Recreation Park Wasn’t Just a First for Philly; It Was a Baseball First for America.

PHOTO: WikiCommons

This year, Citizens Bank Park turns twenty years old. It’s lush blades of perfectly quaffed green grass, the largest illuminated Liberty Bell complete with a crack that you’ll find anywhere, and a massive digital scoreboard that provides spectators with an experience like no other.

During Philadelphia’s warmest weather, it’s a great experience to attend a ballgame and see its leather projectiles blasted into the night sky to the cheers of a sea of red and white.

That’s what you get when you experience baseball in Philadelphia.

Nestled in North Philadelphia off Cecil B. Moore Avenue is a residential area that was once home to Philadelphia’s Recreation Park. 

PHOTO: WikiCommons

The park extended between 24th Street, Ridge Avenue, Montgomery Avenue, 25th Street, and Columbia Avenue. The park was the only one of its kind in the area.

Historically, we aren’t really sure when baseballs started flying out of Recreation Park’s 331 center-foot outfield. We know it was utilized as early as June of 1860 when Equity defeated Pennsylvania 65–52. Imagine how deep the bullpen was on that day.

PHOTO: WikiCommons

Almost a year later, Recreation Park was occupied by Union Cavalry during the American Civil War. In 1863, as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia invaded Pennsylvanian soil, Philadelphia needed to mobilize a defense against the 75,000 Confederate invaders and nearly 200 cannons.

From 1860 to 1876, the original Philadelphia Athletics (also known as the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia) called Recreation Park home until they were expelled from the National League in 1876. Recreation Park was also home to the Philadelphia Athletics (NA) (1861–1870), Philadelphia Pythians (1865–1871), Philadelphia Centennials (NA) (1875), and Philadelphia Phillies (NL) (1883–1886).

The Phillies played their first game in April 1883 and defeated the Manayunk Ashlands 11–0 at Recreation Park. 1886, the team moved to a more permanent home at Philadelphia Baseball Park.

PHOTO: Google Earth

Today, a North Philadelphia Mini Mart now stands right near where home plate once was at Recreation Park.

Oh and those 200 cannons that went marching through Pennsylvania in July of 1863 with the Army of Northern Virginia? They would be part of the largest artillery bombardment in North American history.  Right outside of a little Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.

And what about those Philadelphia Athletics – excluded from the National League in 1876?
They would return to Philadelphia in 1901 and would become one of the finest teams in baseball.

PHOTO: Unsplash

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