pavilion turrets — such as in Boston (South End Grounds), Pittsburgh (Exposition Park), and Brooklyn (Eastern Park). I’m not saying Swampoodle did, but it’s certainly an intriguing possibility.

For more on Swampoodle Grounds:

The House History Man
The White House Historical Association

Opening Day! Play ball!

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