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From 1880 to Today: West Side home of the National League Buffalo Bisons

Chronicles continues a weekly look back at an illustrated map of Buffalo from 1880 and examines how the features on that map have — or haven't — changed over 138 years. Click here to explore the map.

Baseball’s National League — one of two leagues that make up modern Major League Baseball — was founded in 1876. Three years later, Buffalo joined the National League, playing at Riverside Park on Buffalo’s West Side.

The park was bounded by West Avenue, Vermont Street, Rhode Island Street and Fargo Avenue. The park was small, and other teams complained that it gave the Buffalo club an advantage.

The homerun wasn’t as universally well thought of in the early days of the game, and some felt Buffalo’s team was a lesser squad for taking advantage of the short fences.

“The day the snow goes,” wrote a Syracuse newspaper in 1879, “the Buffalo nine will commence practicing the knack of knocking the ball over the fence of the corral they call a ballpark.”

It was in part those home runs that helped ignite excitement in Buffalo over the new sport.

“Everyone else is talking base ball, and why shouldn’t we?” asked the Buffalo Express in 1881, after the Buffaloes defeated the Chicago team that wouldn’t officially be renamed “the Cubs” for another 26 years. “Three successive defeats of the champions by the Buffalo team make a ‘base ball’ event of quite enough note to set all tongues wagging.”

Six seasons of Bisons baseball, including five seasons in the National League, were played in the park. Over the next decade, pieces of the lot where the ballpark once stood were sold off to developers, and Buffalo baseball moved to the first Olympic Park at the northeast corner of Summer and Richmond.

When that new ballpark opened, the Buffalo Commercial bragged that “The Buffaloes … had the best base ball grounds in the country.”

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