As I said in a previous post, the St. Paul Saints baseball club have been around in various incarnations since the 1880’s. As early as 1884 they were a part of the major league “Union Association” which lasted just one year before disbanding. They reappeared as a minor league team in the Western League in 1894, and almost made the jump to the American League. But history would pass them by, and they would remain as a founding member of the Minor League version of the American Association in 1900.
Throughout their existence they played in several different parks around St. Paul. Their first home in 1884 was the Fort Street grounds, located near what is now West 7th Street and St. Clair Avenue. From 1888 to 1892, the minor league version of the Saints played across the river from downtown St. Paul, in a park on State Street. When Charles Comiskey moved his Western League incarnation of the Saints into St. Paul, they played their games at the Dale and Aurora Grounds, also known as “Comiskey Park”. This wooden ball park was built by Comiskey between Dale and St. Albans street, and Aurora and Fuller Avenues. The neighbors in the area weren’t too happy about games being played on Sunday, and by 1897 the Saints had moved again to Lexington Park, at the corner of Lexington and University Ave., the place that would be their home for almost 60 years, with the exception of stint from 1902 to 1909 when they played their weekday games at a tiny little park known as the Pillbox, near the State Capitol.
Lexington Park was located on the southwest corner of University and Lexington Ave. Like most wooden parks at the time, Lexington Park burned in 1908, and again in 1915. After 1915 it was rebuilt in the configuration it would remain in for another 40 years. The one shown in these pictures.
The park would receive lights in 1937 for night baseball, and grow in little increments, but for the most part it remained unchanged until the Saints left in 1956. By the mid 50’s St. Paul was the AAA franchise of the mighty Brooklyn Dodgers, and their crosstown rivals the Millers were the franchise of the NY Giants. This only served to increase the rivalry.
As both cities began to lobby for a major league franchise, first the Millers and then the Saints broke ground for new, modern facilities that could be expanded to accommodate a major league team. The Saints opened their new park, Midway Stadium, in 1956. It was located on the east side of Snelling Avenue, between the railroad tracks near what is now Energy Park drive.
The park seated a little over 10,000, and was built with the intention to expand it for accommodating a major league team. It opened on Thursday, April 25, 1957.
As the 50’s came to a close, both Minneapolis and St. Paul were trying to obtain a franchise in the soon to be formed Continental League, a planned 3rd major league being planned to start play in 1961. A franchise was granted to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and disputes began about whether the team would play at Midway Stadium, or the Millers new Metropolitan Stadium in suburban Bloomington. Ultimately it didn’t matter. The Continental League folded before it began, when the American League announced it would move the Washington franchise to Minnesota, and replace them with an expansion franchise in D.C. (Senators), and add an expansion team in Los Angeles (Angels). The National League also announced the addition of expansion teams in New York (Mets) and Houston (Colt .45’s).
Metropolitan Stadium was chosen by Calvin Griffith as the new home for his Washington Senators, and renamed them the Minnesota Twins. As a result both the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints would disband. Midway Stadium continued to play host to local high school and college baseball and football games until 1981 when it was finally torn down. A concrete new stadium was built on the west side of Snelling Ave. , to serve the same purpose. Originally called Municipal Stadium, it was later renamed Midway Stadium, and became the home of the new St. Paul Saints independent minor league baseball team in 1993.
The story of the new Saints is well know, and several books have been written about how “Rebel” baseball in the early 1990’s gave new life to minor league baseball, and led to a renaissance of outdoor ballparks springing up all over the country. I moved to town the same year as the Saints return, and enjoyed many warm summer evenings in the mid 90’s drinking Pig’s Eye beer, and watching ball while the Twins struggled to fill out the sterile dome.
Since that time the Twins have enjoyed a renaissance of their own, and despite lobbying for a new Twins Stadium, and later a new Saints stadium on the riverfront in downtown St. Paul, the inelegant concrete bunker that is new Midway Stadium remains the home of baseball in St. Paul.