SchorlingPark_featured

Schorling Park Panorama!

Indulging in some web surfing last week I stumbled upon Gary Ashwill’s blog.  Ashwill is a baseball historian and data compiler for the Negro Leagues Database at Seamheads.com, ambulance sale and an all-around black baseball history guru.  On his personal blog, ambulance cialis Ashwill unearths and contextualizes worn photos and ephemera from baseball eras long lost.  This 1923 panoramic photograph of Schorling Park serves as a notable example (click on the image to view in all of its high-res glory):\n\n\n\nSchorling Park (also known as South Side Park), pills at Pershing Rd. and Wentworth Ave., was home to Chicago’s most talented collection of African-American and Latin ballplayers: the American Giants, led by Rube Foster.\n\nFoster is a colossal figure in baseball history.  He was instrumental in founding, organizing, and maintaining the first Negro National League, which he operated out of Chicago.  Foster’s American Giants won the NNL pennant the first three seasons of the league’s existence.  But in 1923 the prize would go to the Kansas City Monarchs.\n\nThis photograph was taken during that season, on Sunday May 27, 1923, when the Giants faced off against the rival Monarchs.  Big crowds were common on Sundays, with fans decked out in their church day bests, but this turnout was exceptional.  The stands swelled with 17,000 black and white spectators—2,000 more than capacity.  The Chicago Defender’s Frank Young wrote that it was largest crowd in the history of the park, and the largest ever to see two black teams play.  Attendees witnessed what Young called “one of the greatest baseball games staged in this city in many a day.\”\n\nThe Giants rallied from behind twice.  In the bottom of the seventh inning, they scored two to tie the game at two.  At the end of that inning, the temporary seating in left field, brought in to accommodate the record crowd, gave way under its collective weight, injuring two dozen patrons.  When the game got back under way, the Monarchs quickly took back the lead with two runs in the top of the eighth, only to see the Giants tie again in the bottom half of the inning.  The game went into extras, when Cuban-born Hall of Famer Cristóbal Torriente scored on a Jim Brown double in the bottom of the tenth, for a Giants winner. [1]\n\nA back story like that, along with stirring aesthetics and the lack of game-action photographs from this era, make this panorama a real rarity.\n\nFor me, the photo is one of stunning contrasts.\n\nThe spectacle of black and white Chicagoans interacting amicably inside Schorling Park belied the state of local race relations.  Schorling Park sat on the border of the city’s stark black-white residential divide.  In 1920, the neighborhoods to the east of Wentworth Avenue were 75 percent black, while the neighborhoods just west of Wentworth were almost 100 percent white.  In the Hamburg and Canaryville neighborhoods beyond the confines of Schorling Park, white residents were more hostile toward African Americans than in any other area of the city. [2]\n\nVisually the photograph offers quite a juxtaposition as well—the vast outfield grass, beset by a mass of humanity, shielding the park from the imposing industrial city surrounding it—Schorling Park was an oasis smack-dab in the middle of a major manufacturing district in one of the most important manufacturing cities in the nation and the world in 1923.\n\nI wanted to know more about the stone facades and smokestacks looming in the background of the panorama.  So I thought, as would any history nerd who’s endured too many Batman TV series reruns: “To the Sanborn maps, let’s go!”\n\nSanborn fire insurance maps are detailed diagrams of city structures and surrounding environment, published in over a hundred volumes compiled mostly in the first half of the twentieth century.  The Illinois maps are digitized and available through the Chicago Public Library.\n\nThe maps are broken up into hundreds of sheets, each representing only a few city blocks.  I located the sheet containing “American Giants Ball Park,” north of Pershing Rd. between Princeton and Wentworth.  Then I cropped and merged sheets to the south and east, which detail the cityscape within the purview of the camera…and voilà! (click on the image below):\n\n\n\nSomething else to understand here.  The panoramic photo was taken in 1923 and the map is a combination of two Sanborn volumes, one from 1912 and one from 1925.  Since the company mapped the whole city over decades, years sometimes separate the detailed diagrams on one side of a street and the other.  Pershing Rd. is one of those streets.\n\nAs a result, in my map, anything north of Pershing was assessed in 1911 (presumably, because the volume was published in 1912), and anything south of Pershing was assessed in 1924 (ditto, 1925).  In other words, buildings demolished or erected around the park over the period 1911-1924 might not appear in the photograph or on the maps, depending on when the razing or raising took place.  Make sense?\n\nAnyways, based on pretty good evidence, intuition, and my limited ability to fuse map to camera vantage point, here are the structures I’ve identified from the panoramic cityscape behind Schorling Park (again, click the image):\n\n\n\nQuibbles are welcome… No one?  Alright then, moving along…\n\nThe steeple of St. George’s Catholic Church is the most obvious reference point linking map to photo.  The church served south side German parishioners from 1884 to 1969.\n\nPerhaps the most imposing building in the panorama is the Hartman Furniture & Carpet manufacturing and distribution center.  Hartman was one of many successful Chicago mail-order companies in the early twentieth century.  You can peruse the 1916 catalog at the Internet Archive.\n\nTo the south, in front of the \”cistern,\” lies the Heissler & Junge wholesale bakery plant, featured, with photos, in this 1912 publication.  Immediately east of the bakery is Link-Belt Co., an agro-industrial conveyor and machine manufacturer.  The company employed over a thousand people in the Chicago area. Read more about its history at Encyclopedia of Chicago.\n\nTo the far left of the panorama, behind the right field fence, sits J.F. Kidwell & Brothers.  The dimensions South Side Park were actually built to accommodate Kidwell’s greenhouse buildings, shortening the right field porch considerably (as evidenced by the Sanborn map).  Wow!  A florist business anywhere near a modern-day stadium development project would be eminent-domained (not a real verb) faster than you could say McCuddy’s Tavern!\n\nThat’s another contrast.  How ‘bout a few more?\n\nProfessional sports used to be surrounded by big businesses—now the latter are gone and sports are big business.  With the help of taxpayer subsidies, today’s robber barons provide part-time, low-wage jobs at the ballpark for workers (here’s a Yankee Stadium example), while any remaining factory and warehouse buildings surrounding sports stadiums are converted into retail/commercial/residential complexes for urbanites of a different class.\n\nOr how about the contrast of an alternative, viable, professional baseball league?  Permitted by baseball’s overlords to operate outside of the legal monopoly!  Whereby fans could forgo whatever were the 1920s versions of jingoism, t-shirt launchers, and sound-system-driven enthusiasm, and alternatively witness baseball at a very high level elsewhere!  I’d tout it more except that the Negro Leagues were products of institutional racism, so the ends don’t at all justify the means.\n\nAnyways, these contrasts are stories for another blog post.  Hope you liked my map.\n\n \n\nReferences:\n\n[1] BROWN’S DOUBLE WINS 10 INNING GAME FROM ROGAN: 17,000 SEE FOSTER WIN Young, Frank The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967); Jun 2, 1923 ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Defender (1910-1975) (Available via Chicago Public Library website)\n\n[2] For more information see the Chicago Commission on Race Relations report on the 1919 race riot published in 1922.\n\n 

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