About Me

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Basketball in the Park

Most people, who are familiar with Rock Springs Park, will know that part of the upper park grounds included a baseball field and large grandstand for baseball games and other outdoor events during the C.A. Smith Years, 1900 – 1925. (See Images of America: Rock Springs Park, pp. 42-43.)

The ball field was located where the old Chester High School would later be built, next to Smith's World's Greatest Scenic Railway.

But few may realize that basketball games were also a regular feature at the park and more surprisingly that for a time some games were played inside the carousel pavilion. These games would have been held in the off season, of course.

Author and Chester historian Roy C. Cashdollar wrote in his History of Chester: The Gateway to the West, "C.A. Smith sponsored a professional team at one time and not only were games played here (in the carousel pavilion pictured below) but also on the third floor of the Bank Building (in Chester)."

Carousel Pavilion being razed in 1974

In a feature found in The Pittsburgh Press dated April 2, 1905, the hoped-for upcoming baseball season is referenced in the first paragraph with “Prospects are more encouraging than ever for the formation of a first-class baseball team in this city”, but the last paragraph references the end of the1905 basketball season and an East Liverpool team backed by Smith who played their home games in Rock Springs Park.

The Pittsburgh Press - April 2, 1905 – The basketball game to be played at Rock Springs Park on next Tuesday evening by the East Liverpool and South Side teams promises to be the most interesting event of the year in basketball circles. East Liverpool appreciates the fact that South Side is the strongest team that it has ever played with, but after a patched-up team, local people are expecting a victory on Tuesday.

I know that in later years, and during WWII when the park was closed for a time, portable rides were stored inside the boarded up carousel pavilion. I always assumed that the Dentzel Carousel, installed in 1927 under the ownership of C.C. Macdonald, was left intact and the portable rides were placed around it on the deck of the waiting platform, but Cashdollar’s statement indicating that basketball games were played inside the carousel pavilion, suggests that, at least at one point during the Smith years, his carousel was completely removed and stored in another building and the games played under the octagonal roof of the carousel pavilion. This is conceivable considering the crowd could have watched the game sitting in-the-round on the loading platform, but I still have a hard time picturing it.

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