Last week, the Mountain Athletic Club Grounds at Fleischmanns Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In June 2019, the New York State Historic Preservation Office made a recommendation following a rigorous nomination process.
“Isn't it great when local history, especially a rediscovered one, provides knowledge, pride, and pleasure to those of the present day? The MAC reminds us of a time when recreation meant a retreat from the city to the country, before air travel and air conditioning permitted other ways to escape the heat. Landmark status for the Mountain Athletic Club Grounds is a way to honor a way of life that still has much to recommend it,” official historian for Major League Baseball John Thorn said.
The park, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, was built by Julius and Max Fleischmann, owners of the former Fleischmann's Yeast company.
The field's grounds were donated to the community in 1914 to be used as a park, at which time the village, formerly called Griffin Corners, permanently changed its name to Fleischmanns, according to Collin Miller, media contact for the MAC.
“This is one of several other sites in the village of Fleischmanns that are on the National Historic Registries, so this kind of joins those other facilities,” Miller said.
“This is the first historic site in the village that connects to the Fleischmanns family and thus the name of the village,” he continued.
Miller said he became interested in certifying the MAC Grounds at Fleischmanns Park when he first looked into getting a historical marker for the field. After inquiring with a group that funds the signs, he reached out to the state office and proceeded with the application process.
“My thought in doing this was whether we got a historic designation or not, me doing the research and working with these historians would provide me with a lot more knowledge of the history of our baseball team so that I could share that with others,” Miller said.
Every state has a National Register of Historic Places office that reviews projects and nominations looking for national recognition. Once a sponsor submits a location for review, with consent of the property owner, the organization works with the sponsor to compose the documentation needed to meet all of the criteria for certification.
“We're looking for significance under community history, place history, significance as an architectural style, significance because it's related to a significant person, a significant person lived in that building, or worked in that building,” Erin Czernecki Historic Preservation Analyst/Survey and National Register Unit said.
“Part of significance that we were looking at, because the Mountain Athletic Club grounds, because it is a site, we're not looking at architectural significance, where we were really focused on the significance of what was happening at that location and why was that significant to the community,” she continued.
To get the MAC field certified in time for the celebration of the club's 125th anniversary, the two worked diligently to get the project completed in under a year. Once the MAC field was added to the New York State registry it continued to the National Park Service, where a quorum of nine voting members is needed to certify a registry.
“I believe that from this time period, early 20th century, turn of the century baseball grounds, this was the only grounds that is nominated in New York state from that period,” Czernecki said.
Throughout the MAC's illustrious history, the Fleischmann brothers played alongside many household baseball names, including Guy Harris “Doc” White, a left-handed pitcher who played for the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
Miller Huggins played second base for the MAC and then the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals before taking over as manager of the New York Yankees in 1918.
Another club member was Red Dooin, the longtime catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who held the franchise record for games caught for 92 years.
According to Miller, finding firsthand documentation that these players spent time with the MAC was vital to certification for the National Register of Historical Places.
“They were in a resort town, playing for wealthy tourists in the Catskill Mountains and they were treated very well,” Miller said.
“It was an exciting thing for young ball players to be a part of such a spectacle,” he continued.
Primary source information on the Mountain Tourists, the Mountaineers and the Mountain Athletics, all of which are formerly the Mountain Athletic Club, was compiled by Miller, with the help of Thorn, from old box scores and newspaper clippings confirming ties to team.
In addition to newspaper clippings and box scores, Miller and Thorn also pulled research from the Society for American Baseball Research and the Bart Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Several of those players who mentioned being treated very well as a semi-professional athlete in Fleischmanns” Miller said.
“Some of these guys talk about it like they were treated like royalty. They went on Julius Fleischmann's yacht on the Hudson River to play games down in New York City. They were picked up in a limousine. They were picked up in a Pullman rail car, which is like a very luxurious rail car. They went to Cincinnati in 1900 to play the Reds and traveled by rail. They were just wined and dined and treated better than a lot of professionals at the time actually,” he continued.
The Historical Society of Middletown is co-funding a historic roadside marker, which is scheduled to be unveiled at the MAC's home opener on Saturday, May 29.