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Views of Narberth Past

At the ball game, about 1915

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Image source: Collection of the Lower Merion Historical Society

Addresses in view: 311 N. Narberth Ave., 309 N. Narberth Ave.

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint
The map speculatively re-creates the baseball field based on the photos and the 1913 map (details below).

On a summer day a century ago, grandpa poses with his grandchildren while families enjoy a baseball game and mingle with neighbors, ladies in white with sun hats and gentlemen in dark suits with boaters. Spectators crowd the edges of play and the adjacent houses, like the Brill sisters, Nellie, Marion, Bertha, Dorothy, on the porch at 311 N. Narberth Avenue.

We see the bleachers on the first base or right field side of the playing field, not the game. But the next photo gives us a good idea of what they were looking at.

straw hats of spectators behind a rope; a runner races towards first base
A view of the action from the first-base line, looking towards 309 Grayling and the row houses on Hampden. Courtesy Marion Markle Jones and Chester G. Jones, one of whom may have been the photograper. Victoria Donohoe Collection

Coffee Pot Park

Our Town reported local baseball in just about every issue during the season, usually on page one. In 1915 and 1916 it sometimes referred to Narberth's home field as "Coffee Pot Park". This was undoubtedly a reference to the Phillies' spring training grounds in St. Petersburg, Florida from 1915 to 1918, a cold-water, ramshackle affair on the edge of Coffee Pot Bayou that could seat 500 — "if 400 of them were thin".

A March 20, 1910 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the founding of the Main Line League of 8 teams, including Narberth, but we don't know if this image depicts a league game or whether baseball was played at this location earlier. The houses and the field are consistent with the 1908 and 1913 maps; in 1900 the houses were not yet built and by 1919 the lot had been developed.

Beginning in 1917, Narberth's home games were relocated to Shand Park, today Sabine Park and the adjacent parking lot. Narberth Park, today's setting for local baseball, opened in 1926.

A right-handed batter in full swing. Catcher and umpire wait for the pitch that doesn't arrive
"Simpson of Narberth at bat, Fahey of Dun catching" in the Narberth victory that clinched the 1916 Main Line League championship. The male spectators have switched from summer straw to fall felt hats. In the background are 311, 313 and 315 Price Avenue. Our Town, October 19, 1916, page 1.

Mapping Narberth's Coffee Pot Park

The "speculative baseball field" on the map measures 280 feet (right field) × 315 (left) × 390 (center), as large a field as the available lot could accommodate. The lot's shape constrains the playing area to having a shorter right field than left, just as today's Narberth Park has a shorter left field, also about 280 feet. These both resemble Philadelphia's Baker Bowl, home of the Phillies 1887 – 1938 and of Bert Bell's Eagles 1933 – 35. Known as the "Cigar Box" for its rectangular shape, its short right field had the same 280-foot distance as our rendition of Coffee Pot Park.