I used to basically live at Borts Field during my early teen years, and I was there nearly all year round. Once I and my buddies had gotten too big for the playground at the old Washington School, we’d go up to Borts and play pick up games of baseball in the spring and summer. Occasionally, if there was no room at Borts, we’d go over to Kochis Park which was nearby at Florence and North Lakeview. When it was hot we’d spend afternoons, and sometimes mornings at the free swims at Borts Pool. In the evenings, we’d hang out watching baseball games and run over to Zitello’s for a pop between innings.
Later on, I played in a fast-pitch softball league of churches in the Youngstown area. We played at a number of the city parks including Ipes Field, Pemberton, and I believe Gibson and Homestead Parks, as well as many games at Rocky Ridge.
One summer, I met some girls from school, one who I was pretty interested in, who played tennis on the Borts Field tennis courts (one concrete and one clay). So I took up tennis, an interest which lasted longer than our interest in each other. Speaking of girls, Borts Field, on the hill overlooking the pool, was the site of my first kiss (a different girl, not the tennis player). That relationship didn’t last long either.
When the weather turned cool it was time for touch football, when the field was marked for football. That was probably the hardest time on my clothes–I’d often come home muddy. Then we moved on to basketball. I was never very good at this–not a good dribbler for one thing. Mostly, I’d pass the ball to someone who was a good shot.
Winter found me on the tennis courts again. The parks cover them with water so they would freeze over and we could ice skate. That’s where, after many falls, I learned to ice skate.
There were parks all over the city of Youngstown, in addition to Mill Creek Park. Crandall and Wick Parks on the North Side are perhaps the most scenic. Pemberton on the South side was a great place as well, with a tree-surrounded pool as I remember. My wife grew up across the street from Ipes Field, which also had a baseball field and stands (now crumbling as grown over as the above picture attests). In later years they installed tennis courts and my wife and I would play sometimes when we came back to visit her mother.
We both remember summer programs for kids at the parks. There were crafts, games, and even plays they would put on at the end of the program for the parents. I never actually participated but heard about it from other kids.
Much has changed over the years. Some places are crumbling. Mark Hackett, who allowed me to use the picture of Ipes Field, has albums of photos at the “Cool Stuff Long-Gone Near Youngstown, Ohio” Facebook page, including similar photos at Oakland, Stambaugh, Tod, and Gibson Fields. I suspect many of these had been built as WPA projects during the Depression. At the same time, the city continues to maintain a number of facilities throughout the city, according to this list on their website.
I would love to hear about the city parks you grew up playing at and your favorite memories. If you are like me, you probably have lots of them!