Early Baseball in Indianapolis

In 2010, a team of professors and students from Ball State University used digital mapping technologies to identify the exact location of Washington Ball Park. Decades of development and change, including the construction of the Indianapolis Zoo, had nearly erased this important part of the city’s past.

Opened in 1905, the park was home to the Indianapolis Indians until 1931, when they moved to Perry (later renamed Bush) Stadium. But Washington Ball Park was home to another important Indianapolis and American story. From around 1917 to 1931, when the Indians traveled for games, they leased the ball park to the city’s independent African American baseball team, the ABCs. During the 1910s, the ABCs (named for their sponsor, the American Brewing Company), rose to prominence and won the 1916 Negro World Series.

In February 1920, the ABCs’ manager, Charles I. Taylor, co-founded and became vice president of the Negro National League. The NNL was a baseball league for African American players during the era of segregation when they were not allowed to play alongside whites. The NNL consisted mainly of Midwestern and some Southern baseball teams, including the ABCs, the Detroit Stars, the Kansas City Monarchs, the Birmingham Black Barons, and many others. Washington Baseball Park was the site of the NNL’s first game on May 2, 1920, where the ABCs defeated the Chicago Giants twice in a doubleheader. By developing star players like Oscar Charleston, posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and insisting that players wear “collars, ties, and shined shoes,” Taylor created a very successful black baseball team whose players became role models for young African Americans.

After Taylor’s death in 1922, however, the team began to struggle, first facing player raids from the Eastern Colored League and also having financial difficulties due to the economy. Disbanding in 1924 and reforming in multiple variants throughout the late1920s, the ABCs made a comeback in 1931. The National Negro League, however, was not able to recover from financial problems and dissolved in 1932--the same year that the Indianapolis Indians abandoned Washington Ball Park for the new Perry (Bush) Stadium.


Indianapolis 1927 Baist Atlas Map Plan #30

Indianapolis 1927 Baist Atlas Map Plan #30

Baist Atlas Maps served as guides for real estate zoning purposes. Looking at this map you can locate the "Wash Ball Park" in the bottom right (southeastern portion) of the map.It is located in the C.C.C. & St. Louis Railroad Yard. Note luxury car maker, Duesenburg Automobile and Motors Company, Inc., to the west. Baist Atlas Map Courtesy of IUPUI Special Collections, Archives, and Center for Digital Scholarship | Source: Baist Atlas Map Courtesy of IUPUI Special Collections, Archives, Center for Digital Scholarship | Creator: Indianapolis Baist Atlas Maps, 1927 View File Details Page

Indianapolis Recorder,  May 9, 1931, Front Page

Indianapolis Recorder, May 9, 1931, Front Page

Front page, Indianapolis Recorder, Saturday, May 9, 1931. (See left of center.) “Let™s Go Kiddies; Free Ticket to A. B. C. Ball Game: Start now kids to cleaning up the yard and cutting the grass. Get mom and dad in a good humor so you™ll be all set for the big A. B. C. ball game at Washington park, Saturday, May 16. All you need to do is cut out the free pass in the Recorder this week and save it. Then be in front of The Recorder office not later than 2:00 p.m. Saturday with your free pass and we™ll march and to the ball park and see a real for sure ball game, home runs ‘n everything.” Image Courtesy of IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | Source: Indianapolis Recorder | Creator: Indianapolis Recorder View File Details Page

Indianapolis Recorder, May 9, 1931, Page Three

Indianapolis Recorder, May 9, 1931, Page Three

Page Three of the Indianapolis Recorder, Saturday, May 9, 1931. “A.B.C.™s Win Three of Four Game Series From Giants. Local National Leaguers Show Wonderful Brand of Baseball in Opening Series with Giants. Monster Parade is Feature of Opening Ceremonies – Enthusiasm for Club Running High—Cleveland Cubs to Open Series Saturday. (Bulletin) The Cleveland Cubs will be here for a four-game series starting Saturday, May 9th, double-header Sunday and single game Monday. The Cleveland team is a member of the Negro National league and the results of this game will affect the standing of Indianapolis in the league….” Image Courtesy of Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper Collection, from IUPUI University Library | Source: Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper Collection View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Kaelynn Hayes, Elena Rippel, “Early Baseball in Indianapolis,” Discover Indiana, accessed October 21, 2018, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/3.
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