The Story of the Toronto Baseball Grounds in Riverside Neighbourhood

In this feature #16 of the Riverside 40 Years, 40 Stories series, we’re sharing the story of the Toronto Baseball Ground, home field to the city’s first professional baseball team the ‘Torontos’. This tale uncovers its rich history, grand opening, remarkable wins , and how it’s been commemorated in Riverside neighbourhood. 

Strolling along Riverside’s Queen Street East in 2020, you may notice a new laneway sign for ‘Baseball Place’ at the construction site of the new Riverside Square by Streetcar Developments. There is a lot in that name, as well as the heritage plaque and other memorabilia nearby: all commemorate that you are standing near the former site of the Toronto Baseball Grounds opened in 1886 and home field for city’s first professional baseball team the ‘Torontos’.

The new city laneway within the new Riverside Square Development was named ‘Baseball Place’ to commemorate the sports history of the area

 

About the Torontos and the Baseball Grounds

Toronto heritage plaque located on the wall of the heritage building ‘The Smith Block’ at 655 Queen Street East

Before the Toronto Blue Jays, the city’s first professional team called the ‘Torontos’ (who were later renamed Toronto Maple Leafs)  played in the international league. This team invested $7000 to build an all-wood stadium near the Don River. The eight-acre stadium enclosed with high wood fence boasted two wooden stands, one being a half-hexagon grandstand offering seating for 2,000 people and other was along the right field boundary with 1,000 seats.

This Goad’s Atlas of 1890 shows the Toronto Baseball Ground just south of Queen near 655 Queen Street East.

The stadium saw a grand sold-out opening on May 18, 1886 and awed its audience with a match between Toronto and Rochester, New York.  Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor John Beverley Robinson honored the ceremonial first ball throwing.

Close your eyes and try transporting yourself to the rustic 1886, when people would ride up in their carriages and park their horses on the grounds.

‘Cannonball Crane’ of the Torontos

It was the time when 25 cents could buy you a ticket to a live professional baseball championship game and around 45 cents could do the same but with the luxury of a leather-cushioned seat under a covered stand.  Some people even viewed the match from their private carriages.

1887 saw history in the making when the Torontos achieved a momentous 15-game winning streak; credit to the newly- acquired star pitcher Edward Crane, nicknamed Cannonball. That year the team made a clean sweep in the city’s first baseball championship with back-to-back home victories.

The Torontos had around a decade’s stay at the Baseball Grounds and in 1896, they moved to the larger stadium at the Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Island. The Toronto Baseball Ground then became the go-to ground for local amateur teams who nicknamed it ‘Sunlight Park’ after the nearby Sunlight soap factory built by the Lever Brothers.  Local football, baseball and lacrosse leagues started using the park.

Sunlight Park witnessed its last sporting event, a football match, in 1913. That same year the stands were demolished and the field was closed.

Memorabilia of the Toronto Baseball Ground in Riverside

The city and neighbourhood never forgot the baseball grounds, for many years (possibly 50 or so) a laneway called Baseball Place did exist near the location of the new ‘Baseball Place’ lane. 

Queen Street looking east from Baseball Place. December 26, 1954.

While that older sign is said to have mysteriously disappeared sometime in the 1990s, the name has now been resurrected along with the re-development of the space to the Riverside Square residential and commercial community and the Riverside Common Park.

Further keeping the sports heritage of the area alive in Riverside and Toronto are some modest memorabilia, which include the Toronto Baseball Ground plaque placed by Heritage Toronto on the outer wall of the building at 655 Queen Street East. 

The history is also celebrated by the Riverside BIA and local artists with the ‘Sports History and Legacy Murals’ by Toronto artist Monica Wickeler, on the wall at 1 Munro Street, which is across the street from the Baseball Place laneway. The mural depicts the stories of the heritage of that area, including the Toronto Baseball Grounds.

Image from the Riverside Sports History and Legacy Mural by Toronto artist Monica Wickeler

Fun fact: a mural within The Broadview Hotel stairway includes another salute to the contribution of ‘Sunlight Park’, the Toronto Baseball Ground. 

It does seem fitting that the former Baseball Ground site is, in 2020, being redeveloped partially as the new Riverside Common Park, bringing back the uses of pleasure and space to enjoy the outdoors, so especially important in these times of pandemic.

A rendering of the new Riverside Common park, under construction just south of Queen Street East in 2020.

The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.

FIND THE SERIES HERE AS WE SHARE NEW STORIES EACH WEEK IN 2020

DO YOU HAVE A STORY OF THE RIVERSIDE BIA? SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Riverside 40 Years, 40 Stories: Welcome to Tabule

As part of the ‘Riverside BIA: 40 Years, 40 Stories’ series we’re putting a spotlight on Tabule Middle Eastern Cuisine. We spoke to Diana Sideris – one of the owners of this long-standing and much-loved restaurant business in Toronto’s Riverside neighborhood.

By 2012, Tabule owners Chef Rony Goraichy and Diana Sideris had had success with their first location in Midtown/Davisville, and were looking to expand. They were eyeing Toronto’s downtown east.

“Part of our brand was to make sure we were in a neighborhood, not just any location,” says Diana. They looked at 810 Queen Street East in Riverside, which housed a medical clinic at the time.

“There was Bonjour Brioche right next door and then De Grassi Street and the bridge, and we just connected with it,” recalls Diana, “since day 1 when we opened in 2013, we had people bringing us flowers. People were so supportive of us being here.”

Tabule transformed the existing space on Queen with their modern decor, vibrant back patio, and really added value to the neighborhood, which people appreciated. The restaurant has had a consistent contemporary aesthetic since the beginning, designed to compliment and fit in with the Riverside neighborhood.

The years have proved Tabule are much loved in Toronto, for example, they’ve won several years in NOW Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards for ‘Best Middle Eastern Restaurant’ and ‘Best Falafel’.

Some of Tabule's famous dishes including falafel, fried cauliflower, and other (Photo Credit: Sierra Curtis https://www.sierracurtis.com/ )

Some of Tabule’s famous dishes including falafel, fried cauliflower, and other (Photo Credit: Sierra Curtis )

Tabule's stylish interior (Photo Credit: Sierra Curtis https://www.sierracurtis.com/ )

Tabule’s stylish interior (Photo Credit: Sierra Curtis)

Tabule's sunny back patio (Photo Credit: Sierra Curtis https://www.sierracurtis.com/ )

Tabule’s sunny back patio (Photo Credit: Sierra Curtis)

What is one of your most cherished experiences/times being in this community?

“Our first festival experience was with Riverside Eats & Beats Streetfest, it was the first big community event we had ever done”, says Diana.

tabule eats and beats

Tabule’s hand-painted Henna and fresh falafels, Riverside Eats & Beats Streetfest (2019)

This experience motivated Diana to help start the Midtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (BIA). She started by approaching a couple businesses and then growing the movement to bring all businesses on board through the formal process. It was all because of the inspiration from Riverside BIA.

And since that first taste of being a part of something big, Tabule has been a huge community supporter in Riverside, taking part in local festivals and events throughout the year, and supporting good causes like Fife House, Nellie’s Shelter, The Red Door, the Riverside Antler Breakfast, and many more.

In late-August 2020, Tabule took part in ‘Riverside Eats Virtually: an evening with locals chefs, for a good cause!” in support of Mustard Seed, Fontbonne Ministries food program in Riverside. The incredible video created for the event where Chef Rony prepares ‘Fattush Salad with Seared Hallum Cheese’ shows the warmth of the Tabule family and the fresh, traditional recipes they pride themselves on.

When asked what the experience of running a local restaurant during a global pandemic has taught them, Diana shared, “it reinforced just how much the local community really wanted us to be here”. She said locals would send flowers and their children’s drawings to thank the restaurant for staying open during such a challenging time.

“During tough times, it really gives you the courage to keep on going… it’s these kind of rewards and being part of a strong community that make it worth it”.

 

The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighborhood of community-builders.

FIND THE SERIES HERE AS WE SHARE NEW STORIES EACH WEEK IN 2020

DO YOU HAVE A STORY OF THE RIVERSIDE BIA? SUBMIT YOUR STORY

NOW Readers’ Choice 2020- VOTE Until October 28th

Support your favourite local places and people by voting for them in NOW Readers’ Choice Awards!

There are so many local nominees to choose from so have fun and don’t forget to show Riverside some love!

Voting ends October 28th! VOTE NOW

Here are some of the incredible nominees for NOW Readers’ Choice from right here in Riverside:

Blackbird Baking Co – BEST BAKERY
Hi-Lo – BEST BAR
Tabule Middle Eastern– BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT
Common Sort – BEST CONSIGNMENT CLOTHING AND ACCESSORY STORE
Arts Market – BEST FLEA/LOCAL MARKET and BEST INDEPENDENT JEWELLERY STORE and BEST UNIQUE GIFT STORE and BEST VINTAGE CLOTHING STORE (WOW!!!)
Lone & Co – BEST HAIR SALON
Dresden Vision -BEST OPTICAL STORE

NOW Readers Choice Nominations are Open Until September 24th!

Support your favourite local places and people by nominating them in NOW Readers’ Choice Awards!

There are so many nomination categories to choose from so have fun and don’t forget to show Riverside some love!

Nominate until 9/24 @ 1:00am Eastern 

Vote f the nominees Starting 9/28 @ 1:01am Eastern

Here are some of the incredible past nominees for NOW Readers’ Choice and great ideas for more nominees from right here in Riverside:

Blackbird Baking Co – BEST BAKERY
The Comrade – BEST BAR
Butchers of Distinction – BEST BUTCHER
Eastbound Brewing Co – BEST INDEPENDENT BREWERY
Tabule Middle Eastern– BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT
The John Bar 3 – BEST SPORTS BAR
Chez Nous – BEST WINE LIST
Ride Away Bikes – BEST BICYCLE STORE
Queen Garden Centre – BEST LANDSCAPERS
Quince Flowers – LOCAL FLORIST
Irish Design House – BEST LOCAL FACE MASK DESIGNER
Common Sort – BEST CONSIGNMENT CLOTHING AND ACCESSORY STORE
Arts Market – BEST UNIQUE GIFT STORE
Good Juice Box Vintage – BEST VINTAGE CLOTHING STORE
Riverside – BEST NEIGHBOURHOOD
Dimensions – BEST INDEPENDENT GALLERY
Tiny Record Shop – BEST RECORD STORE

You can easily vote for them again and any others you’d like!! Check out our Riverside Business Directory to refresh your mind on your favs and give them some love!

Celebrating 50 Years of BIAs

Did you know 50 yrs ago today, the world’s first BIA was created right here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada?

Riverside BIA is proud to be one of the first dozen in Toronto, having formed in 1980 (see photo: my how the streetscape has changed?!). This year we are commemorating and celebrating all the amazing memories with our ‘Riverside 40 Years, 40 Stories’ series.

THANK YOU to all our incredible BIA colleagues, members, partners and collaborators for all they do- we could not make this all work without TEAMWORK!!!

The history- 50 Years of BIAs

Business Improvement Area (BIA) legislation was enacted in Ontario, Canada, and became Section 204-217 of the Municipal Act. Bloor West Village in Toronto became the pioneer of the BIA concept and was designated as the first BIA on September 16, 1970. Celebrating #BIAweek and #50yearsforward of BIAs.

We are proud to stand today with over over 80 BIAs in Toronto and 300 BIAs in Ontario. The dedication and hard work of many enrich the lives of our business community daily making stronger, safer, vibrant, and healthy. Happy Anniversary BIAs!

Read all about in the Toronto BIA Association’s News Release