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FOURTH STREET BASEBALL FIELD
FOURTH STREET BASEBALL FIELD. The DUBUQUE ATHLETIC FIELD, also known as the Dubuque Municipal Park, Fourth Street Baseball Field, and after 1961 PETRAKIS PARK was located on what was known as the Fourth Street Extension between Dubuque and the bridge leading to East Dubuque. The land was originally a network of sloughs and islands. In the 1850s part of it was platted and became CITY ISLAND. The STANDARD LUMBER COMPANY was allowed to use it for their lumber yards. The land lay neglected until 1912 when Alderman McLaughlin of the Second Ward obtained $2,500 from the city council to convert the property into an athletic park. Baseball teams began playing at Memorial Stadium in 1915.
Baseball moved to the new field from COMISKEY PARK in 1927. In 1930 night baseball came to Dubuque. (1) The Fourth Street Baseball Field, the first municipally-owned field in the United States, was said to have the best lighting system, of its day due to the efforts of Fred LEISER. It was five years before lighted baseball came to the major leagues. The improved lighting, however, did not improve attendance. At the end of the 1931 season, organized baseball left Dubuque.
On October 30, 1958 the city council and the Recreation Commission approved a $9,600 combined restroom and shower room to be constructed out of the $12,500 baseball appropriation given to the Recreation Commission for 1958-1959. Based on the decision, Dubuque Baseball Inc. proceeded with getting another baseball team. The Chicago White Sox ended its working relationship with the Dubuque Packers in September due to inadequate facilities at the park. Also proposed for future action were: (2)
1. Calling a city election in the summer of 1959 on the question of building a new baseball field through a special bond issue or
2. A council appropriation of $17,563 for re-aligning the field, extending fences and re-grading the playing surface, if the bond issued failed to be approved.
The proposal originally submitted by Dubuque Baseball for new stands and field realignment was scrapped at the meeting when Ken Cullen, the city engineer, reported that the suggested improvements would cost $147,428 instead of the $65,00 estimated by Dubuque Baseball. If a new ball park in a new location was approved by voters, the new facilities, it was claimed, would not be wasted since the Fourth Street Ball Park would become a playground for youth. (3)
In 1960 Dubuque Baseball Inc. was given the field for the token receipt of one dollar. The ball club assumed full maintenance responsibilities on the 63 days games were scheduled. The Dubuque Recreation Commission had previously charged the club $2,500 annually. Recreation Direction Nicholas SUTTON explained that the fee was usually wiped out by maintenance costs paid by the city. A spokesperson for the club said that members of the painters' union were planning to immediately paint the buildings with paint supplied by the city.
Minor league baseball ended in Dubuque after the 1976 season in large part because of the substandard facility. Its stadium had wooden bleachers with a backstop made of chicken wire surrounded by a wooden fence. Likely to be flooded, the field had to be closed for the first 41 games of 1965 because of flood waters. Construction of new clubhouses in 1975 and the erection of batting ages down the left-field line gave promise, but eventually was not enough. After the Astros pulled their affiliate out of Dubuque it appeared the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested in moving in but did not because of the poor facilities. (4)
1. "Dubuque Will Keep Franchise," Telegraph-Herald, July 22, 1910, p. 78
2. "Ball Park Improvements Approved," Telegraph-Herald, October 31, 1958, p. 1
3. "Baseball Club Gets Park for Token Rental," Telegraph Herald, April 12, 1960, p. 1
4. O'Neill, Tim,"For 18 Seasons, Dubuque Was Part of the MLB Pipeline," A Perfect Game, published by the Telegraph Herald, August 4, 2002, p. 9