Dear Julia and Poydras

There is a historic maker on North Carrollton Avenue near Tulane Avenue (next to the rundown building that once was the Fountain Bay Hotel.) The marker is headed by the words “Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium.” The problem is that if I catch a red light, it turns green by the time I get to the marker’s explanation, so I never get to read it. Obviously, there was some sort of stadium at the site, but what was the big deal about it?

  –  Ellis Williams, New Orleans

 

Ellis, did you know that Poydras was once the mascot for a team called “The Pittsburgh Parrots?” He was banned from the game, however, after being told that he could not actually fly to knock down a fly ball that the other team had hit.

Here is what the rest of the sign says:

“Home of New Orleans’ first professional sports team, baseball’s New Orleans Pelicans. The “Pels” played home games here from the park’s construction in 1915 through its demolition in 1957. Negro league teams such as the Black Pelicans and the Creoles used this site for their home games as well. The stadium also hosted many Major League Baseball spring training camps and exhibition games, which featured such legends as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Jackie Robinson.”

The stadium was demolished in 1957 to make way for a fancy new resort called the Fontainebleau Hotel. Back then Tulane Avenue (which is an extension of Airline Highway) was seen as the gateway to New Orleans. Tulane was being spiffed up to make a grander entrance. What wasn’t factored in, though, was that work had begun on I-10 which would loop into downtown New Orleans. Tulane Avenue, like many old highways throughout the country, could not compete with the interstate. The Pelicans played in City Park’s Tad Gormley Stadium for a couple of years and then the franchise was sold to Little Rock. Eventually another team, using the Pelicans name, played in the Superdome, but that venture was too expensive for minor league baseball. The last vestige of minor league baseball was the Zephyrs/Baby Cakes playing in their own stadium at Zephyr Field. Curiously, that too was along Airline Highway. Baseball had truly moved to the suburbs.

 

Dear Julia and friend,

Back when the New York Yankees and Babe Ruth used to conduct spring training in New Orleans, where did they stay?

-Ed Fleurty, Monroe, LA

 

Before major league baseball teams had training camps in Florida or Arizona, they would look for various southern warm weather destinations. The Yankees made New Orleans their site in 1922, 1923 and 1924. They also had a stopover in Hot Springs, Arkansas before going to New Orleans for the players to lose weight and to do conditioning drills. In New Orleans, the Yankees stayed at the Grunewald, now Roosevelt, Hotel. According to Richard Cuicchi of Crescent City Sports website, folklore has it that Babe Ruth had to be frequently smuggled into the hotel in the wee hours of the morning after a night of carousing in the city.

 

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