Fans Speak / Joe Mock
Web Tour: Ballparks - List of MLB Ballparks and Stadiums: Alphabetically by Team, League and Year of first season. Seating capacities and field dimensions represent a typical season. Complete for 1998, some data as far back as 1884, including disbanded teams.
What was the first baseball stadium to charge money for admission?
What was the first baseball stadium to charge money for admission. I would appreciate your help.
Joe Mock's Response
Thanks for writing. There is no way to obtain a definitive answer to your question, but I can make some educated guesses.
Prior to 1865, there isnt much evidence that anyone was paid to play baseball. The sport was played by amateur clubs, not by pros so one would wonder if there was much need to charge admission. That changed in 1866 when the Philadelphia Athletics reportedly started paying their three biggest stars. By 1869, the first all-professional team the Cincinnati Red Stockings had come on the scene.
So what park was the first to charge admission? My best guess is that it was either in Brooklyn or Philadelphia. Union Grounds in Brooklyn was built in 1862 (another book says it was 1864) not far from the East River, and it is credited with being the first enclosed baseball field. It could hold 1,500 spectators, and was horseshoe-shaped. Why would you enclose a field if you werent going to charge admission? Perhaps this was the first to charge fans to enter.
Or maybe it didnt happen until the Athletics started paying some its players. If that is the case, then the answer to your question is a field that existed at 15th Street and Columbia Avenue in Philadelphia. The first account Ive ever read that an admission fee was collected for a game said that fans were charged for a game on October 1, 1866, when the Athletics hosted the Brooklyn Atlantics for Game One of what was considered to be the championship of the young sport. Fans were charged 25 cents, and 8,000 tickets were sold in advance. Unfortunately, another 20,000 fans or so crowded in on the field hoping to catch the game, and the unmanageable throng caused the game to be postponed. This meant that the first game of the series was in Brooklyn a few days later. Was admission charged? We dont know, but it might have been. When the series shifted back to Philadelphia, fences had been erected around the ballfield to keep the fans from spilling out into fair territory. As many as 3,000 of the 20,000 spectators paid a full dollar to attend that game on October 22.
So theres no way to know for sure, but I would bet that either Union Grounds in Brooklyn or the park on Columbia Avenue in Philadelphia was the first to charge admission. By the way, the Philadelphia facility is not the same one that was called Columbia Park. That one was about 14 blocks farther north on Columbia Avenue, and was the first home of the American League Athletics in 1901.
-- Joe Mock, Webmaster of BASEBALLPARKS.COM and The Grand Slam Mall
Also author of Joe Mock's Ballpark Guide
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