Sox in the city: World champs' appearance highlighted Gill Stadium opening
This is the second in a series of articles from the Gill Stadium Centennial Committee leading up to the facility's 100-year anniversary on Sept. 8.
One week after Labor Day in 1913, workers in Manchester enjoyed their second straight Monday off. The occasion: the Sept. 8 opening of a magnificent new stadium commissioned and constructed by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co., Textile Field.
In planning an opening as grand as the building itself, organizers had arranged an exhibition baseball game featuring none other than the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the main attraction in a program also featuring a relay race, soccer game and fireworks.
Crowds lined the streets as a parade proceeded to the stadium, the Red Sox players traveling in open cars and waving to the cheering spectators. With a 65-63-1 record at the time (yes, there was a tie in there), they were not having the type of season they'd had the year before — when they won a franchise-record 105 games and ran away with the American League pennant en route to a victory over the New York Giants in the World Series — but they were still the Red Sox, and their Manchester fans were thrilled to have them in their city.
The place to be
Built at an estimated cost of $30,000 (about $705,000 in today's currency), the brick, wood and steel grandstand was filled to its 3,000-specator capacity, as were the wooden bleachers at either end of the grandstand, providing seating for an additional 2,000. Thousands more in standing room ringed the 440-yard cinder track, and by day's end, attendance would total around 14,000.
Dignitaries among the throng included former New Hampshire Gov. Charles M. Floyd, Manchester Mayor Charles C. Hayes, Red Sox owner James McAleer, and Perry H. Dow, a former state senator and prominent local politician who worked for the Amoskeag Company's Land and Water Department and planned the day's festivities.
After a series of speeches extolling the magnificence of the new facility and the benefits of physical exercise on the body and soul, the athletic events began. First came the 4x440-yard relay, with a team of Amoskeag employees racing four men from another local company while Red Sox center fielder Tris Speaker — later to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame — and player/manager Bill Carrigan serving as finish-line judges. The Amoskeag team won.
Next came the ballgame, with the Sox facing a collection of all-stars from the local Manufacturers League and a battery provided by the Boston Braves: pitcher Paul Strand and catcher Walt Tragesser. A huge cheer arose from the crowd when the announcement of the starting lineup for the Red Sox included Smoky Joe Wood, the star pitcher who had won 34 games during the 1912 regular season and three more in the World Series.
Wood's presence in the lineup had been anything but a given. Plagued by arm troubles from the start of the season (the 366 innings he'd thrown the previous year might have had something to do with that), he broke his thumb in late July and was just working his way back into shape when the Sox visited Manchester in early September.
But Wood pitched three innings, then gave way to rookie Hubert "Dutch" Leonard. A talented left-hander, Leonard also would succeed Wood as the Red Sox' ace, the following season setting a post-19th-century record for earned run average that still stands, 0.96.
With the help of the Braves rookies, the semi-pros gave the major-leaguers a game, but the world champs prevailed, 3-1.
The games go on
While the Red Sox were making the 2- to 3-hour drive back to Boston, the Amoskeag Textile Club bested the Manchester Light Blues in a soccer match illuminated by Textile Field's 28 arc lights. The post-game fireworks display provided the finale to a very full day.
On Tuesday, it was back to work for the people of Manchester, but their memories of the grand opening would last their lifetimes. One hundred years later, Textile Field, long since renamed Gill Stadium, still stands, set to celebrate its centennial this Sept. 8 with a program featuring football and soccer games, as well as fireworks — but no baseball.