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Baseball, the Harbor Islands, and a glimpse into Boston’s past

This photo, which may have been taken in 1896, shows spectators on a hillside watching a baseball game on Peddocks Island.
This photo, which may have been taken in 1896, shows spectators on a hillside watching a baseball game on Peddocks Island.Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park

Baseball holds a special place in the history of the Boston Harbor Islands.

Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park officials recently shared some rare photos on Facebook that show how America’s pastime served as a welcome diversion to the men who were stationed there.

“Harbor defenses in the early to mid 1900s brought a large military presence to the islands,” the Facebook post said. “With thousands of men spending the majority of their time on island, they had to find ways to relax and have fun in their downtime. Many turned to one of the most popular sports of their time, baseball.”

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“Most of the fortifications in the harbor held a baseball diamond, and boasted a baseball team that would represent the island or fort. The teams from the various islands and forts joined together to form an inter-island baseball league. The teams and their spectators traveled between the islands to compete and to watch exhibition games.”

Peddocks Island, which was home to Fort Andrews, was a popular spot for both soldiers and professionals to play baseball, according to Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park officials.

“Professional teams at the time, including the Boston Braves, played here on Sundays to escape Massachusetts Blue Laws, which restricted business operations on Sunday,” the post said.

John Irwin was a former pro ball player who built a hotel on Peddocks after he retired from the big leagues. In 1906, Irwin and other retirees played in an “old-timers” baseball game on the island, and it was such a hit that it became an annual event. The Boston Globe covered the games, which drew hundreds of fans and big-name stars like William Arthur “Candy” Cummings, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is widely credited with inventing the curveball; and Dupee Shaw, a pitcher who was known for his elaborate windup.

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Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park officials said the baseball diamond on Peddocks was located on the parade ground. The backstop was near the chapel.

“Modern-day visitors, who have sharp eyes, can sometimes find the mound that secured the backstop,” the post said. “This allows visitors who step on to this parade ground to be transported back more than 100 years to the delights and enjoyments of summer days on Peddocks Island.”

These two men played for the baseball team that represented Fort Andrews on Peddocks Island.
These two men played for the baseball team that represented Fort Andrews on Peddocks Island.Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.