Woodhaven Legend Honored

Max Rosner’s Great-great grandson – also named Max Rosner – was in attendance with over 25 other members of the Rosner family, making the day a true Woodhaven family reunion (photo courtesy of Eddie Gardiner).

By Ed Wendell | projectwoodhaven@gmail.com 

Woodhaven recently honored the history of Dexter Park by hosting a sign dedication ceremony in honor of Max Rosner, the Hungarian immigrant who came to this country in search of the American Dream and ended up owning a baseball team and stadium.

Most importantly, he found a home right here in Woodhaven, where residents loved him so much that they referred to him as “Uncle Max.” And so it was a nice homecoming as over two dozen members of the Rosner family returned to Woodhaven for a ceremony.

“Street namings are very important,” said Councilmemer Joann Ariola, pinch hitting for Councilmember Robert Holden, who was feeling under the weather. “They help us remember our history. Max Rosner was a person who loved Woodhaven and he was a visionary who loved community.”

NY State Senator Joseph Addabbo noted that Rosner “was known affectionately in Woodhaven as Uncle Max because he gave back so much to the community,” noting that his fundraising was responsible for building a part of Jamaica Hospital.

Sherry Algredo, Chair of Community Board 9, said  ”As immigrants who came to this country with a dream, it’s great to hear and learn about the history of immigrants that came before us.”

Faiuze Ali, 1st Vice Chair of CB9 said it was an honor to work on this resolution, which actually hit close to home. Pointing to the school across the street from the sign, Ali said “I’m a graduate of Franklin K. Lane High School and I had no idea that I was in a neighborhood that was so historic.”

Friends and family of Max Rosner, owner of Dexter Park and the Buswicks, celebrate the unveiling of the Max Rosner Way street sign at the corner of Dexter Court and 86th Road (photo courtesy of Vance Barbour).

Jason Antos, Executive Director of the Queens Historical Society, noted that there was a “big increase in street co-namings” going on to say this is a good thing because “Queens County is very underserved” when it comes to street signs and historic markers.

Martin Colberg, President of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association was joined by WRBA VP Janet Forte and said “It’s important for us to remember the individuals that had an impact on our community.”

Loycent Gordon, owner of Neir’s Tavern noted a similarity between himself and Rosner, both immigrants to our country who wanted to give back to the community. “He wanted to do something for the country that gave him so much, and I try to do the same.”

And John Perricone, Executive Director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District noted that “as a Mets fan, it is nice to have a baseball related activity that is positive.”

And with that, the sign was unveiled and Max Rosner Way became official. Many thanks to everyone involved who brought this sign to fruition.

Max Rosner and Dexter Park were such an amazing part of Woodhaven’s history, with a beautiful stadium in our midst for three decades, the advent of night baseball, and the constant flow of great ballplayers from the Major Leagues and the Negro Leagues that entertained and thrilled Woodhaven crowds.

But there is so much more history about Dexter Park that needs to be shared, in particular the early years. For instance, the site of Dexter Park was once owned by Hiram Woodruff, who is arguably the most famous person to ever have lived in Woodhaven. And most of us have never heard of him.

Come out next Monday night (July 17th) to Neir’s Tavern (87-48 78th Street) at 7 p.m. as we will introduce you to the amazing life and career of Mr. Woodruff, whose name is still very well-known in some circles, over 156 years after he passed away in the hotel he owned on Jamaica Avenue.

And in between the eras of Hiram Woodruff and Max Rosner, Dexter Park had a very dark and controversial period of history that left a stain on Woodhaven. If you think you know about Dexter Park, you probably don’t know half of it and will enjoy this free presentation.

If you can’t make it to Neir’s, we will be giving the same presentation via Zoom on Tuesday, August 1st at 8 p.m., email us at projectwoodhaven@gmail.com for a free invite.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support the street sign unveiling and many thanks to the Rosner family who came home to celebrate with us. Mostly, thanks to Uncle Max Rosner for giving us such a splendid sporting history to be forever proud of.

Dexter Park and Max Rosner to be Honored in Street Renaming

 

 

The stadium at Dexter Park was built in 1923 and played host to many of the greatest players in Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues, and was the site of the first night game in baseball, 5 years before the Major Leagues. It also played host to Boxing, Wrestling, Football, Soccer, Polo and in the 1950s it was home of Stock Car racing. 

By Ed Wendell
From playing host to many of the greatest players in Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues, to being the birthplace of the great innovation of Night Baseball, there is a lot for residents of Woodhaven in to be proud of when it comes to Max Rosner and Dexter Park.
Both will be remembered fondly this Saturday, July 1st, at 11 a.m. when the corner of Dexter Court and 86th Road, where the box office of the old stadium used to sit, will be renamed in Max Rosner’s honor, with the Rosner family in attendance.
In 1892, a young man named Max Rosner immigrated to the United States from Hungary. He eventually settled down in Woodhaven, opening a Cigar Store on Jamaica Avenue near Forest Parkway that would operate very profitably for many years. He also became a resident of Woodhaven when he bought a home on 76th Street.
If that was all that Max Rosner ever did, it would be an American success story. But Rosner was no ordinary man, and his success story was far from ordinary.
As a newcomer to this country, Rosner became enamored with baseball, which was a relatively new sport at the time. He watched the local teams and eventually tried out and played shortstop for a semi-pro team.
In time, Max Rosner took over as manager of the Bushwicks, a Brooklyn-based team that played frequently at Dexter Park in Woodhaven, Queens.

Shortly after immigrating from Hungary, Max Rosner became a fan of baseball, playing shortstop for a local team and then becoming a manager. Here he is (top center) with the Paramounts in 1903; they played at Morgan and Metropolitan Avenues in Brooklyn. He would soon become manager of the Bushwicks, who played at Dexter Park here in Woodhaven.

In October of 1922 Max Rosner and partner Nat Strong purchased Dexter Park and the Bushwicks from the Ulmer Brewery for $200,000. Ulmer Brewery had been forced to cease operations due to prohibition.
Dexter Park became the home field for the Bushwicks and for the Brooklyn Royal Giants, one of the top teams in the Negro Leagues.
They began immediately to improve the ballpark, building a new concrete grandstand which increased the capacity to 13,000 (6 thousand individual seats and bleachers which accommodated 7 thousand people).
The playing field itself was one of the largest in the United States. The distance from home plate to the centerfield fence was a whopping 450 feet and only the legendary Hall of Famer Josh Gibson was able to hit one over it.
The newly remodeled stadium opened nearly 100 years ago, on April 15, 1923.
Over the years, Rosner was also well known in Woodhaven for his charitable contributions.  Numerous times, Rosner donated the use of Dexter Park for benefit games to raise funds for charities, including a series of games which helped construct a new building for Jamaica Hospital.
Rosner was famous for being the first one at the ballpark every morning, often to the chagrin of his groundskeepers. He was such a beloved figure to the residents of Woodhaven that he soon became known, even in the press, as Uncle Max.
Under his ownership, Dexter Park was a prime source of entertainment for residents in Woodhaven and the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that surrounded it. Dexter Park wasn’t just a home for baseball; Dexter Park also hosted Boxing, Soccer, Football, Polo (with horses) and in later years, Stock Car racing.
Every year, once the Major League Baseball season was over, legendary ballplayers such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Dizzy Dean would come to Woodhaven to play ball.
And over the years, legendary players from the Negro Leagues like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige played right here in Woodhaven, years before the color barrier would be broken in Major League Baseball by Jackie Robinson.
Dexter Park was also famous for the introduction of night games, a full 8 years before it was adopted in the Major Leagues.
Although it was initially seen as a fad or a novelty, night baseball proved to be so popular with fans that in years to come, day games became far less frequent. Today, the majority of baseball games are played at night.
Major League baseball on television hurt many semi pro teams, the Bushwicks included. Rosner shifted gears and converted Dexter Park for Stock Car Racing. Eventually, the crowds dwindled and after Rosner passed away, the park was sold and demolished, and new homes were built on the land.
These days, many residents of Woodhaven (themselves immigrants to this country like Rosner himself) are unaware of the existence or history of Woodhaven’s stadium. We hope you will come out to honor this important piece of Woodhaven’s history.

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