Derby - Baseball Ground

Shaftesbury Crescent : DE23 8NG Derby - Baseball Ground : Map credit National Library of Scotland Derby - Baseball Ground : Image credit Wiki Commons
Sir Francis Ley was an industrialist who built the Vulcan Ironworks in the city. He visited the US in 1889 and was introduced to baseball and he became a great fan of the sport. Ley promoted baseball in Derby, forming the Derby Baseball Club, donating equipment to young teams in the city and organising a playing league.*

Ley's Baseball Ground was part of a complex of sports grounds (Ley's Recreation Centre) and was used for baseball from 1890. The ground had covered accommodation for 3,000 spectators. Baseball did not catch on and Derby County FC moved from the County Cricket ground (The Racecourse ground) to the Baseball Ground in 1895.

The first bicycle races at the Baseball Ground was at Ley's Football and Baseball Club‘s annual athletic sports on July 11th 1891, the meeting included a 1 mile handicap race for safeties and a 2 miles handicap race for any machine. There was also a 1 mile handicap race for employees of the Vulcan Ironworks. The races were held on a grass track, marked out specifically for events and usually 5 laps to the mile.

The first Derby Charities Sports were held on June 24th 1893 and the meeting was probably the biggest bicycle and athletics meeting ever held in Derby with 651 entries and 56 races. The riders came from all over the country and included the former world champion, H Synyer. The bicycle races were; one mile novices (89 entries) , one mile open handicap (90 entries) and a two miles handicap (75 entries). There were so many races that the meeting stopped, unfinished at 7pm.

The Derby Viking Cycling Club held their first annual sports at the Baseball Ground in September 1893. The races included the Club Championship which was run over one mile for the Viking Cycling Company Cup.

Bicycle races continued to be held at the Baseball Ground through the 1890's. The Amalgamated Friendly Societies' Sports were held on Whit Mondays. The Derby Charities Sports on August 7th 1897 included bicycle races 1 mile novices and 1 and 2 miles open races.

Racing at the Baseball Ground continued in the 1900's but less frequently. The last bicycle races there were the Derby Royal Infirmary Athletics and Cycle sports on Whit Monday 1911, which had four cycle races including the half mile race for the NCU (Derby district) Championship.

Derby County continued to play at the Baseball Ground until they moved in 1997 to a newly constructed stadium at Pride Park. Derby County retained the Baseball Ground for their youth team, but it was finally demolished in 2003 to make way for housing.

* Baseball became popular at the end of the 19th century and the National League of Baseball in Great Britain was formed in 1889. There was a professional league with twelve clubs.


Refs     : [p]
Photos : Wiki Commons
Maps    : National Library of Scotland