Washington Park served as home field for a number of professional baseball organizations and local teams in the city in the early 1900s, most notably the Indianapolis Indians.

A long row of baseball players are lined up in front of a covered grandstand full of people.
An estimated 15,000 fans watched an exhibition match between the Indianapolis Indians and the New York Yankees at Washington Park on September 22, 1920. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Construction on the original stadium, located on the city’s eastside at 3001 E. Washington St., began in late 1899 and was completed in time for the opening of the 1900 Baseball season. The wooden grandstand and bleachers seated approximately 5,800 people.

The Indianapolis Indians played their first game at Washington Park in the spring of 1902 under the leadership of team manager and owner William H. Watkins. The newly assembled Indianapolis team joined other major cities in the formation of the premier minor league American Association. The Indians won the pennant in 1902 and played at Washington Park through the 1904 season, but the ballpark was demolished later that year. 

In 1905, a new, larger stadium, also named Washington Park, replaced the former and opened on the city’s westside on the 1200 block of W. Washington St. The Indians played their inaugural game at the new ballpark on April 19, 1905. Prior to the 1909 season, the wooden grandstand and bleachers were expanded, increasing the seating capacity of the stadium to 20,000. The team won three league pennants in 1908, 1917, and 1928.

In addition to the Indians, the Indianapolis ABCs, a Negro League baseball team, also used Washington Park for many of their home games in the late 1910s and 1920s. Baseball was an important institution for African Americans. The ABCs served as a source of pride, entertainment, and economic growth for the Black community, while also showcasing some of the best players in the game at a time when African American athletes were prohibited from playing in the major leagues. 

Washington Park hosted the first game of the Negro National League on May 2, 1920. Famed early Black baseball manager Charles I. Taylor, who led the ABCs, and Oscar M. Charleston, considered one of the best players of the game, participated. ABCs defeated the Chicago Giants, 4-2.

The stadium became the first in the American Association to feature night games when it added six floodlight towers to the ballpark in June 1930. Despite the addition of the new lights, games stopped being played at Washington Park during the 1931 season when team owner Norman Perry opened a larger, more modern stadium south of Riverside Park on 16th Street. 

The Indians played their first game at Perry Stadium (later known as Bush Stadium) in September 1931. Washington Park was torn down soon after and the site became part of the Indianapolis Zoo.

Revised February 2021

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