PORTLAND, Maine — Minor league baseball was popular in town long before the Sea Dogs first stepped up to the plate at Hadlock Field in 1994. Portland’s professional-ballplaying history even predates Hadlock, itself.
Between 1913 and 1930, on the opposite end of town, city baseball fans rooted for teams such as the Portland Duffs, Eskimos and Paramounts at a place called Bayside Park. There, they cheered on hometown heroes including Roland “Cuke” Barrows, Ray “Lanky” Jordan and William “Doc” Doherty.
Once, a local lad even held Babe Ruth hitless there in an exhibition game.
But don’t go looking for this historic hardball landmark. You won’t find it — not even a trace. Bayside Park’s storied outfield, bleachers and screaming fans vanished more than 70 years ago. Industrialization and urban renewal saw to that.
But now, thanks to a just-completed research project, a picture of Portland’s long-lost ballpark is coming into focus. The project was spearheaded by historic preservation graduate student Evan Brisentine, who also happens to be a professional baseball pitcher.
“It was really fun and interesting,” Brisentine said. “I wish I’d had a whole year to work on it.”
He spent the summer as an intern at Greater Portland Landmarks, where he worked on the project with Julie Larry, director of advocacy at the preservation organization. He’s currently a student at the University of Oregon but spent two summers hurling fastballs for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tides in 2013 and 2014.
The now-defunct team competed in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Brisentine, a lefty, went a combined five wins and three losses over those two seasons. The Raging Tides played other New England teams like the Brockton Rox, Martha’s Vineyard Sharks and the Nashua Silver Knights.
“I did pretty well,” said Brisentine, who played for Santa Clara University as an undergrad, “and we made the playoffs twice.”
After his time playing in Old Orchard Beach, Brisentine went on to play four professional seasons overseas. He pitched for the Melbourne Demons in Australia, the Zurich Barracudas in Switzerland and the Heemstede Penguins in the Netherlands before enrolling in grad school.
When he had the chance to intern in Maine, the connection was already strong. It needed to be. Due to the pandemic, it was a virtual internship.
“I lived on Google Maps,” Brisentine said. “But I’d been there before.”
His main summer task at Greater Portland Landmarks was analyzing data collected in a series of neighborhood historic home surveys. The ballpark project was a side gig.
“I knew he was interested in baseball,” said Larry, who assigned him the topic.
“I took off with it — it became a passion project,” Brisentine said.
His passionate work revealed a lot about the park.
Bayside Park sat on the northside of Fox Street, between Boyd and Smith Streets. The flat area used to be part of Back Cove. Successive fill projects, starting in the 1870s and ending in the 1960s, created much of what is now the Bayside Neighborhood.
At the time the park opened in 1913, Marginal Way was a muddy shoreline.
“With Boyd Street down the 3rd base line and Fox Street down the 1st base line, if a batter really got a hold of a ball, he could make a splash hit beyond Back Cove’s high water line out in left field,” Brisentine wrote.
That first season, the Portland Duffs were managed by their namesake, Hugh Duffy, in the Lower Class-B New England League. Duffy was born in Rhode Island and spent most of his major league career playing outfield for the Boston Braves between 1892 and 1900. He’d already skippered the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox. Duffy later went on to lead the Red Sox for two seasons, as well.
He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1945.
In the course of his digging, Brisentine even found a fuzzy picture postcard of that opening day. Only a couple other photos of Bayside Park are known to exist.
Duffy stayed in Portland until the end of the 1916 season. Then, in 1917, the Portland Paramounts came to town.
“Although the Portland Paramounts only lasted one season at Bayside Park, there continued to be a string of teams that called the park their home,” Brisentine wrote
They included the Portland Blue Sox in 1919, the Portland Green Sox in 1925, the Portland Eskimos in 1926 to 1927, and the Portland Mariners from 1928 to 1930.
Aside from the teams that played in Bayside Park, Brisentine also zeroed in on some of the players.
“I really wanted to talk about stats but I kept it more to biographical details and the players’ connections to Portland,” he said.
Some of the more interesting players Brisentine found include Cuban-born Oscar Tuero. He played for the Portland Duffs during the 1914 season, then went on to make the 1918 to 1920 St. Louis Cardinals teams.
Left Fielder Roland “Cuke” Barrows played at Bayside, too. Barrows later played for the Chicago White Sox between 1909 and 1912. His family greenhouse business operated in his hometown of Gorham until 2011.
James “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick was a beloved teacher, athletic director and coach at Portland High School for 45 years. Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium, where they now play football, was named in his honor.
“He also played semi-professional ball in Portland. He once faced Babe Ruth at Bayside Park in Portland, where Ruth was doing batting exhibitions,” wrote Brisentine, who then went on to quote Fitzpatrick.
“I pitched the whole game,” Fitzpatrick said. “Ruth popped twice to the infield and the other two times, I struck him out, and when Babe didn’t speak to me after the game I knew he was mad and I was some shook up.”
Not all the players Brisentine researched were men. He also wrote about Florence Irene “Smokey” Woods who caught batting practice and shagged flies for the 1913 Portland Duffs.
“Known for her exceptional batting eye as well as her throwing arm, she played on several area teams,” Brisentine wrote.
Woods later took vows, becoming Sister Mary Athanasia. She was a tireless baseball promoter while teaching at several area Catholic Schools and was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.
Baseball hopes spring eternal every year but Bayside Park’s glory days lasted fewer than 20 seasons.
“Although baseball remained an extremely popular sport in Portland, the challenges of the independent baseball leagues did not allow a team to stay at Bayside Park for a long time,” Brisentine wrote. “Teams could not constantly fill the stands and make a profit.”
The city’s professional baseball scene eventually shifted to what’s now Hadlock Field after it opened in 1930. Bayside then became home to several local leagues but fell into disrepair. A large fire destroyed much of the original wooden structure in 1933. The remaining grandstands were torn down in 1950 and the rest was bulldozed for a trucking company the following year.
Urban renewal further obliterated the area in the 1950s and 60s with the construction of Interstate 295 and Franklin Street. Today, several breweries, including Rising Tide, sit where Fitzy struck out the Babe, twice.
Though long gone, Larry believes Bayside Park lives on in one crucial way. She thinks the Bayside Neighborhood actually got its name from the park.
“From what we can tell, that’s where it comes from,” she said.
His Greater Portland Landmarks project completed, Brisentine is now back at school in Oregon. Larry said she’s pleased with his work, reviving the memory of the old baseball grounds.
“He doesn’t get a grade but he’d definitely get an A if he did,” she said.
While completing his internship, Brisentine also managed to squeeze in a summer of ball, pitching for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Oregon’s independent Mavericks League. He finished with a record of seven wins against three losses in 13 appearances. Brisentine’s earned run average was a respectable 3.58 and he struck out 73.
Brisentine is not sure if he’ll pitch again next summer.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I’ve got to finish this degree, first.”
You can read the entire report by Brisentine and Larry at the Greater Portland Landmarks website.