St. Louis, MO
Today's Cardinals of the National League began in 1882, as the St. Louis Browns of the then-major American Association. They won four championships during the Association's ten-year existence of 1882 through 1891. During that decade, the team was playing their home games at Sportsman's Park, at the corner of Grand and Dodier. In 1892, four of the Association clubs were absorbed into the National League, and the Association folded. Sportsman's Park remained the home of the Browns during their first NL season.
Although the Browns had been the most successful of the Association clubs, they fell on hard times for some years after the merger. For 1893, owner Chris von der Ahe moved his team a few blocks to the northwest and opened a "New" Sportsman's Park, on the southeast corner of Natural Bridge and Vandeventer. The move to this particular site was part of a "deal", as the property had been owned by a trolley company, who then ran a trolley line out near the ballpark. The diamond was in the northwest corner of the block. Prairie Avenue was the east (left field) border. Right field, the shorter of the outfields, was bordered by Lexington Avenue.
The ballpark was generations ahead of its time in some ways. Along with the basic stands, Von der Ahe had built an adjoining amusement park, a beer garden, a race track in the outfield, a "shoot-the-shoots" water flume ride, and an artificial lake (used for ice skating in winter). The side show notwithstanding, the club performed poorly on the field for most of the 1890s, consistently finishing at or near last place in the 12-team league as Von der Ahe sold off his best players in order to keep the club solvent.
On April 16, 1898, a fire ignited by a dropped and still-burning cigar consumed the grandstands and other structures. A heroic overnight effort was made to construct some temporary seating, and the game scheduled for the 17th was played. Von der Ahe was able to secure financing to rebuild the permanent stands, albeit in a much more modest design than before. But this was the last step in the decline of his once-proud franchise.
In 1899, Von der Ahe sold the Browns to Frank and Stanley Robison. By then the ballpark was no longer the "New" Sportsman's Park. During the Robison's tenure, the venue was simply called League Park. It would bear that name through the 1910 season.