Historical Markers
Bowman Field Historical Marker
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Bowman Field

Valleys of the Susquehanna


Marker Location:
Field is 1700 West Fourth St., Williamsport. The marker is off of Fourth Street, in front of the field building

Dedication Date:
July 29, 2000

Behind the Marker

Not every American town,was big enough for a major league ball club. But through the first half of the twentieth century, even the smallest hamlets and villages boasted some kind of town team to call their own.

Baseball blossomed into a source of civic pride wherever and by whomever it was played - by a rag-tag amateur nine that played in dirty street clothes, a semi-pro club that survived on money collected by passing around a hat, or a lowly minor league franchise that, once every blue moon, sent an alumnus up to the show. Every town, it seemed, had some kind of community baseball gathering place, from rocky sandlots to carefully kept small stadiums. Here, residents could come together, root for the home team, and, if for just a few hours on a warm summer afternoon or evening, feel connected, unified, and part of a whole. Before there was television to isolate us indoors in front of its small screen, there was baseball to bring us together outside and to frame us in its large, national canvas.
An aerial photograph of Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA.
An aerial photograph of Bowman Field in Williamsport, PA.

Bowman Field, the oldest minor league ballpark in Pennsylvania and the second oldest in the nation, represents small ballparks everywhere. But it's not just a relic of the past. They still play professional baseball at Bowman Field.

It started in 1924, some fifteen years before markerCarl Stotz put Williamsport on everybody's baseball map by spawning an idea that grew into Little League baseball. That's when Williamsport city officials decided the time was right to build a proper stadium, one that would house the professional teams that competed on a field at the local high school. Led by local businessman J. Walton Bowman, the money was raised, ground was broken, and on April 22, 1926, the hometown Williamsport Grays of the old New York-Pennsylvania League bested Bucknell University in the inaugural contest at what was originally called Memorial Field. As if to show that baseball would have no color line in Williamsport, a week later, the stadium hosted its first professional contest - between the Grays and the Harrisburg Giants of the Negro leagues. Giants' star Oscar Charleston, a future Hall of Famer, hit the new ballpark's first home run.

Three years after it opened, the stadium was renamed in Bowman's honor and became known as Bowman Field. Over the next several seasons, Major league clubs, including the A's, came through to play exhibitions. And right up until the millennium, farm clubs affiliated with the Detroit Tigers, the New York Mets, and the Chicago Cubs would call Bowman Field home.

But Bowman Field has always been home to much more than Major league baseball. Conceived as a civic mecca, it was designed to host Williamsport baseball at every level, something its original investors made clear when they issued their mission statement: "While the primary to provide the Williamsport Baseball Club a suitable playing field, the ultimate and more important aim is to give eventually to our home city a modern and public ballpark for the benefit and use of all its people."

Of course, any dowager beyond a diamond anniversary needs some sprucing up from time to time, and Bowman Field has had its share of repairs, remodels, and renovations. Though heavy floods severely damaged the stadium in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Work Progress Administration supplied the necessary labor force and capital to fix it up in time for the Grays' opening day in May. Two decades later, the stadium had so deteriorated that the state Department of Labor and Industry condemned the grandstands. Civic pride took over, and in 1957, the city established a commission to upgrade and maintain the facility. When the Mets' affiliate arrived in the mid-1960s, it came with lights that had once lit the old Polo Grounds. Falling apart again in the late 1970s, Bowman Field was again rescued and renovated by the city. Another renovation, financed partially by matching funds from the state, took place in the late 1990s.

Today, Bowman Field is the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team's nickname pays tribute to the markerlumber industry that's helped spark the region's economy. And, no doubt, keep a civic treasure alive.
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