Dexter Park (Queens)
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Dexter Park was located in the Queens, New York neighborhood of Woodhaven, just north of Eldert Lane and Jamaica Avenue, not far from the borough line with Brooklyn. It had a long early history as a recreational park, which replaced a racetrack. Legend has it that the track was named for a famous horse called Dexter, reputedly buried at the site. However, the Brooklyn Eagle disputed this claim in 1891:
The name of Hiram Woodruff recalls Dexter Park. Hiram was the first owner of that property, and, until five or six years ago, his name still appeared in big letters over the horseshed adjoining the hotel. Then the shed was blown down, and when it was rebuilt the name of Hiram Woodruff had disappeared. But Dexter Park did not take its name from the famous trotter owned by the proprietor of the place. It was known simply as Hiram's, and when Woodruff died a man named Charles Dexter took charge of the place. From that time on it has been known as Dexter Park.'
Built in the 19th century, it was eventually the home of the Negro Leagues team called the Brooklyn Royal Giants, of the 1920s and 1930s. According to the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society sign at the site, the first night game at this venue was played in 1930. Josh Gibson once hit a home run over the 30-foot high wall behind the 418-foot deep left-center bleachers. It was also the home of the Brooklyn Bushwicks, an independent semi-pro team that played there until 1951, when they folded. The Bushwicks played many teams in the Negro Leagues as well as various All-Star teams. Dexter Park and the Bushwicks were owned by Max Rosner. In the late 1940's and early 1950's a a stock car racing track which ran around the baseball field was added. The lighting system which was the first permanent lighting system for night baseball in the U.S. (Ebbets field was not lighted for the Dodgers until 1936) was designed and installed by Max Rosner's son, Herman Rosner, who was an electrical engineer. Many former Major League ballplayers were featured on the Bushwicks, like the Cuccinello brothers. The Brooklyn Farmers also played at Dexter Park.
Dexter Park set an attendance high for a National Challenge Cup (soccer) final in 1929, when 21,583 fans saw New York Hakoah defeat Madison Kennel of St. Louis. A record that stood for more than 80 years, until October 5, 2010, when 31,311 attended an Open Cup final at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington.
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