Jan 262013
 

The Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium historical marker (photo by Marta Jewson for midcitymessenger.com)

When Jacob Ginsberg was assigned to write about a historic marker of his choice, he was disappointed to learn there was no marker at the site of former Pelican Stadium.

“I got out here and imagine how surprised I was to see nothing,” he recounted, “where there was a 20,000-plus seat stadium.”

Almost eight years later after that high school class and less than a week before he leaves for boot camp, U.S. Army Specialist Ginsberg was joined by city officials, family, friends and a former Pelican ball player at the unveiling of the ‘Heinemann Park/Pelican Stadium’ historic marker Friday.

“Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Sandy Koufax…all played ball right here,” said Ginsberg, in addition to Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Jackie Robinson who are listed on the placard.

Jacob Ginsberg and Lenny Yochim (photo by Marta Jewson for midcitymessenger.com)

Eighty-four-year-old Lenny Yochim was among the crowd Friday. Yochim said he grew up a few blocks from Pelican Stadium and, after attending Holy Cross High School, he signed with the Pelicans in 1947.

He played for the Pelicans for some portion of following nine years, dabbling in the majors twice, and went on to work as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 37 years. Yochim said his career highlight came in 1955 when he pitched the first no-hitter in a professional game in Venezuela for the Caracas Lions during winter ball.

“I was fortunate to be in baseball for that long,” said Yochim.

Ginsberg spent years advocating for the marker, set back initially by Hurricane Katrina, and later the division of state and city land.

The historic marker was cleared to be placed on a state highway, Tulane Avenue. However, Ginsberg said the the median and boulevard were too small to hold such a marker. Instead he had to navigate city planning to have the marker placed on the Carrollton Avenue sidewalk.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who aided Ginsberg in the process, said she was very pleased with his work and with the marker.

“You have certainly hit one out of the park on this,” Guidry said to Ginsberg.

Ginsberg said the announcement of the Hornets name made the timing of the unveiling that much more important to him. He said to him the pelicans represent a sort of phoenix of New Orleans, overcoming obstacles like the hurricane and oil spill and “rising above the ashes”.

Yochim, on the other hand, said he didn’t care for much for the basketball team adopting the Pelicans name.

“I think with the older people here, they still think of the Pelicans as baseball,” said Yochim.

The marker sits on the southwest corner of the Tulane Avenue and Carrollton Avenue intersection.

“I think that young man did a great tribute to the city of New Orleans and Pelicans fans,” said Yochim.

  3 Responses to “Historic marker commemorates the original New Orleans Pelicans”

  1. I remember having the “ballpark” pointed out to me when I first arrived in New Orleans in 1972. Right about where the Fountainbleu Hotel was situated on Tulane Ave., correct? I always think of that when anyone mentions the Pelicans.

  2. great!!….I remember it well…..I saw Lenny Yochim pitch…,a great southpaw if my memory is correct. I caught the trolley right there with my dad,after the ballgames. Good for Lenny,the historic Pelicans,and our city . Gene Freese,Johnny Powers,and many others played around that time,too.

  3. My great uncle was a pelican in the early 30s…before becoming a Cleveland Indian for one season. I’m really glad that the old ballpark is being commemorated.

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