Written by Walter Munday, Outreach and Volunteer Manager for Metro Parks.
As we continue the series on Louisville’s park history, I ran across an amazing story written by Bob Bailey about Eclipse Park – the home of Louisville’s first professional baseball team. The story was published as part of the Society for American Baseball Research. Elliott Park, located at 630 South 28th Street in the Russell Neighborhood, is 3.98 acres and was inaugurated as a city park in 1906. Originally the open field was just outside the city limits just above the north side of where Paddy’s Run once flowed on its way to the Ohio River. Older documents simply refer to this piece of property as “the old baseball grounds”. Dr. T.A. Elliott purchased and subdivided the land as part of Elliott’s West End Extension following the Civil War. The site of the park was title then – Square #8, which is why the park is identified as Elliott Square. In 1868, Elliott and the owners of the subdivision wrote up a contract which would deed the land (including Square #8 – now Elliott Park) to the City of Louisville when the city incorporated the area.
Several years later, a group of businessmen formed the American Baseball Association as a competing baseball league to the already established National Baseball Association. Louisville had a great baseball reputation with great semi-pro teams like the Louisville Greys and Olympians. They had defeated several of the country’s professional teams in exhibition games. According to Bailey’s research, several out-of-town businessmen decided to lease property in the early 1870’s on the estate of Elliott. They built a nine-foot fence around the park and a grandstand including a clubhouse. Initially the park was named Olympic Park after one of the city’s earlier teams called the Olympics who played at the park initially.
In late 1870’s, a West Louisville team called the Eclipse was organized with some of the city’s best baseball players. Eventually, the Eclipse replaced the Olympics, and Olympic Park became Eclipse Park. Two years later, the Eclipse entered the major leagues in the new American Association.
At this time, Eclipse Park at 28th and Elliott was located in the City of Parkland (now called the Parkland Neighborhood). According to the Louisville Encyclopedia, as the area was being developed, the Central Passenger Railway Company extended its Walnut Street (Muhammad Ali Blvd.) tracks to 28th Street and then southward to Greenwood Avenue. In 1874, the City of Parkland was incorporated. The Walnut Street Railway carried fans from downtown westward along Walnut Street, and then south down 28th Street depositing fans at the Eclipse Park’s ticket office located at the corner of 28th and Elliott. The City of Parkland prohibited baseball playing on Sundays. The baseball team’s owners appealed to the City of Louisville officials for aid. In response, Louisville annexed Eclipse Park in 1893, and Sunday games were reinstated. Today, the park is located in the far southwestern corner of the Russell neighborhood.
In 1884, times were good, and the park was renovated adding a new 5,000-seat grandstand, a club room where gentlemen could enjoy some refreshments from some of the local distillers, a new scoreboard on which the names of the players were posted, and a taller fence was constructed. Also, as printed in Bailey’s article, a tower was built on top of the new grandstand that allowed the favored few to view the game from what might have been the first sky box. This tower area had a capacity of about 60. A new clubhouse was also constructed along the right field line. One year later, more renovations took place adding a double decked grandstand with a roof covering the upper deck. Outfield seating was also added.
One of baseball’s pioneers is the legendary Louis Rogers “Pete” Browning. Browning compiled a .341 lifetime batting average. Browning’s 1884 season is best-remembered for introduction of the Louisville Slugger bat.
In late September 1892, Eclipse Park caught fire. The fire started in the grandstand on the lower floor below the tower. While arson was suspected, it was never proven. Construction began immediately on temporary seats and a fence to finish out the season. The owners decided to move the park. The Eclipse (now called the Colonels) directors decided to find a new location for the park. The last game at old Eclipse Park was played on Thursday May 4, 1893.
The professionals abandoned the old site at 28th and Elliott. By 1894 the grounds had been cleared and were used as a YMCA athletic ground. In 1906, after a brief court battle between the city and the heirs of Dr. T.D. Elliott, the City of Louisville received title to the 3.9-acre site for use as a public park. Two years later, Louisville Mayor, Charles F. Grainger agreed to let the Louisville Branch of the Women’s Auxiliary of American Park and Outdoor Art Association plant some trees in the park as part of their Arbor Day celebration. Shortly after that, Olmsted’s firm was hired to create a design plan for the park which continued up until 1923.
The Louisville Olmsted Park Conservancy describes Elliott Park as an oasis of green sandwiched between residential properties on the east, industrial to the north and west, and retail on the south. Today, Elliott Park is has a basketball court, horseshoe pits, picnic shelter and tables, playground, spray ground, restrooms, and it still has a ball-field available for baseball.
 Society for American Baseball Research | SABR
– Article was written by Bob Bailey. To see the article, go to: http://sabr.org/bioproj/park/cf040064
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory, 1894; Deed dated July 1906 between Sue Browne Elliott and Board of Parks Commissioners, City of Louisville.
 Louisville Encyclopedia edited by John Kleber