Those of you who study the minutiae of this blog (and I assume that you all do) will be aware that my soccer team is Derby County. What you almost certainly won’t be aware if is that the name of our old,and now demolished, stadium was The Baseball Ground and was originally the home of Derby County Baseball Club (in this picture Julio Franco is sitting in the middle wearing a top hat) from 1890 to 1898. The building of the stadium was an heroic, but ultimately doomed, attempt by a local businessman to introduce baseball to the United Kingdom, his name was Sir Francis Ley and his foundry gloried in the name "Ley’s Malleable Castings Vulcan Ironworks" (which has a much more solid and trustworthy sound to it than modern money making enterprises such as "Google" I think). Derby County ran away with the initial Baseball Championship but were forced to resign from the competition after just one year due to other clubs protesting about the number of American players in the team (once again the Americans ruin it for everyone!). The soccer club began to share the ground from 1895 and the rest,as they say, his history.
I’m just a little bit too young to remember the latter part of the 19th Century so the reasoning for the name of the stadium never really registered with me. For me The Baseball Ground was purely about soccer, and in it’s heyday it was a mud filled swamp that other teams found almost impossible to play on, and the crowds seemed close enough to touch the players (on one infamous occasion the spectators swarmed to the edges of the pitch and lashed out kicks at the opposition, causing the game to be abandoned). It was situated in the middle of some dank and dreary terraced houses whose increasingly immigrant inhabitants would look out with a mixture of nervousness and curiosity at the people who descended on their streets every other week.
It’s gone now. Derby have moved to a bright modern stadium called Pride Park (dreadful name), but just occasionally when the floodlights are on and the game is going well and the crowd are behind the team, it almost (almost) feels like the old place is still standing.
Derby v Manchester United -see what I mean about the pitch.
The Baseball Ground-aah the sheer glamor of it all.
Brian Clough-Derby’s greatest and most controversial manager gives his view on the Germans.