As I mentioned the other day, it turns out that the current Josh Gibson Field (formerly Ammon Field) is actually a block west of the old Ammon Field where Gibson played his earliest professional baseball for the Crawfords in 1929 and 1930.
Here is the 1929 City of Pittsburgh Geodetic and Topographic Survey, courtesy of Historic Pittsburgh, showing Ammon Playground at the intersection of Somers St. and Bedford Ave., just a couple of blocks west of the future location of Greenlee Field. While the two baseball parks coexisted, they were separated only by a small residential block and by Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.
And here is the 1959 survey, showing the Ammon Playgrounds moved west to the current location of Josh Gibson Field, now at the intersection of Kirkpatrick St. and Bedford Ave.
Ammon Field, part of a larger city recreational park that included tennis courts and two baseball diamonds, served as the home field for the Pittsburgh Crawfords as well as a number of other professional or semiprofessional teams from 1928 to 1932, when Greenlee Field was built. After that it seemed to fall out of use even for semipro teams and other athletic activities; hardly a mention of Ammon Field appears in the Pittsburgh Courier in 1936 and 1937.
Then one night in June 1938 the bodies of a couple were found behind Ammon Field, evidently robbed and killed by a spurned suitor who had been stalking the young woman. Witnesses described the assailant and his accomplices fleeing down “Wesley row” and turning onto “Fonville street” (Panola St. in the 1929 map above, but Fonville in a 1923 map) west toward Kirkpatrick. That is, they ran through what is now Josh Gibson Field, but what was then still a grid of short streets.
The Courier helpfully printed a map of Ammon Field, with Wesley St. mislabeled “Ridgeway,” which was actually the dirt road that ran behind the recreational park. You can see the curve of Bigelow Boulevard at the top of the map and Chauncey Street in the lower right (though Somers Street is not shown).
The following month it was announced that the Pittsburgh Housing Authority would be acquiring Greenlee Field as well as “other parcels of real estate contiguous” to the ballpark (Courier, July 23, 1938), which eventually included the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, in order to construct a new low-cost housing project. At some point that same year it was decided to annex the Ammon Playgrounds to what would become Bedford Dwellings. Apparently the city promised to build a new park and recreational center on the land directly to the west of the old Ammon Field.
But two and a half years later in January 1941, as the new Ammon Recreational Center at the corner of Bedford and Kirkpatrick was nearing completion, nothing had been done about the park and baseball field that was supposed to adjoin it.
(Pittsburgh Courier, January 18, 1941)
There’s quite a bit in the Courier through 1941 about continuing efforts to get the city to do something about a new park. While the details are still unclear to me, by 1945 the new Ammon Playgrounds had been built, and the baseball field was serving as home to the semipro Pittsburgh Monarchs.
So, to sum up: the current Josh Gibson Field is not literally where Josh Gibson played his earliest professional games, and the Bedford Dwellings housing project now sits on ground formerly occupied by not one but two historic baseball parks (as well as an historic cemetery).