Nashua’s Holman Stadium has rich history
NASHUA – The grand ol’ ballpark is turning 80, but she really only looks half her age.
It all began for Holman Stadium in 1937 where, fittingly enough, a man named Charles Frank Holman contributed $55,000 to its construction, which he said was a tribute to his parents. Holman’s father, Charles, was voted as Nashua’s mayor in 1879 had a successful confectioners business on Eldridge Street after beginning his time in town as a salesman who wasn’t exactly flush with money.
Besides Charles Holman’s son’s contribution, the city also was able to secure federal money, thanks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s recovery plan for the Great Depression.
Of course, Holman’s place in history is greatly secured by the fact it was home to the first integrated minor league baseball team in the United States in the 20th century, the Dodgers.
Murals which were dedicated to the Stadium in July 2017 – the organizational work of former Silver Knights assistant general manager Cheryl Lindner – pay tribute to this fact, with Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella and future Cy Young award winner Don Newcombe as the principals. In fact, when Dodgers manager Walter Alston was ejected from a game during the 1946 season, Campanella took over as manager and that is said to be the first time in U.S. history that an African-American managed a team with caucasian athletes.
The Dodgers came to Nashua as Dodgers official Buzzie Bavasi, asked by Dodger president Branch Rickey to find a spot for a team in the newly re-formed New England League, was seeking a city with a population that had French Canadian ties. The Dodgers folded along with the New England League in 1949.
Of course, high school football had been a staple at Holman, with perhaps the most recognizable name being former Detroit Lions quarterback Greg Landry.
The Dodgers’ departure marked the end of professional baseball until the arrival of the Nashua Angels, an Eastern League Double A affiliate of the California Angels, in 1983. The franchise switched affiliations to the Nashua Pirates until it left due to poor attendance in December 1986 for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Holman was the home to various concerts – top acts such as Tina Turner and Whitney Houston – in the early 1990s until independent professional baseball came of age and the Nashua Hawks arrived in 1995, but were locked out midway through 1996.
But then Nashua Mayor Don Davidson wanted a primary professional team tenant for the stadium, and that evolved into the Nashua Pride – the longest tenured pro baseball team that called Holman home (1998-2008). The Pride was responsible for two Holman renovations, the second one a multi-million dollar job in 2001 that gives us the Holman you see today with luxury suites, etc.
The Pride franchise was sold by then local owner John Stabile to a group that wanted to tie the baseball team in with the United States Military, known as the American Defenders of New Hampshire. It didn’t make it half a season, also locked out for lease violations. Holman went without professional ball again in 2010.
Enter the Silver Knights in 2011, who are owned by New York-based businessman Drew Weber, who also at the time owned the Red Sox short season Single A affiliate, the nearby Lowell (Mass.) Spinners. Weber had an autograph event during June of 2010, the other year Holman lacked a major tenant, and said then, “There will be a team in Holman Stadium next year.”
His two major front office staffers, team president Tim Bawmann and VP Jon Goode, urged Weber to get involved on the ground floor of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and get a franchise into Holman (Bawmann at the time lived in Nashua, just two miles or so from Holman).
When the Knights won the second of their four FCBL titles in 2012, it marked the first time a primary summer tenant won a championship on Holman’s hallowed ground since the Nashua Dodgers did it in winning three Governor’s Cups. The last local football title won at Holman came in 1997,when Nashua topped Londonderry, 15-0. In 1999, in what proved to be the last football championship game played at Holman, Manchester Central blanked Nashua, 18-0.
Holman has also been a neutral site for state baseball tournaments, high school and American Legion. Nashua High School South captured the Class L title at Holman in 2005, beating Salem 6-1.
In any event, any team’s success is always centered around Holman.
There was one positive from the Defenders brief time as they established a tradition of honoring past athletes, etc. who had their greatest days at Holman, the Holman Wall of Fame. Inductees are honored annually before the July 4 Fireworks show.
Last summer, a crowd of well more than 2,000 saw the U.S. National Baseball team beat Team Japan in the final game of a five-game series, the event held in conjunction with the Futures League and the Silver Knights.
Holman remains the jewel in the eyes of those who come to attend its events.
“It’s as picturesque as it gets,” said Rick Muntean, Silver Knights general manager, “Because of the operators you’ve had here and Holman Stadium, it’s a recipe for success.”