How did they put out fires under the stands at Vaughn Street Ball Park?
Sand was used to put out fires at the old ballpark—sand shoveled on to a fire covers the burning materials and extinguishes the fire by cutting off the supply of oxygen. With the news that the Portland Diamond Project was exploring two sites for a new major league stadium in Portland. I was enchanted that one of the proposed sites is the Esco parking lot—the site of the Vaughn Street Ball Park that was the heart of Slabtown from 1901 to 1955. Gone are the days when a home run is camouflaged behind plumes of smoke from the adjacent foundry and an outfielder prepared with a ball in his pocket can successfully fake that he has caught a fly ball!
The attractive wooden stadium (above) was closed because it was a firetrap. The fan seating eventually grew from 6,000 to 12,000, and fans even sat on the field for popular games. Fans young and old knew that the beloved groundskeeper Rocky Benevento expected them to shovel sand from conveniently located barrels to “douse” fires started by a stray cigarette among the paper wrappings and peanut shells. It is safe to say that not only will any proposed stadium lack a smoking section, but sports promoter Lynn Lashbrook has pitched rebuilding a wooden structure of high-tech cross laminated timbers that meets current fire and seismic codes (less we forget the World Series Earthquake of 1989). The really fun question will be: Can Portland economically support the Webfooters by filling the 32,000 seats for 83 home games?