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Nicollet Park was hastily constructed in three weeks in 1896 to house the Minneapolis Millers, who had been given a 30-day notice to leave Athletic Park, their former home, due to the land it stood on being sold. That very year, 1896, would be the first year the Millers would win the Western League pennant. Nicollet would house this team, and many others, for the next 60 years, being the site where several future Hall of Famers would play and the place where folk-lore was born. This field would be the site of 4,800 wins for Millers fans and would grow too small for the crowds, forcing the Millers to move to Bloomington Park (later Metropolitan Stadium) in 1956 after winning the Junior World Series in 1955. The park would be torn down later in that championship year, and a bank would be constructed in 1957. A commemorative marker for the field would not be erected in 1983.
Nicollet Park would house the rivalry of the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints in conjunction with St. Paul’s Lexington Park. Hosting two of the best teams in American Association baseball history, these games were highly competitive. The Millers and the Saints would meet 22 games a season, including double-headers on three holidays each year, with a game in the morning in Minneapolis and a game in the evening in St. Paul. These rivalry games would help to break attendance records in Nicollet Park year after year.
Notable pieces of history were born at Nicollet Park. General Mills would first release their “Breakfast for Champions” slogan for Wheaties at the park in 1933, where a child could purchase a baseball ticket for two Wheaties box tops and a dime. Nicollet would also be the place where folk-lore states Andy Oyler hit a two-foot home run, though evidence of Oyler’s only home run as a Miller does not record this odd spectacle. Several future Hall of Famers would also play as Millers, including Ted Williams, Willie Mayes, Ray Dandridge, and Babe Ruth. The Millers’ opening day in 1948 would also be one of the first events ever televised in Minnesota.
The National Football League would house two teams in Nicollet Park in the 1920s and early 1930s. Both the Minneapolis Marines and the Minneapolis Red Jackets would play home games at the park. Nicollet would also house prize fights throughout its time as a sports venue.
In 1944, Nicollet Park would also become the home of a women’s professional baseball team. The Minneapolis Millerettes of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League would play their only season in the League at Nicollet. Managed by Claude Jonnard, a former New York Giant and Toledo Mud Hen, the Millerettes would have a difficult year and finish last in the six-team league. Due to long road trips and small crowds, the Millerettes spent most of their 1944 season on the road. Still, several notable All-Americans played for the team. Helen Callaghan, whose son would play in the major leagues, was their leading hitter, and Annabelle Lee, the aunt of Bill “the Spaceman” Lee, would pitch the League’s first perfect game as a Millerette in 1944. At the end of the 1944 season, the Minneapolis Millerettes would move to Fort Wayne and become the Daisies, playing from 1945 until the League folded in 1954. The Fort Wayne Daisies would become one of the most successful teams to play for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
SourcesThornley, Stew. "Nicollet Park, home of the Minneapolis Millers from 1896 to 1955." [Book excerpt] 1988. http://www.stewthornley.net/nicollet_park.html.
Photo sources links:
http://www.projectballpark.org/history/aagpbl/nicollet.html http://www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/teams/1944/minneapolis-millerettes/10 http://www.digitaldeliftp.com/Recommendations/retro10.html http://www.placeography.org/index.php/Nicollet_Ball_Park,_3048_Nicollet_Avenue,_Minneapolis,_Minneso...
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