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Crestwood and Baseball

Tue, June 06, 2017 3:37 PM | Anonymous member

Baseball fans: if you attend a Nationals home game, you will be close to a piece of Crestwood history. At one time, Blagden’s Wharf was located just three blocks away from where the stadium is today. Back in 1833, Thomas Blagden purchased the wharf between Third and Fourth Streets SE on the shore of what was then called the Eastern Branch of the Potomac. The wharf, along with real estate holdings and a lumber business, provided the means for Blagden to purchase his properties in Washington – including the farmstead along Rock Creek that grew into our neighborhood.

Blagden’s son, also named Thomas Blagden, would occasionally host baseball games on the estate we now call home. As the Washington Post reported on April 24, 1901: “For the second time this season the fast playing nine of the Riggs National Bank yesterday defeated a picked team at the country place of Mr. Thomas Blagden.” Riggs broke open a 3-3 tie with eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to go on to an 11-6 victory over “the Blagdens.” As a property owner who was looking forward to developing his land, perhaps it was good business to let the banker win.

One can only guess where Blagden might have located the playing field. Much of Crestwood has at least a gentle slope, with steep drop-offs that could claim foul balls. My best guess would put the batter’s box in the far northeastern end of the estate, where Thomas Blagden (as opposed to various other members of the family) still had title to the land in 1901. Perhaps the hitter would step up to the plate around present-day Emerson or Farragut Street facing toward the southwest. If so, one of the houses that would eventually sprout in the middle of the infield (at 4720 Sixteenth Street) would belong to Clark Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators.

Just to the north of our neighborhood, local baseball teams would take the field from time to time at the Brightwood Driving Park. This was a horse racing track that remained popular up to the time it was closed in 1909 when Sixteenth Street was extended right through the middle of the property (about where Kennedy Street intersects Sixteenth today). The final season of baseball at the track included a May 31, 1909 Suburban League match-up in which Brightwood defeated Petworth 9-6. The Washington Post called it “one of the most exciting contests of the season at the Brightwood driving park…First one team would take the lead, only to lose it in a few minutes. The winners were presented with a handsome silver loving cup by A. Davis after the game.”

Play ball!

-David Swerdloff

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