In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James writes: “The only park I know of built specifically for the Negro Leaguers was White Sox Park in Los Angeles, built by Joe Pirrone, who was the man behind the California Winter Leagues” (p. 178). In fact, there were at least three important parks built for Negro League clubs, the other two being: Stars Park in St. Louis (at 34th and Laclede), with its famous 250-foot left field fence, which first saw action in 1922; and Greenlee Field in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the 1930s.
I think I’ve found a fourth. From William G. Nunn’s “Diamond Dope” column, Pittsburgh Courier (June 27, 1925):
THE PASSING OF CENTRAL PARK
Central Park, the only race-owned, controlled and managed colored baseball park in the city [Pittsburgh], has passed into the Great Beyond. Upon the spot where the most famous colored players of modern days once planted their spikes arises a summer dancing pavilion. The pavilion will be completed by the end of this month, and where the shouts of the diamond enthusiast once held sway the shrill chatter of the modern jazz-crazed youth will be heard.
And with the passing of the grand old park memories of those halcyon days of 1920-21-22 rise to haunt us like ghosts of the night. Finished late in the summer of 1920 by A.D. Williams, the park launched out upon a glorious future. Sell Hall brought his American Giants into the park, and there, under the name of the Green Stockings, they finished the season, playing to big crowds and doing much to show the potential possibilities.
The next year Williams was given a franchise in the N. N. League [the Pittsburgh Keystones]. Dismukes was brought here to manage the club. The park was enlarged, grandstands erected, and things looked prosperous. Dismukes used the nucleus of local players to make his club, augmenting them with various out-of-town stars from time to time. Included in the list of those who played with him were Harold Martin, Gooden, Allen, Buddy Clay, Jap Washington, Oscar Owens, Texas Burnett, Fred Downer, Willis Moody, Salmon, Brown, Gray, Gerard Williams and many others. The club made a glorious record, and local fans were given a chance to see big leaguers in action here.
In the middle of 1922, following a game with the Homestead Grays, which ended in a riot, Dismukes severed relations with Williams. From that time on the park went down. Dicta Johnson was brought here, but he failed to make a go of it. Sell Hall, Williams and Downer tried to make the park go. But lack of management and capital proved their undoing.
Central Park is no more, but it will always hold fond memories for thousands.
Central Park was located at “Wylie Avenue and Chauncey Street,” according to the Pittsburgh Post (Aug. 21, 1921). Nunn mentions the Pittsburgh Keystones of the 1922 Negro National League; the club was actually founded in 1921, which would seem to indicate that A.D. Williams built Central Park with the Keystones in mind. The 1921 Keystones, though independent, played a number of games against Negro National League teams (going 5-8-1), as well as a bitterly contested series against the Homestead Grays (which was only sporadically reported in the Post).
RESEARCH NOTE: The standard microfilm edition of the Pittsburgh Courier starts in 1923 (though the paper was founded in 1910), and one important Pittsburgh daily newspaper, the Press, has apparently not been microfilmed from 1900 to 1925. This makes the Post the only easily available newspaper for Pittsburgh in 1920-22. I’d love to know if the pre-1923 Courier has been archived anywhere, or if a bound run of the Press exists.