Rowe On Richmond Baseball

Richmond Times Dispatch has a local baseball history story. Here is an excerpt:

Over the years, pro teams played all around the city: at a ballfield at what is now Monroe Park, at a couple of parks on Broad Street, at several locations in the Fan District, and even City Stadium.

“A lot of people don’t realize there was a ballpark there” at City Stadium, said Russell Rowe, 89, a standout semipro infielder who enjoyed a long association with the game. “It was probably the best ballpark in town. It was excellent. It had a grass infield. Never got a bad hop.”

Rowe grew up on Oregon Hill and as a kid used to walk with his brothers to Colts games at Tate Field on Mayo Island, an intriguing little park that was used for nearly 50 years but, as you might expect from its location in the James River, had a recurring problem with flooding. But water wasn’t the problem on one of Rowe’s most memorable visits to Tate Field; fire was, consuming the grandstands, concession areas and dugouts. When word spread of the fire, Rowe rode to the park with his girlfriend and her father to watch it burn. Tate Field is gone, but Rowe’s girlfriend, Audrey, is still his wife. They’ve been married more than 65 years.

The fire pushed Colts owner Eddie Mooers over the edge. The former player and manager, who made his money running a car dealership, decided to leave Mayo Island and build his own park, Mooers Field.

It was a business move, as so many of them are in the world of professional sports. Mayer said fans often pine for the days of yesterday when baseball “was only a game,” but in pro ball, those days never really existed. He recalled a legal battle in the late 1890s between two Richmond trolley companies, each wanting a stake in the local team. The reason? A new Broad Street ballpark was on one trolley line, but the old ballpark, on Main Street, was on the other company’s line. Baseball meant more riders, so each wanted to dictate which ballpark was used.