Flatbush

Come see landmark-worthy Caton Park and the Parade Ground where Sandy Koufax played baseball

May 2, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sandy Koufax, shown here during Game 2 of the 1966 World Series, is one of the many baseball greats who played at the Prospect Park Parade Ground in their youth. AP file photo

Eye on Real Estate

What a magic place for baseball fans.

The tiny neighborhood known as Caton Park is nestled up against the Prospect Park Parade Ground — where pros who earned at least 50 World Series rings played amateur baseball in their youth.

This roster includes Baseball Hall of Famers from Phil Rizzuto to Joe Torre to Sandy Koufax.

Bensonhurst-born Koufax is our personal favorite among the extraordinary athletes who lit up the Parade Ground baseball diamonds over the long years.

Fans called him the Man with the Golden Arm and the Left Arm of God during his years as a Major League Baseball pitcher in the 1950s and 1960s.

We never saw him play. Nevertheless he’s our hero, now and forever, because of his famous refusal to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series.

Koufax was Jewish. It was Yom Kippur. His act of conscience and religious devotion captured America’s attention and will forever be a big moment in baseball history.

Koufax originally played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, having signed on with them in December 1954. He  moved with the team when it headed to California in 1958.

By the way, an article on the Society for American Baseball Research’s website says Brooklyn Eagle sports columnist Jimmy Murphy tipped off a Brooklyn Dodgers scout about Koufax, and that’s how the young pitcher got a try-out at Ebbets Field.

We thought about Koufax the other day when we went walking around Caton Park.

Just imagine what it was like to be a baseball fan living in the Victorian Flatbush micro-neighborhood and seeing Koufax over on the Parade Ground. The parkland is right across Caton Avenue from Caton Park.  

In the late 1930s, the ball fields drew an average of 20,000 spectators per day, the city Parks Department’s website says.  

For much of the 20th century, there were 13 baseball diamonds at the Parade Ground, Andrew Paul Mele wrote in the Fall 2012 Baseball Research Journal.

The 40-acre Parade Ground was renovated in 2004. Now there are four baseball diamonds — and basketball courts, soccer fields and other sports fields.

By the way, it’s called the Parade Ground because it was originally created in the late 1860s as a place for Civil War veterans to hold military exercises.

 

Queen Anne-style houses sell for more than $2 million

So. About Caton Park, which is just three blocks wide and has around 50 century-plus-old wood-frame houses. There’s so much old-fashioned architectural eye candy to see.

For instance, a trio of Queen Anne-style houses with terrific porches stands at 40, 46 and 50 Rugby Road. Developer Edward R. Strong built these homes in 1905.

Nearly every Victorian house in the neighborhood has a fine porch, by the way.  

According to city Finance Department records, an LLC that had bought 46 Rugby Road for $1.4 million in 2015 sold it for $2.35 million in 2016.

The Queen Anne-style house at 26 Rugby Road has belonged since 1990 to nonprofit Watt Samakki-Dhammikaram Inc., a Cambodian Buddhist temple. A gentleman there invited us inside the fenced-in patio for a look around, which enabled us to take a closeup photo of the temple’s religious statues.

The 1906-vintage shingle house at 17 Marlborough Road has a circular front porch that has been turned into an enclosed sun room. Down the block, William A.A. Brown built Queen Anne-style houses from 21 through 71 Marlborough Road in 1906.

That’s not a typo. He really does have two middle initials. He was a real estate developer, banker and beer brewer.

Developer John C. Sawkins built Queen Anne-style houses on Buckingham Road in 1905. Both 39 and 43 Buckingham Road have especially charming exteriors.    

Caton Park is one of six unlandmarked Victorian Flatbush micro-neighborhoods. We’re obsessed with them.

A few weeks ago, we set out to photograph houses on every block in the mini-neighborhoods. We took on this task to honor residents who have renewed their call for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the micro-neighborhoods as a single historic district.   

The residents made their first try in 2012, when they banded together with the Flatbush Development Corp. and gave the preservation agency a request for evaluation of the potential historic district. 

The other neighborhoods are Beverley Square East, Beverley Square West, Ditmas Park West, West Midwood and South Midwood.

Caton Park’s boundaries are Rugby Road, Caton Avenue, Buckingham Road and Church Avenue.

The micro-neighborhood’s development started in 1899.

 

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