Archive for the ‘Michigan ballparks’ Category

Hamtramck Stadium – Detroit’s Diamond in the Rough

March 16th, 2019

Hamtramck Stadium is located at 3201 Dan Street in Hamtramck, Michigan, one block east of  Joseph Campau Avenue.

Entrance, Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark was constructed by John Roseink in 1930 on land owned by the Detroit Lumber Company. Roesink was owner of the Detroit Stars, a member of the National Negro League.  Hamtramck Stadium also was known as Roesink Stadium.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Located in the Veterans Park, the city of Hamtramck, Michigan, took over ownership of the ballpark in the early 1940s.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The State of Michigan placed a historic marker near one entrance to Veterans Park, at the northeast corner of Joseph Campau Avenue and Berres Street.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium is on the National Trust for Historic Places. If you approach the ballpark from Dan Street, the historic marker is located two blocks west on Joseph Campau Avenue.

Historic Marker, Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

It is remarkable that Hamtramck Stadium still exists, given the fate of so many lost ballparks around the country. The distinctive grandstand of Hamtramck Stadium appears almost to hover over the playing field.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Stadium, at least the portion nearest the grandstand, has not been used for baseball since the 1990s. The grandstand currently is not open to the public.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The history of Hamtramck Stadium is rich and much of the factual history recounted here is from the websites Detroit: the History and Future of the Motor City and Hamtramck Stadium: Historic Negro League Ballpark

Back of Ticket Booth, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

When Hamtramck Stadium opened in 1930, it featured a 12-foot high outfield fence, box seating, and right field bleachers.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The grandstand that remains is constructed of steel beams and girders supporting a mostly wooden floor and ceiling structure.

Steel Supports, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first game played was on May 10, 1930, when the Detroit Stars hosted the Cuban Stars. The Cuban Stars won that 13-inning contest 6-4.

Access Ramp to Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The ballpark’s grand opening was held a day later, on Sunday May 11, 1930, and the Detroit Stars defeated the Cuban Stars 7 to 4. Former Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch, with over 9,000 fans in attendance that day.

Grandstand Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The Detroit Stars played only two seasons at Hamtramck Stadium, as the team’s league, the Negro National League, folded half way through the 1931 season.

Ball field, as Seen From Center Grandtand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

However, those two years were remarkable. Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium has determined that 18 members of baseball’s Hall of Fame played at the ballpark.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

They include Negro League players Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Wells, and Mules Suttles.

Grandstand Railing, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Portions of the grandstand were renovated by the city in the 1950s and again in the 1970s.

Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

On June 28, 1930, the first night baseball game in the state of Michigan was played in Hamtramck Stadium using a portable lighting system. The Detroit Stars faced the Kansas City Monarchs with a crowd of over 10,000 people in attendance.

Baseball Field Light Stanchion, Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan – Editor Note: this is not a light stanchion from the first night game

Hamtramck Stadium is one of the last surviving Negro League baseball parks. Others include Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama and Hinchcliffe Stadium in Patterson, New Jersey.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

A third stadium, West Field in Munhall, Pennsylvania, recently was demolished in 2015, although the field remains and the site still hosts local and high school baseball and football.

Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Rickwood Field is still utilized as a baseball park by the city of Birmingham and hosts a minor league game once every year, known as the Rickwood Classic. Effort is underway to preserve and restore Hinchcliffe Stadium, which, like Hamtramck Stadium, is listed on the National Trust for Historic Places.

Grandstanp Ramp, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Concession stands and additional storage buildings located along the third base side of the stadium were constructed by the city of Hamtramck in the 1950s.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Those buildings now include murals that help tell the story of the ballpark.

Mural, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Fun Fact: Right Field is located adjacent to the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Line. Those old enough to remember “We’re An American Band” will recognize the railroad from which the band Grand Funk Railroad got its name.

Grandstand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The following video of Hamtramck Stadium includes a walk through the grandstand and a drive around the stadium.

Hamtramck Stadium was home to the city’s 1959 Little League World Series champions, featuring local legend Art “Pinky” Deras, considered one of the greatest Little League World Series players.

Concession Stand, Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Three years ago, members of the former Navin Field Grounds Crew banded together to form the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew. Their interest in the historic ballpark helped bring renewed attention to the history of Hamtramck Stadium, and helped begin the process of restoring this once-proud ballpark.

Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew Members Tom Derry and Elaine Rucinski, with Calvin Stinson at Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

In the northern-most point of Hamtramck Stadium’s center field is a second baseball diamond used and maintained by Hamtrack Public Schools.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Like Hamtramck stadium, this smaller ballpark has a certain old-school charm, with its tall, fenced backstop and rustic light stanchions.

Baseball Field Located Beyond Outfield of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Also worth visiting is Keyworth Stadium, located in the same complex, Veterans Park, just north of Hamtramck Stadium.

Exterior Wall, Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Hamtramck Public Schools owns Keyworth Stadium, and hosts athletic events such as local soccer and football, as well as other community events.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The stadium was constructed in 1936 as Michigan’s first Works Progress Administration project.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

The first event held at the stadium was a rally featuring President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his second campaign for President in October 1936.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

Keyworth Stadium’s grandstands are a bit rough around the edges, and certain sections are cordoned off by chain link fence. However, the fact that the stadium remains a living part of the city of Hamtramck is a testimony to city and its appreciation of such historic places.

Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Michigan

hamtramckstadium.org, with the help of assistance of the Piast Institute, Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, and Detroit’s own  Jack White, have launched campaign to help restore Hamtramck Stadium. The campaign began in early 2019 and has set a goal of raising $50,000. Anyone interested in contributing can contact patronicity.com for more information, and to make a donation. Opportunities such as this to help reclaim a historic, almost lost ballpark, are rare, and truly are worth the effort.

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A Tiger Stadium Drive Around

October 15th, 2014

Five years ago the last vestiges of Tiger Stadium met the wrecking ball.  The decade-long march toward that moment, beginning with the final game on September 27, 1999, culminated with the demolition and removal of the last standing section of the stadium on September 21, 2009.

Tiger Stadium, Saturday August 28, 1999

Tiger Stadium, Saturday August 28, 1999

The following video was taken in December 2002, over three years after the American League Tigers abandoned the stadium, but several years before Detroit city officials began their assault on the historic structure. The four minute video is a drive around Tiger Stadium, starting east on Michigan Avenue and turning left on Cochrane Street, right on Fisher Drive, right on Trumbull Avenue, and right again on Michigan.

In the five years since the stadium’s demolition, the Navins Field Grounds Crew has kept alive the actual field and, in the process, perhaps helped fend off attempts to pave paradise.

Tiger Stadium, December 2002

Tiger Stadium, December 2002

It is hoped that the efforts of the NFGC will help convince city officials that the playing field (and the center field flag pole) is worth preserving for future generations of baseball fans who travel to the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

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I Still Can’t Believe They Tore Down Tiger Stadium

November 7th, 2013

From 1896 until 1999, professional baseball was played in Detroit at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street, or as locals called it, “the Corner.”

View of Tiger Stadium Looking East from Harrison and Cherry Streets

In the one hundred plus years of baseball at the Corner, there have been four different stadium incarnations. The first was Bennett Park, constructed of wood with room for 10,000 fans. The Western League Detroit Tigers (a minor league team) began play at Bennett Park when it opened in 1896.

"Bennett Field," Detroit, 1907 World Series (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.)

This early incarnation of Tiger Stadium was named after Charlie Bennett, a former Detroit catcher and fan favorite whose career was permanently derailed when he lost both legs in a train accident.

Detroit Wolverines Star Charlie Bennett (Allen & Ginter's card, LOC P&P Div.)

The Detroit Tigers, a charter member of the newly-established American League, began play at Bennett Field in 1901. The Tigers brought home to Detroit three consecutive American League pennants during their first decade, in 1907, 1908, and 1909, under the tutelage of former Baltimore Orioles star Hughie Jennings.  In 1912, Bennett Park was replaced with a new concrete and steel structure that increased seating to 23,000. Renamed Navin Field in honor of Tigers owner Frank Navin, the location of home plate was moved from what previously had been right field (near the intersection of Cochrane and Fischer) to an area near the the intersection of Cochrane and Michigan.

Navin Park Postcard (Curt Teich Company, Chicago, Photochrom)

Over time the ballpark was expanded to seat more than 54,000 fans and, in 1938, was renamed Briggs Stadium after Tigers owner Walter Briggs.

Briggs Stadium Postcard (Hiawatha Card Company, Plastichrome by Colourpicture)

In 1961 the ballpark was renamed Tiger Stadium.

Tiger Stadium at the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull

 

Near the main entrance to Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull were three historical markers.

Tiger Stadium Looking Northwest Down Trumbull

The first one stated simply “Tiger Stadium” and was located to the right of the entrance to the Tigers’ administrative offices at 2121 Trumbull Street.

Tiger Stadium Plaque Once Located at Corner of Michigan and Trumbull

To the left of the entrance was a plaque honoring Ty Cobb. That plaque was moved to Comerica Park and can be found to the right of the entrance to the Tigers’ administrative offices at 260 East Montcalm Street.

Ty Cobb Plaque That Once Hung Outside Tiger Stadium Next to The Executive Offices and Now Resides at Comerica Park

To the left of Ty Cobb’s plaque at Tiger Stadium was a Michigan historical marker honoring the ballpark. Dedicated during the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Detroit Tigers, the cast-aluminum plaque was stolen from Tiger Stadium in 2006. Its whereabouts currently is unknown  except by the thieves who stole it.

Tiger Stadium Historical Plaque Dedicated August 23, 1976, In Honor of 75th Anniversary of Tiger Stadium

Tiger Stadium was bounded by Michigan Avenue to the south, Trumbull to the east, West Fischer Service Drive to the north, and Cochrane Street to the west. Home plate, located near the intersection of Michigan and Cochrane, faced southwest.

Tiger Stadium With Orioles Brady Anderson At The Plate

Tiger Stadium’s light stanchions were things of beauty all to themselves. Installed in 1948, their cantilever design was reminiscent of  those still in use at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Left Field Corner and Light Stanchions, Tiger Stadium

It was hard to take a bad picture of Tiger Stadium. No matter where you stood inside the seating bowl, every angle of the stadium offered a postcard-like view.

View of Right Field Porch, Tiger Stadium

View of Infield from First Base Grandstand, Tiger Stadium

The home and away team bullpens were located in foul territory, with the home team’s along the third base foul line and the away team’s along the first base foul line. The lower seating bowl, from the right field corner around to the left field corner, offered fans seats close to the action on the field.

Tiger Stadium, Right Field Corner Looking Toward Home

The center field porch was the only section of the ballpark without a covered grandstand.

Tiger Stadium Center Field Deck and Flag Pole

At the start of the 2000  season, the Tigers moved to Comerica Park, located less than two miles northeast of Tiger Stadium. Over the next several years, Detroit officials debated what to do with the city’s historic landmark. Former Tigers Broadcaster Ernie Harwell led a group of preservationists who fought valiantly to save at least a section of the old stadium. Unfortunately, without sufficient funds or a plan in place for reuse of the structure, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took the easy way out and ordered the stadium’s demolition.

Comerica Park - Home of the Detroit Tigers

The ballpark may be gone, but the field remains, as does the center field flag pole.

Tiger Stadium Center Field Flag Pole

Likewise, a portion of the iron fence that enclosed Tiger Plaza and ran along Michigan Avenue remains on the site. The fence was installed about 1994 and is visible in the picture below, to the left of Michigan Avenue.

View From Top of Tiger Stadium Looking East Down Michigan Avenue Toward Downtown

A group of ballpark enthusiasts known as Navins Field Grounds Crew is preserving the field. A movie about their efforts, Stealing Home, debuted in Detroit in the fall of 2013. Although the city has yet to decide the fate of the field, hopefully Detroit’s current administration recognizes the historical significance of the site and will allow what is left of the ballpark to remain as a public park.

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