Forgotten Stadiums: Kinsley Park
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at Kinsley Park in 1927. Photo Courtesy of smallstatebighistory.com
Kinsley Park was an athletic field located in Providence, RI, on the shores of the Woonasquatucket River. It was primarily used for minor league baseball, but professional football and soccer games were also held here. It was built by Peter Ludati, a prominent local real-estate developer and part owner of the Providence Steam Roller. Ludati also built the Cycledrome, which served as the home of the Steam Roller from 1925-33. Kinsley Park may be best known as the site of the first night game in National Football League history.
The Providence Steam Roller was scheduled to play the visiting Chicago Cardinals on Sunday, November 3. However, heavy rains made their home field, the Cycledrome, unplayable. Rather than lose a potential payday, the game was postponed for 72 hours until the night of the sixth. With the Cycledrome field unfit for use, the game was moved to the Steam Roller’s previous home, Kinsley Park.
For the hastily scheduled game, floodlights were brought in to illuminate the field. An account of the game published in the Providence Journal described the system as “33 giant projectors on poles 53 feet high, and nine poles on top of the grandstand.” To help the players see the ball, it was painted white. The Providence Journal reported the ball “looked like a giant egg.” The Cardinals won the game 16-0 behind the running, passing and kicking of Ernie Nevers, who scored all 16 Chicago points. He rushed 23 times for 102 yards and a touchdown and also completed 10 of 15 passes for 144 yards and another touchdown. Nevers also kicked a 33-yard field goal and an extra point.
The game attracted over 6,000 fans, making the game a success financially. Seizing the opportunity, Ludati installed floodlights at the Cycledrome for the next season, with other NFL owners soon following suit.
Babe Ruth with Tim O'Neil, Photo Courtesy of smallstatebighistory.com
In addition to its football notoriety, Kinsley Park also was known as a hot spot for integrated baseball. The ballpark often hosted Negro League games as well as integrated games between teams of black and white players. The first professional baseball game that was played at Kinsley Park occurred in 1921 between the Cleveland Colored Giants, a team made up of black players and the Providence Independents, made up of white players. This game was part of an experiment called the International League, which collapsed after the game, stranding the Cleveland team in Rhode Island. The team stayed in Providence, eventually rebranding as the Providence Giants. The team lasted for three years before a dispute over salaries resulted in the disbandment of the team. Kinsley Park is considered by some as sacred ground for black baseball.
Babe Ruth played in Providence for a short time for the Grays in 1914, but that was before the construction of Kinsley Park. He did come back with Lou Gehrig in 1927 as part of a barnstorming tour that stopped at Kinsley Park.
Kinsley Park site in 2020, Photo by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Kinsley Park was closed by the end of 1931. It was torn down in 1933. No trace of the field remains. Today only a parking lot stands on the site across from the Nicholson File Company Mill Complex.