I suppose I love baseball history even more than I love actual baseball. It’s not just the game itself, and what it says about us; it’s what happened around the game, and what it says about us.

Such as the slow but deliberate evolution of ballpark bathrooms. I began wondering about this the first time I saw the width and depth of the seats at Crosley Field.

I romanticize Crosley, and that is because I never saw it. I didn’t see its slow decay and the rapid disintegration of the neighborhood around it, the way a formerly streetcar-dependent cute little park was soon choked with huge 60smobiles trolling the side streets for parking spaces.

I also never had to sit in its seats:

LOOK AT THIS. It makes my butt hurt in horizontal slats just seeing it. The GABP bleachers are doubtless more comfortable; there’s at least a chance you can lie down on one of them. These are the chairs people wait in to post bail for errant family members.

But Riverfront’s weren’t much better; they were the apex of plastic 20th century technology, a burning mass of synthetic material in the summer and a cold-conducting slab of polymers in the winter.

And I never had to pee in a Crosley Field bathroom. If the forward march of chair technology seems striking to you, consider how life has changed in there for Reds fans.

We need to talk about this, you guys. It’s a sad gap in the grand oral history of one of our icons.

Tales of Yore

I haven’t the faintest notion what the toilets were like in the home of the first night game; for some reason, when I ask people to share their memories of Crosley, the topic never seems to come up. So in the name of formal historical research, I asked the good people of the Crosley Field Cincinnati Facebook group to share their wisdom: Please, wise elders, tell me a tale of the days of baseball yore.

“There was a circular trough to pee in,” one announced.

This was news. I’d heard that Wrigley still bore the trough system, but hadn’t heard it was ever in use at Crosley. And it was in a circle? Why was it circular? I’d always envisioned the horse water troughs outside Wild West saloons– unobtrusive, up against the rail, never discussed, and definitely failing to encourage eye contact while engaged in water-based bodily activities.

I was overjoyed when the excellent Bandbox Ballparks sent an invaluable link to a 3D recreation of the men’s room at Crosley. which revealed, much to my relief, that a blessed architect had indeed dedicated some thought to the matter and included a sort of wall to crouch behind, if necessary.

(If this rendering is indeed as accurate as it looks, it visits upon me yet another mystery– why the orange stripe on the walls? Why?! Was it a section/level demarcation? I’m all in on the archeological analysis on the bathrooms of Crosley Field.)

The Dam Is Broken

Once the topic was broached, my new gentlemen friends couldn’t share enough about the troughs. (The ladies, I noted, were silent. The ladies seemed to have avoided the thread entirely.) “The troughs were the longest ones I had ever seen!” one answered reverently.

The impressively extensive troughs, however, seem to have generated certain social awkwardness. Β “Me and my neighbor went to summer camp,” recalled one fan, “and we’re urinating in the circular trough, only to be told by a camp counselor that the urinals were on the other side of the wall and we were using the sink.

“I blame Crosley Field.”

Dubious Connections

Crosley seems to have ignited a deep-state connection between the troughs and the sinks, as I received at least one report of gentlemen relieving themselves at sinks when the troughs were at capacity.

Which, I must say, I find difficult to believe; look at all those troughs, and these were dudes we were talking about, not Eisenhower-era ladies with pantyhose and girdles and hatpins and whatever else my grandmother was expected to wear for nine innings of 85 degrees and 99% humidity.

But it seems this particular party foul wasn’t unique to Crosley. I was also alerted to accusations of similar sink-utilization behavior at Riverfront.

There’s really too much on this important topic to cram into one post, so I’ll defer discussions of Riverfront for next week. Until then, campers– stay hydrated.


34 Responses

  1. greenmtred

    I don’t remember anything bad about Crosley. What I do remember is how breathtaking the greenness of the grass was every time.

    • Jim Walker

      In the era when the immediate traditional neighborhood was gone but the freeway was not yet built, being in the box seats from 1st to 3rd base was an amazing experience for me. Looking out beyond the park, the vista included the Western Hills viaduct and then a neighborhood on the rising hills beyond it. Watching traffic on the viaduct and folks going about life on the hillsides made me feel like I was in a special enclave where the cares of regular life were suspended.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        That sounds awesome. We do get to see the river at GABP, but unless you’re facing the Gap, not much of “life as usual.”

  2. LDS

    Circular urinals, booze, and male egos – what could possibly go wrong? As one old enough to have been in college in an all male dorm (we didn’t have co-ed in those days), I can attest – a lot can go wrong.

    • greenmtred

      Can and did go wrong, but not for 12 year-old me at Crosley with my Dad.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        What incredible memories, greenmtred. I’m so glad you have them, and I hope you’ve had an opportunity to pass them on to a new generation. πŸ™‚

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Well, the closest I’ve come is all-male dorms, too. On average, they were far more hilarious than what we got up to at the girls’ dorms, but the smell was waaaay worse.

  3. TJ

    How about the urinating frenzy when someone dropped an object into the trough? Guys fighting for position to “put out the supposed fire”.

  4. Jim Walker

    Having recently visited several vacation sites here in the Dayton area and seeing various markings on trees and buildings of the high water mark of the 1913 flood in Dayton, I’ll put forward the suggestion the orange stripes around the restroom walls may be a high water mark for the 1937 flood in Cincinnati. My recollection from a caption of a photo of guys in a rowboat inside Crosley is that the water was 10′ deep on the field during that flood.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’ve seen that picture! They rowed to where the pitcher’s mound was. I cannot imagine the cleanup.

  5. David

    I went to Crosley a couple of times as a kid, and remember a few things. When the Reds had a rally going, people would stomp their feet, and the old metal grandstands would shake from the force.
    I went to Riverfront A LOT, and though people do think a “cold” modern stadium, I liked it, and have a lot of great memories of watching the Reds play there.

    I also went to old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland to see the Indians play (the Red Sox in 1975). I remember the Red Sox had some rookie in CF named Fred Lynn. Whatever happened to that guy? πŸ˜‰

    • greenmtred

      I saw the Indians and Red Sox at Municipal Stadium. What a barn: it could seat 100,000, but I doubt that it was a quarter full when I saw that doubleheader. It must have been 1960 because it was Ted Williams’ last season.

    • Jim Walker

      In 1960, I went to see the Washington Senators (current Twins franchise) at Griffith Stadium in DC where my dad’s aunt and cousins lived. I was 10/11 and with my dad and his cousin who was 18 or so.

      My dad bought good seats in the first several rows of lower grandstands behind the 3b. However, we went to the LF bleachers during BP in hopes of getting a baseball or two.

      Sure enough, a ball landed right below us in a beer garden area that was not yet open for business. My cousin shimmied down a support pole, retrieved the ball, and tossed it up to us. Alas, just as he was climbing back up over the railing, a policeman arrived and “asked” him to leave the stadium. My cousin said not to worry and left with the cop.

      My dad and I went on down to our seats; but, he was much worried about finding our way back to his aunt’s where we were staying since we had come on public transit and he had no idea which route to take or where to get off.

      Fortunately, the cousin’s advice not to worry turned out to be true. About the start of the 2nd inning, he showed up at our seats. He said he had been escorted out, waited several minutes then bought a 50 cent grandstand ticket but showed his original ticket stub to get to us once he got through the gate.

      A couple of decades later, the truth of why it took the cousin so long to work his way back to us was revealed. Instead of buying a grandstand ticket to get back in, he had bided his time for an opportunity to use one of his tried and true methods of slipping into the stadium for free. This was my smalltown kid introduction to life in the city πŸ˜‰

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Jim– You win Best Dodge of the Truth Award as well as an honorable mention for Seeing Teams That No Longer Exist.

  6. Melvin

    I wasn’t around to have the privilege of watching Reds games at Crosely Field that many of the older distinguished gentlemen on here. Several years back though the the Reds offered a tour of the old site. It was pretty cool.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’ve been on the site tour! It does help a little to see the area, especially since the diamond is drawn on the parking lot. My favorite part was a bit of wall that was left.

  7. Mark Moore

    Undoubtedly the orange stripe was to assist with the visual focal point known as the “pee spot” (see Rich Hall’s “Sniglets”). That allowed one to focus ahead and not stray eyes side to side. And trough urinals were deemed more efficient, though they did/do cause some social dismay regarding the rules of individual urinal occupation in a multi-urinal bathroom.

    Looking forward to the next installment … I’m sure it will be equally enlightening πŸ˜‰

    • GAR

      Did not get to see Crosley Field, but also took a tour of the old site several years back. My first Reds game was new Riverfront at 11/12 years old. I daydream about being at a game at Crosley and the Palace of the Fans. Man, to go back in time for a game!
      But yes, using sinks (and trash cans) was a thing back in those college days; concerts at old Hara Arena in Dayton come to mind…

      • Jim Walker

        @GAR> In the last several years of the Hamvention at Hara people in the building sometimes actually went outside to use the temporary flea market porta potties instead of taking chances with the indoor plumbing which simply was not up to the job.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I also had someone tell me Crosley had red toilet paper. I will place that in the “visual focal point” category.

  8. Hanginwithem

    Visited Crosley several times with my Dad, uncles and cousins. The smells of cigar smoke, stale beer, cotton candy and popcorn were always there to greet me. And that outfield terrace…

  9. LWBlogger

    “These are the chairs people wait in to post bail for errant family members.”

    Holy crap MBE!! You just made me shoot some coffee out of my nose. It was pretty hot too! Ouch!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I really should check that place out. But being a native West Sider, please understand that Blue Ash is on another planet, in a distant solar system.