Arts and Leisure

Flashback Photo: Hampden Park, Springfield, Mass.

Hampden Park

Hampden Park

Hampden Park was the setting for the Springfield Bicycle Club’s second international meet in September 1883. The first, a year earlier, attracted 12,000 spectators and participants. This one would set a national record for attendance.

Enthusiasm for bicycle races would remain high for some time. In 1894, The New York Times agreed to present a $50 gold medal to the to the cyclist who made the fastest mile over a three-day meet. The newspaper promoted the event, reporting ‘all the crack cyclists’ had entered:

It is expected by the cycling sharps that the great tournament here next week will prove to be more of a success than the previous big meets at Hampden Park. If this should prove to be the case, then there will be no doubt of the coming meeting being the very best of the season, not even excepting the great national tournament at Denver.

The promoters of the racing, the wide-awake members of the Springfield Bicycle Club, are very much pleased over the interest displayed in the tourney by The New-York Times in presenting a fifty-dollar gold medal…

Hampden Park wasn’t limited to bicycle races, though. It got its start in 1853 when the Hampden Agricultural Society bought the property for harness racing. During the Civil War it was used for muster by the 10th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. A baseball field was later added, and the Springfield Ponies, Tips, Green Sox, Hampdens, Nats, Rifles, Cubs and Giants played there over the years. Circuses, fireworks, track meets and the Yale-Harvard football game were all held at the park.

After changes of ownership, Hampden Park reopened as League Park on Patriots Day in 1922. By 1940, its name was changed to Pynchon Park. On Sept. 11, 1966, Pynchon Park’s grandstand burned to the ground.

There’s actually another Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, which is that country’s national stadium. Both were named for the same man, John Hampden, who challenged the authority of King Charles I.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Thanks to Exploring Western Massachusetts and Project Ballpark.

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