Visions of the Future

At the end of October, shortly after the World Series, I wrote a piece about Lester Patrick’s hockey vision for baseball’s future. With the All-Star Game tonight, we’ll check in on Frank Patrick’s thoughts on how to improve baseball. Frank is widely considered to have been the more inventive of the two Patrick brothers when it came to modern hockey rules, but his future vision for baseball didn’t pan out as well as Lester’s.

In his column in the Boston Globe on August 5,1953, Victor O. Jones recalled the days of 1934 to 1936, when Frank had served as coach of the Bruins during the depths of the Great Depression.

Bruins 1934-35
The 1934-35 Boston Bruins. Frank Patrick is seated third from the right.
Creator: Leslie Jones, 1886-1967 (photographer).
Publisher: Boston Public Library, Print Department BPL 08_06_011885
Leslie Jones-The Camera Man

He thought baseball could attract more interest if it marked the field a little more elaborately,” Jones recalled. “He want to lay down chalk lines dividing left, center and right field and also proposed that circular lines be drawn at every 100 foot radius from home plate. Frank got this idea from listening to a radio broadcast of a game. He thought if the announcer could say: ‘He hit that one beyond the 300 foot circle,’ the fans would get a better idea of just how far the batter hit the ball.”

Not much of a concern once television replaced radio, but Jones writes of another Frank Patrick brainchild that was much more visionary. “Soon after he came up with another idea – a covered building large enough to play football games inside it, with moveable sections of stands which could be rolled around to provide, from day to day, a field of play for any kind of sport from football and polo to swimming and boxing.”

FP Baseball

Jones wrote that “Frank Patrick went so far as to get an engineer to draw plans for such a stucture,” and that his domed stadium was “entirely possible from the engineering point of view.” Jones notes, however, that this was during the Depression and that “money was scarce.” Still: “Don’t be surprised someday, though, if you see such a structure.”

Interestingly, in his 1980 biography of the clan entitled The Patricks: Hockey’s Royal Family, Eric Whitehead writes that plans for Frank’s dome were drawn up around 1947 or 1948. He applied for copyrights in Ottawa and Washington, but couldn’t find any financial backers. On this one, he was truly ahead of his time.

Frank Patrick died on June 29, 1960. Ground was broken for construction of the Houston Astrodome on January 3, 1962. These days, few true domed stadiums remain, but you’d have to think that Frank would be impressed with the evolution of retractable roof stadiums since the SkyDome opened in 1989.

(NOTE: The front row in the top picture is comprised entirely by future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Who can name them all in addition to Frank Patrick?)

6 thoughts on “Visions of the Future

  1. Eric, you are the premier hockey historian!
    Great story and as for identifying the HOF players, of course there is Tiny Thompson with Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper at the other end. I would think the player besides Clapper to be Nels Stewart?

  2. Tiny Thompson, Eddie Shore, Art Ross, Weston Adams, Frank Patrick, Babe Seibert, and Dit Clapper.

    You oughta do this every month or quarter. Guy who gets the most right wins one of your books.


  3. Enjoyed this one very much. History in that era scratches me where I itch.
    Have never seen that particular photo before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *