Today I pay a visit to the site of the old Long Island Baseball Grounds in Maspeth, Queens. Back in the 1800s, up until 1893, the baseball grounds here were home for several years to the New York Cuban Giants. Aside from the Giants a whole host of future hall of famers also played at this ballpark.
Baseball stopped being played here in 1893, but that doesn’t mean that the area doesn’t have a story to tell, and I am here to tell you that story. The Cuban Giants were the first fully salaried African-American professional baseball club. The team was originally formed in 1885 at the Argyle Hotel, a summer resort in Babylon, New York. Initially an independent barnstorming team, they played games against opponents of all types: major and minor league clubs, semiprofessional teams, even college and amateur squads. They would go on to join various short-lived East Coast leagues, and in 1888 became the “World Colored Champions”. Despite their name, no Cubans played on the team. The “Cubes” remained one of the premier Negro league teams for nearly twenty years, and served as a model that future black teams would emulate.
The second and third homes of the Brooklyn Dodgers were in Ridgewood in Queens between 1886 to 1889.
The second and third homes of the Brooklyn Dodgers were in Ridgewood in Queens between 1886 to 1889.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were founded in 1883 by Charles Byrne. Known simply as The Brooklyn’s, the team set up its stadium in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn and called it Washington Park. It was the local reporters that nicknamed the team The Grays, a nickname that was used through 1887 save for the year of 1884, when they were known as The Atlantics.
During the summer of 1886, in order to avoid the blue laws of the city of Brooklyn on the Sabbath, the Brooklyn Grays played 14 Sunday games at Grauer’s Ridgewood Park along with one exhibition game.
As you can see from this map, Grauer’s Ridgewood Park, which is the top arrow, was located just north of where Wallace’s Ridgewood Park was located. This was the second home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and as I had to pass it in order to get to Wallace’s Ridgewood Park, I also filmed the location of the second home of The Brooklyn Dodgers which was located between Cypress and Seneca Avenues, and George and Weirfield streets.
The cost to play their Sunday games at Grauer’s Ridgewood Park was very high, which cut into any profits that could be made by charging for Sunday admission. The other Ridgewood Park in the area, Wallace’s, had already been playing host to amateur baseball clubs, and had even scheduled a world heavyweight boxing fight featuring John L. Sullivan. While the fight was called off as the pugilists prepared to duke it out, the attendance was still 5,000 men, certainly something to catch the attention of club owners.
Beginning in 1887, The Brooklyn Grays began to play their Sunday games at Wallace’s Ridgewood Park and it would be the site of their third home for the next three seasons. In fact the team was playing there when, in the summer of 1888, six of the Brooklyn players got married. For the remainder of their time at Ridgewood Park they were nicknamed the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, a name that stuck for the next ten years either as the Bridegrooms or simply the Brooklyn Grooms.
In the baseball history books, Wallace’s Ridgewood Park is commonly known as Ridgewood Park 2, with Grauer’s Ridgewood Park being known as Ridgewood Park 1. The area that I am walking in today is now located in Bushwick in Brooklyn, between Wyckoff and Irving Ave’s, and between Halsey and Covert Streets. At the time that the ballpark was located here though, the area was then located in Ridgewood, Queens before the boundaries changed, except for a corner of the stadium right where Halsey and Irving meet, which was located in Brooklyn.
In my John L. Sullivan story, I tell the tale of how the fighters came to box in Queens but were prevented from doing so by the police. A patron then told the fighters that a corner of the stadium was actually located in Brooklyn, and the fighters then agreed to fight in that corner of the stadium. Unfortunately a rat threatened to snitch on them and they were prevented from fighting in Brooklyn as well.
It was 76 years ago today that the Enola Gay dropped an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. Last year I visited Hiroshima Peace Park to pay my respects. The video is a one hour tour that starts at the Genbaku Dome and ends at the epicenter of where the bomb detonated.
New York Stories. In today’s episode I pay a visit to the place where McGurk’s Suicide Hall once stood
Over the past year I have been regularly updating my Youtube channel with New York Stories. In today’s episode I pay a visit to the place where McGurk’s Suicide Hall once stood, as well as visiting the place where the first baseball team in America had their headquarters. The latter location also became the Globe Dime Museum which was where Harry Houdini first performed as well as Weber and Fields. While he didn’t debut there, W.C. Fields also worked the Globe Dime Museum when he first came to New York.
We take a Walking in New York City trip today around my neighborhood of Maspeth in Queens. I show you some of the old signs in the area, local stores and we finish with a great conversation with two auto repair shop owners/workers. The business has been around since the 1950’s and the guys were really gracious in talking to me about their cars.
One unexpected surprise during my trip to Japan 日本 has been the wonderful displays of Christmas lights in each city. So far I have taken videos of the Christmas lights of Tokyo 東京, Osaka and Hiroshima. You can see all of the videos from the various cities RIGHT HERE.
To be honest I hadn’t expected to film Christmas lights (クリスマスのあかり) in Japan, but I was like a kid in a candy store. I’m an Englishman who lives in New York and over the years all of my family has passed away, so Christmas isn’t really an event that I celebrate. However, being in Japan made me feel like a kid again. Just click the play button in the video below.
In the video above I went to Roppongi Hills ( 六本木ヒルズ ) in Tokyo and also visited the Mohri Garden. As you will see in the images below, the display is stunning.
Here is the first of many posts from my 2020/21 trip to Japan. In this first video I go to Senso-Ji on the first morning
Here is the first of many posts from my 2019/20 trip to Japan. In this first video I go to Senso-Ji on the first morning attempting to catch the Temple at sunrise. Unfortunately the light just went from dark to light without much of a sunrise, but the video does show Senso-Ji without all of the crowds.
Click the center of the image below to start the video.
First of all I wrote about my journey to Tokyo (LINK), which I then followed up with two posts about the Naruko Tenjin Shrine (POST 1) and (POST 2). For the fourth post I skipped ahead
First of all I wrote about my journey to Tokyo (LINK), which I then followed up with two posts about the Naruko Tenjin Shrine (POST 1) and (POST 2). For the fourth post I skipped ahead and talked about watching the punk idol band, BiSH twice while I was in Tokyo (LINK).
So now I will go back to chronological order and cover my first trip into Tokyo on my fourth day. Now that may seem strange but on days two and three I attended Rockabilly shows so the first weekend was tied up taking it easy after the journey and then partying for two nights.
On the first Monday I headed into the center of Tokyo to pay a visit to Edo Castle and the Imperial palace. Now on the journey there I did get a good laugh. From my knowledge of Japanese culture tattoos are frowned upon, especially by the older generation. On the subway to Otemachi I kept checking the on board map, obviously the system is new to me as is the city. Two stops before my destination an older man asked me if I needed help, I was okay so I thanked him for his offer and then he pointed at my arm and said “Elvis Presley”.
My experience to this point had been virtually everyone avoiding eye contact with me with people staring out of the corner of their eyes. Other than the children, they are quite happy to stare full on to the bald headed tattooed man 🙂 So I was delighted that someone made contact with me, but at the same part annoyed because I was getting off in one more stop.
The day was gorgeous, it was the middle of November and it was 72 degrees. I did film a few clips that I might splice together, but at the time I hadn’t really planned to do any filming. My first port of call after viewing the opening garden was to try and find a drink. With it being a nice day combined with the fact that I have throat problems, I needed to make sure that I had some liquid. Fortunately there was a little hut with a vending machine and I noticed some coffee. Now I don’t really like cold coffee but I did want some caffeine, so coffee it was. Imagine my surprise when the can of coffee came out nice and hot.
Yes, hot coffee from a vending machine. Now I was set for my journey.
In the second picture in this post I am taking a selfie in front of some old soldiers barracks. Before I did that I stood patiently awaiting my turn at the gate as a fellow American took 600 or so photos. Then he did something that made my mouth open, as if he hadn’t taken enough photos with his $1,000 camera, the guy then steps over the gate with the clear sign in English on it saying “Please do not enter beyond here”. It took a few seconds as he walked in the restricted area when he caught sight of me, took more pics then stepped in the flower bed and bent the bush back at the side of the gate.
The first thought that entered my mind was the thoughts of the Japanese people nearby, this dude just single-handedly put all of us tourists in the ugly American boat. I was able to capture some great photos with my $200 digital camera, so I know damn well that his could capture dust if it really wanted to. So disrespectful.
So I didn’t make it all the way to the Imperial palace, the activities the night before caught up to me. But I walked and walked and walked, even paying 500 Yen to enter a garden that I had no intention of seeing, lol. It was nice to look at though.
As I left I decided to take one more selfie, and I’m so glad that I did. This selfie with the Ote-Mon gate behind me beyond the moat became my go to profile pic on all of my social media platforms.
Even to this day it confuses me, I love the punk band without instruments, BiSH. Why does it confuse me you ask? It is quite simple really, my musical proclivities revolve around 1950’s Rock and Roll and Rockabilly
Even to this day it confuses me, I love the punk band without instruments, BiSH.
Why does it confuse me you ask? It is quite simple really, my musical proclivities revolve around 1950’s Rock and Roll and Rockabilly, and of course the genres that spawn off of that. Bluegrass, Honky Tonk, old time Rhythm and Blues, Western Swing, Jump Blues, Skiffle, Jug Band etc; Ever since I was a kid I have stuck to those styles of music with a healthy dose of classical music when I want to relax.
Why all of a sudden at 55 years old am I flying on a 13,000 mile round trip to go and see a relatively small Japanese band with a passionate fan base? Let me point out that when I planned my trip last year they were just on the verge of making it big, and since I left Japan they have blown up.
It all started with a Japanese cover band of Sony musicians who performed live on Youtube once a month. They are a band of really talented musicians and singers with amazing voices and they are a joy to watch. One of the group members, Manami, did a solo version of the following song. Unfortunately you are not allowed to embed the video on external sites.
As I do with a lot of covers that the band perform, I like to check out the original artist as well. In the comment section there were a lot of BiSH fans professing their love for the band so I figured I would check them out. Of course the first video that I wanted to see was the song ‘Orchestra’ as was performed by Manami. This was the first song by BiSH that I watched, and again, because it is uploaded in Japan, I can only post a link and not embed the video. BiSH – Orchestra.
Now to be honest with you there was a perfect mix that happened in the video above that initially drew me to the band. First of all it was the violin orchestra backing them, the rock opera feel is always something to get my attention. Secondly, the voice of the second girl to sing in the video really captured me, this isn’t just a manufactured pop band, this girl can actually sing. You will hear more about AiNA THE END soon. Lastly, I think that it was the combination of what I was seeing in the video, the girls sweating profusely, the crowd interaction and the expression’s on the faces of the singers. Normally I take a one and done approach to new musical acts, but these guys I wanted to see more of.
So perhaps I was fortunate with the concert footage that I followed up watching of BiSH. Copious use of the middle finger, girls stage diving, screaming, sweating, crying, and the audience going mental totally hooked me. I will be honest though, without the vocals of AiNA THE END I’m not sure if they would have been anything more than a passing phase, but this girl can sing with the best of them. In Japan they call her Husky Voice, in America we would say that she has soul. Here is my favorite solo song from her and again, because it is Japan you can’t embed the video, but just follow the link to hear this girl sing. AINA THE END ACOUSTIC. AiNA is also the choreographer for the band and creates all of their dance routines.
If I wasn’t able to see the band perform as a group, I would have gone out of my way to watch AiNA perform solo. In fact I will state it right now, at some point in the future when the band is no longer, I will make the trek to Japan just to watch AiNA perform solo. However I was able to get a ticket for two shows in Tokyo last year through a third party, and while I paid double the face value for each ticket I have no complaints. I’ve had to edit the ticket as I don’t wish to get anyone in trouble, this is a fan club ticket after all.
The more that I watched them the more that I began to enjoy the interpersonal interactions between the band members. Let me just add that I speak next to no Japanese, I survive using rough translations but for the most part it is the visual concept that I enjoy. Most of the band are in their mid to late 20’s, with the two youngest members, AYUNi D and LiNG LiNG being 19 and 21 respectively. So starting with them I totally adore the way that they interact with each other. To start with they were always fighting and needling one another, but as time goes on you can see that they are really affectionate towards each other. The other pairings that stand out and appear more of a big sister thing feature founding member AiNA THE END and LiNG LiNG, and also founding member Cent Chihiro Chittiii and AYUNi D.
All of the photos shown in this post were taken by me at both of the concerts that I went to. It was a one off event as I felt that I would not have a chance to see the band perform again. Now, the third party ticket prices for the upcoming tour are four times the face value due to their success, but I am hoping that when I arrive in Japan that I can hopefully find a ticket re-seller in either Tokyo or Hiroshima as I will be in each city for two concerts in each city. I feel pretty sure that I might be able to pick one up in Tokyo.
When BiSH perform, and it is another reason that I like them, they play for over two hours at every concert that they do on their own tours. I’m a working man so to see a band give you your money’s worth is always something that I appreciate. During the concerts there are normally at least two breaks, and this isn’t just based on the concerts that I went to, I also have many of their concerts on DVD that I purchased in Japan.
One of the breaks is normally a comedy routine conducted by Hashiyasume Atsuko ( ハシヤスメ・アツコ ) , and the other is when one of the girls addresses the audience as the others stand by patiently. One assumes that they are thanking the audience during this time and telling a personal tale. Other than the fact that you have nobody to talk to during the pre show, the concert and the post show, this is the only time where it sucks not to understand Japanese. I stand there and watch and hope to pick up one word here or there to give me some idea as to what the topic might be.
With that said, the following interaction needed no translation as during the first concert that I saw it was LiNG LiNG’s ( リンリン ) turn to speak to the audience.
As I have learned during my time following the band, one thing is as clear as day, LiNG LiNG is painfully quiet. Even when she does speak it is little more than a whisper. LiNG LiNG has written some of the most bizarre songs for the band, full of dark thoughts, and many times when the band is doing an interview she seems totally distant. To give you an idea of LiNG LiNG, just seeing a pigeon will make her cry as she has a phobia of flying creatures. Funnily enough though she loves insects.
Anyway, she started to address the audience with a really shaky voice until AiNA THE END asked her something that LiNG LiNG agreed with. One only assumes that AiNA asked her if she needed support. What makes this photo special to me is that all of the other girls find it highly amusing that she needed to hold onto AiNA, but that is AiNA to a tee. For a society where personal body contact is frowned upon, any time that one of the girls cries you will notice something straight away, AiNA THE END is the very first one to embrace them in a hug.
The final concerts images that I will share for now, and remember I have 100’s of them, are of the band member, AYUNi D ( アユニ・D ) . Now she isn’t my personal favorite, however there is no denying what she has brought to the table when she joined the band as a 16 year old in 2016. Her cuteness factor brought in a new wave of fans, which is kind of funny because I read in an interview with her that when she auditioned she couldn’t believe how cute the other girls were.
This is a girl who worked part time in a gas station before she became a singer, and to the trained eye there is something endearing about her that you can’t exactly put your finger on. There are certain tics that she has and during interviews she is as bashful as can be, even to a point that she will genuinely blush even in a worked interview. While I gravitate to AiNA THE END and LiNG LiNG, I can understand why people love AYUNi D so much. There was one thing very apparent during the concerts that I saw, and that is when AYUNi D does her solo pieces the crowd goes absolutely bananas. The BiSH fans love her.
Now before I close this post for now, if anyone in Japan has a spare ticket for either of the Hiroshima shows in November, or the two Tokyo shows at the end of November or beginning of December, please feel free to let me know, I will happily pay twice the face value for a ticket.
At the time that I went to Japan I thought that it was a one off event, so while I was there I made sure to pick up some merchandise. Not only did I buy every concert DVD but I also stocked up on various trinkets including a Hello Kitty BiSH set that I bought at a second hand store. In fact it was easy for me to shop at a second hand store to buy merchandise rather than try to locate the actual places where I could find the items. I was even lucky enough to win three plush toys on a crane game. This is just a partial showing of the merchandise that I picked up in Tokyo. Since last year there are already two new DVD concerts with more than likely a third being released before I arrive this year, and there are two visual books that are new as well. One is of back stage photos from all of the four bands that the parent company owns, and the latest one which is at the top of my list of items to buy in Japan, and that is an illustration book entitled ALTERNATiVE SiDE of SUSHiO. That book is a must have for my collection.
These are just some of the items in my collection of BiSH merchandise that I picked up last year in Tokyo.