Cleveland’s League Park – The Oldest Former MLB Park Still Standing (Somewhat)

Cleveland’s League Park – The Oldest Former MLB Park Still Standing (Somewhat)

Located at the corner of Lexington and East 66th Street, just three miles east of the Cleveland Indian’s current home, Progressive Field, is a historical baseball structure unmatched anywhere else in the United States.

The League Park Center
League Park Center

For at that corner stands League Park, or what’s left of it. Once home to both Cleveland’s National League and American League teams, League Park remains a ball field, with portions of the original structure still standing (Editors Note: for an update on League Park’s Renovation CLICK HERE).

The League Park postcard
League Park postcard

The site is anchored by a two-and-a-half story, gabled, stucco and brick building which once held the team’s administrative offices. A sign above the entrance identifies the building as “League Park Center, 6401 Lexington Ave.” A wall of glazed yellow bricks topped with four rows of four inch square glass windows cordons off the old ticket windows and the standing area immediately in front.

The side view of the League Park Center
Side View Of League Park Center, Facing 66th Street

Inaugurated on May 1, 1891, League Park was home to the National League Cleveland Spiders until 1899, when the city lost its National League franchise. Baseball returned to League Park in 1901 when Cleveland joined the newly-formed American League along with Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.

An image of people at the League Park
League Park Image From City of Cleveland Collection

The first floor of building was once partitioned by four concrete, octagonal columns. Long ago, ticket windows were located between the columns.

People lining up at the ticket booth
League Park Image From City of Cleveland Collection

On the right side of League Park Center are several weathered doors, all of which once opened into the now-demolished right field grandstand. With that structure long gone, the single oak door on the second floor and the double oak doors on the third floor beneath the gable’s peak are, literally, doors to nowhere.

A side view of the League Park Center
Side View Of League Park Center, Facing East 70th Street

In the later part of the 20th century, League Park Center was used by the city of Cleveland as a youth center.

An inside view of the League Park Center
View Inside League Park Center

Located behind League Park Center is the first base side of the ballpark.

The former League Park's first base grandstand
Former Location Of League Park’s First Base Grandstand

Connected to the back side of the building paralleling East 66th Street is a red brick fence with two archways that once provided entrance to the park between the ticket office and the first base grandstand. As a preservation measure, the archways has been enclosed with additional brick.

The League Park's first base grandstand wall
League Park’s First Base Grandstand Wall

The brick archways are stabilized by steel bracing.

Steel bracing preserves League Park's first base grandstand wall
Steel Bracing Preserves League Park’s First Base Grandstand Wall

Next to the brick archways, further north on East 66th toward Linwood, where the lower grandstand once stood, is a portion of the dugout stairs.

League Park's former dugout steps
League Park’s Former Dugout Steps – Now Steps To Nowhere

The dugout steps were connected to a walkway leading to the now-demolished clubhouse.

The League Park tunnel leading from dugout to clubhouse
League Park Tunnel Leading From Dugout To Clubhouse

Home plate was located near the corner of Linwood Avenue and East 66th Street. Up until a few years ago, a dirt infield with home plate and metal backstop sat in the approximate location of the original infield.

The open field of League Park
League Park Looking North From Right Field Toward TheFormer Location Of Home Plate

Right Field, where Shoeless Joe Jackson once roamed the outfield, was located parallel to Lexington Avenue.

The right field of League Park
Right Field, League Park, Looking Toward Center Field

An Ohio historical marker located to the east of League Park Center notes the significance of the site:

League Park opened on May 1, 1891, with the legendary Cy Young pitching for the Cleveland Spiders in their win over the Cincinnati Red Legs. The park remained the home of Cleveland’s professional baseball and football teams until 1946. In 1920 the Cleveland Indians’ Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam home run, and Bill Wamby executed the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run over the park’s short right field wall in 1929. With the park as home field, the Cleveland Buckeyes won the Negro World Series in 1945.

While much of League Park is now gone, enough remains to make it one of baseball’s best historical sites. For the true fan of the game, the park is a must-see when visiting Cleveland. An effort is underway by the City of Cleveland and private interests to restore League Park to a certain level of its earlier glory. For information on that effort, see LeaguePark.Org. For an article from the New York Times about the restoration, see article about League Park

Byron Bennett


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