Vancouver History: Athletic Park

Comments 2 by Rebecca Bollwitt

99 years ago, on April 16, 1913, Athletic Park was dedicated on Hemlock and West 5th.

1915 – Opening Day vs Victoria by the City of Vancouver Archives on Flickr. Archives item# PAN N14B. Photographer: WJ Moore.

Chuck Davis writes: “The park was built by Bob Brown, who would come to be known as Mr. Baseball here. Brown had purchased the Vancouver Beavers club of the Northwestern League for $500 in 1910. He was the club’s owner, president, manager and shortstop… …The Beavers went on to win the league pennant. Alas, the club disbanded at the end of the 1922 season, and the city went without pro ball for 15 years.”

"Opening Game Base Ball Season 1915" "Vancouver vs. Victoria"
1915 – Opening Day vs Victoria, full panorama. City of Vancouver Archives on Flickr. Archives item# PAN N14B. Photographer: WJ Moore.

Athletic Park hosted football games, lacrosse, bike races, and rallies on top of the regular baseball season. It’s also where Nat Bailey, at the age of 18, began selling peanuts to fans.

1930. Archives item# CVA 99-2416. Photographer: Stuart Thomson.

According to an article about Vancouver Baseball History written by Jim Bennie, Athletic Park suffered a fire in 1926 but it survived to host the first night baseball game in Canada (a double-header) on July 3rd, 1931.

Even Babe Ruth played at Athletic Park in 1934 along with his team of “American League All-Stars” that included Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Charlie Gehringer, Heinie Manush, Lefty O’Doul, and manager Connie Mack.

Three thousand fans showed up the next day in pelting rain that lasted the whole game, with the field ankle-deep in mud, but the players—the Babe included—stayed, and so did the crowd. Said Lefty O’Doul in the dugout, “Say, this is some baseball town, isn’t it? Back in Portland there weren’t five hundred out and on a bright and sunny day.” Ruth, who had hit 60 home runs for the Yankees a couple of years earlier, told the Sun’s Hal Straight that nobody would ever hit 60 again. [Vancouver History]

Pictures and sounds and people—Lou Gehrig wearing rubber boots and carrying an umbrella in a storm which flooded a major league exhibition at Athletic Park in 1934 … Babe Ruth wallowing to the plate in the mud, turning to 6,000 zealots sitting soddenly in the downpour and shouting, “Well, if you fans can sit in it, we can play in it” … Nat Bailey peddling his hot dogs in a high tenor voice, chanting: “A loaf of bread, a pound of meat, and all the mustard you can eat …” [Vancouver Baseball]

1934. Archives item# CVA 99-2837. Photographer: Stuart Thomson.

In 1944, Seattle beer magnate Emil Sick bought Athletic Park and renamed it “Capilano Stadium”. The season stopped due to war-time travel restrictions but would pick up again in 1946. A new Capilano Stadium was built (near Queen Elizabeth Park) in 1951 and was then renamed Nat Bailey Stadium in 1978.

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2 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Rebecca Bollwitt on Athletic Park, courtesy of Miss 604 | vancouvernoirWednesday, April 18th, 2012 — 10:56am PDT

    […] Rebecca Bollwitt on Athletic Park, courtesy of Miss 604 […]

  2. John Douglas BelshawWednesday, April 18th, 2012 — 11:00am PDT

    Nice piece. Athletic Park was also used for labour rallys, especially for the tens of thousands of industrial workers who toiled in the mills and shipyards and metal-bashing operations along False Creek.

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