Streetcars Canals Baseball in Mid-City New Orleans
Heinemann Park, 1915
Streetcars, Canals, Baseball!
In one of our podcast conversations with Derby Gisclair, we discussed aerial photos of Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium. Derby explains the neighborhood around the stadium used by the Pelicans baseball club. While Heinemann Park wasn’t the first ballpark used by the AA-club, it was their home for most of their tenure.
This 1915 photo is amazing. It shows a football field, chalked out over the outfield, and a racing oval behind the fence. Derby suspects the racing oval dates from the amusement park the stadium replaced.
City Park Avenue to Tulane Avenue
Aerial view of the New Canal, running out to Lake Pontchartrain at the top, 1915
The Pelicans played ball at Crescent City Park, later known as Sportsman’s Park, until 1901. They moved to Tulane Avenue that year. Heinemann built the ballpark at Tulane and S. Carrollton in 1915. The team moved there that year.
Here’s the area behind the Halfway House, City Park Avenue and the New Canal. It’s a bit grainy, but you can see the patch of ground where Sportsman’s Park was located. NORD eventually built St. Patrick’s Park, a few blocks down, at S. St. Patrick and the New Canal.
Getting to the ballgame
S. Carrollton Avenue bridge over the New Basin Canal. It was demolished when the canal was filled in, late 1940s.
Pelican Stadium sat very close to the New Canal. A set of railroad tracks separated the park from the waterway. So, bridge crossed the Canal there. The streetcars used that bridge, then turned onto Tulane Avenue to continue their inbound run. So, baseball fans from Uptown rode the St. Charles line to get to the ballpark. Folks coming from downtown rode the Tulane line, down Tulane Avenue, to the ballpark.
So, I know we’ve talked about the Tulane line, particularly when it operated in “belt” service with the St. Charles line. It seems line some things pop up regularly. But hey, this is baseball! The area around S. Carrollton and Tulane was a nexus. The Tulane/St. Charles belt crossed the New Canal here. Passenger trains coming to town from the West rolled by, on their way to the Illinois Central’s Union Station. Folks bowled across the street at Mid-City Lanes. Therefore, the corner is important to many folks.
Especially baseball fans.
After the streetcars
Pelican Stadium, ca 1950
Belt service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines was discontinued in 1950. So, after that time, fans from Uptown rode the streetcar to its new terminus at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues. They transferred to the Tulane bus line from there. The Tulane line provided trackless trolley service until 1964. After 1964, Tulane used regular diesel buses. While the railroads worked with the city on the new Union Passenger Terminal, they trains still stopped right here, a convenience for Uptown passengers. The other “belt service” in New Orleans was on Canal and Esplanade, which we discuss in my book on the Canal line.
This photo is likely from 1950, because the city resurfaced Tulane Avenue. So, they removed the streetcar tracks, leaving the overhead wires for trackless trolleys.
After Pelican Stadium
The stadium became the Fontainebleau Hotel after the stadium was demolished. So, the hotel became a mini-storage facility later. Now it’s condos and storage units.
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Talking baseball! Derby Gisclair conversation on NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
We have a LONG “long-form” podcast today! It’s our second conversation with S. Derby Gisclair, author and historian, about his book, Baseball in New Orleans. I had a great chat with Derby, up at the French Truck Coffee Shop on Magazine Street in the Garden District.
New Orleans Pelicans Baseball
Pelicans manager Jimmy Brown with two Loyola players, Moon Landrieu (l), and Larry Lassalle, 1948.
Most of Baseball in New Orleans focuses on the old New Orleans Pelicans. The club was around, in one form or another, from 1887 to 1977. The New Orleans Zephyrs arrived in 1993. So, the AAA-level club in Denver had to leave that city when they got a team in The Show, the Colorado Rockies. These professional teams anchored baseball interest in New Orleans for over 150 years.
New Orleanians played baseball at several locations in the 1800s. The early Pelicans teams played at Sportsman’s Park. So, this ballpark sat just behind what became the “Halfway House,” later the Orkin Pest Control Building, on City Park Avenue. The ballpark operated from 1886 to 1900. The Pelicans moved to Athletic Park on Tulane Avenue in 1901.
Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium
In the early years of the Pelicans,Alexander Julius (A.J.) Heinemann, sold soft drinks at Pelicans games. Heinemann eventually joined the board of the club. He acquired the land at the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. So, Heinemann displaced a small amusement park called “White City.” Therefore, the Pelicans had a “serious” home. While the Pels were in the off-season, they moved the bleachers up Tulane Avenue to the new ground. The Pelicans played at Heinemann Park, later named Pelican Stadium, until its demolition in 1957. Derby has lots of stories about the ballpark in NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019.
Other Baseball Leagues
St. Aloysius and Loyola star (later Brother Martin and UNO coach) Tom Schwaner
Numerous leagues played in New Orleans. While the Pels played, amateur leagues also organized. They included workers at stores and businesses. So, these leagues played at local parks. High School and college teams also played. Derby’s books chronicle those teams. Special shout-outs to the “Brothers Boys! So, several BOSH young men appear in the book. So, one of them was St. Aloysius and Loyola Grad Tom Schwaner. Schwaner also coached Brother Martin and UNO. So, Gisclair also mentions the strong teams at Brother Martin High School in the early 1980s.
The Books of NOLA History Guy Podcast 1-June-2019
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: March 24th, 2004
Series: Images of Baseball
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Publication Date: January 2007
Series: Images of Baseball
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Publication Date: March 15th, 2019
Last Week’s Podcast, where we talk with Derby about Early Baseball.
The Denver Zephyr
Promotional photo for the Denver Zephyr
The Denver Zephyr – Chicago to Denver
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad operated streamlined passenger rail service from Chicago to Denver, from 1936 to 1973.
Denver Zephyr poster
The Route of the Denver Zephyr:
Denver Zephyr poster
The Zephyr consist included coaches, dining cars, Pullmans, and observation cars. The original Budd trainsets operated until 1956. They were then reassigned to Burlington subsidiaries, running from Denver to Dallas-Fort Worth. Burlington took delivery of new Budd trainsets that included VistaDome cars. The DZ operated a VistaDome car as a coffee shop called the ChuckWagon. This second incarnation of the DZ began operation in October, 1956. The train’s route was also extended, past Denver, to Colorado Springs.
Amtrak took over passenger service in the US in 1971. The company operated the DZ daily, from Chicago to Denver. The Denver Zephyr service was discontinued in 1973.
Kansas City Blues logo
In 1901, the Kansas City Blues moved to Washington, DC, to become the Washington Senators. Kansas City immediately formed a new team, under the Blues banner. That AAA-league team stayed in the city until 1955. The Philadelphia A’s re-located to KC that year, so the minor league club needed a new home. They found one in Denver. The team took the name “Bears,” playing in the American Association through the 1962 season. For the 1963 season, the team moved to the Pacific Coast league.
Denver Bears logo
In 1985, the team changed its name to the Denver Zephyrs, an homage to the streamliner train. The team kept that name until 1993.
Denver Zephyrs logo
Major League Baseball awarded Denver a franchise in The Show that year. When the Colorado Rockies came to town, the AAA club had to move, again. This time it was to New Orleans.
Roller Coaster to Ball Club
A minor league ball team usually changed names when it moved. The Zephyrs were able to keep their name in New Orleans, though. The city’s long-time amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach, was the connection. Pontchartrain Beach’s signature roller coaster was the “Zephyr.” When the Denver team came to town, the name connected with the locals. The entrance to the Zephyr roller coaster even looked like a streamliner train! It made sense to keep the Denver logo.
New Orleans Zephyrs logo
The team did just that, until this year. Now, the New Orleans AAA team is the New Orleans Babycakes.
MiLB New Orleans – Baseball on Tulane Avenue!
Pelican Stadium, 1921 (Mendes photo via HNOC, in the public domain)
Opening Day for MiLB New Orleans is almost here! The Pelicans are now our NBA basketball team, but we still have MiLB, with our Zephyrs.
Baseball is a Big Deal in New Orleans, and has been since the sport’s early days. We were a Spring Training spot for several teams in the early years of the 20th Century. Baseball is played at all levels here. Itty-bittys start with T-ball, moving up to the kids a bit older, using pitching machines. I’ve even seen some playgrounds where the teenage umpires pitch for both sides! As the kids get older, they move to pitching for themselves. Then they hit middle school, and the playground leagues get more organized and serious.
High school baseball is a big deal in New Orleans, with the Catholic League usually generating the most interest. At the college level, LSU Baseball is huge, given how often the Tigers and Lady Tigers make their respective NCAA tournaments. The University of New Orleans Privateers an Tulane Green Wave also have loyal fan bases. Over the years, the three-way rivalry between the these colleges has been promoted extensively, with challenge tournaments against schools from other states, even. The politics of NCAA baseball, particularly with three schools who are all in different conferences can be challenging, but when the fans want good baseball, it’s hard to say no.
Pelican Stadium, located on the corner of S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, in Mid City, was a great home to MiLB, and many were sad to see it torn down. By the time AAA ball returned to New Orleans, it made more sense to build a ballpark in the ‘burbs, and Zephyr Field, the “Shrine on Airline”, has worked out nicely.
Still, of all of these baseball games going on in and around town, it’s the AAA ballclub I like best. Major League Baseball teams play in “cathedrals”, but sometimes worshipping in a minor league “parish church” is more fun. Not to mention less expensive.