Posts Tagged ‘League Park’

Cleveland’s League Park Reborn – If You Renovate It They Will Come

August 26th, 2014

There is good news in Cleveland. The former site of League Park – once home to the National League Cleveland Spiders, the American League Indians, the National Football League Cleveland Rams, and the Negro American League Cleveland Buckeyes – has been preserved and the historical portions of the ballpark that remain have been restored or renovated.

League Park Renovation of Main Ticket Booth 2014

League Park Renovation of Main Ticket Booth 2014

In an earlier post about League Park I reported about what remained at the site as of 2009.

League Park Center Circa 2009

League Park Center Circa 2009

In August 2014, the City of Cleveland completed a renovation process, several years in the making.

Panoramic View of League Park Along Lexington Avenue

Panoramic View of League Park Along Lexington Avenue

The former ticket booth and team administrative offices located at the corner of 66th and Lexington has been restored to its turn of the century beauty.

Detail of Second Floor Window and Brick Renovation, League Park, Cleveland

Detail of Second Floor Window and Brick Work Renovation, League Park, Cleveland

In addition, along Lexington Avenue, the city has installed a forty foot high fence similar to the one that once stood along the back of right field at the time Shoeless Joe Jackson played for the Indians.

Recreation of Right Field Fence League Park Center, From Days When Joeless Joe Jackson Played Right Field

Recreated Right Field Fence League Park Center, From Days When Joeless Joe Jackson Played Right Field

The interior of the former ticket booth and administrative offices also has been renovated.

First Floor Renovation of League Park Main Ticket Booth and Offices

First Floor Renovation of League Park Main Ticket Booth and Offices

Inside the ballpark site is a plaza along the first base side of League Park that helps celebrate the history of the site.

Renovation of First Base Side Plaza

Panoramic Shot of First Base Side Plaza

On the wall where once sat the first base grandstand, the City has placed pictures of notable ballplayers who once played at League Park.

League Park First Base Grand Stand With Pictures of Notable Ballplayers

League Park First Base Grand Stand With Pictures of Notable Ballplayers

The plaza also includes a sidewalk with notable dates in the history of League Park.

League Park First Base Plaza Includes Notable Years in Ballpark's History

League Park First Base Plaza Includes Notable Years in Ballpark’s History

The Ohio Historical Marker that since 1979 sat along Lexington Avenue next to the former ticket booth and administrative offices has been renovated and relocated near the right field corner.

Renovated League Park Historical Marker

Renovated League Park Historical Marker

Located in place of the first base grandstands (a portion of which actually remained at the site until about 2002) is a new one story building.

New Building on Site of Former First Base Grandstand, Indian's Club House, and Dugout

New Building on Site of League Park’s Former First Base Grandstand, Indian’s Club House, and Dugout

The building, and plaza in front of it, mark the site of Cleveland’s dugout and a tunnel that once provided player access to the club house.

Circa 2003 Photo of First Base Grand Stand and Tunnel From Dugout to Club House

Circa 2003 Photo of League Park First Base Grand Stand and Tunnel From Dugout to Club House

The above photo from 2003 shows the location of the dugout steps and clubhouse tunnel.  The photograph below shows the clubhouse tunnel as it existed in 2009.

League Park Tunnel from Home Team Dugout to Club House

League Park Tunnel from Home Team Dugout to Club House

A metal railing now outlines the location of the clubhouse tunnel inside the building constructed on top of the first base grand stand.

Inside View of Building Constructed Atop Dugout and Club House Tunnel

Inside View of Building Constructed Atop Dugout and Club House Tunnel

The window at the center of the building, just to the left of the infield backstop in the picture below, marks the location of the clubhouse tunnel.

Former Location of First Base Grandstand as Seen From Field

Former Location of First Base Grandstand as Seen From Infield

The original infield, which by 2009 had been removed and replaced with just grass, is back in the form of turf.

League Park Infield Circa 2003

League Park Infield Circa 2003

Home plate sits in the same location as it once sat during the time of League Park.

Panoramic of League Park Turf Field

Panoramic of League Park Turf Field

Metal bleachers surround the infield backstop.

Bleachers and Backstop, League Park Field

Bleachers and Backstop, League Park Field

The entrance to League Park along 66th Street includes an iron gate placed in the same spot where countless fans once entered the ballpark during its heyday.

Entrance to League Park on 66th Street

Entrance to League Park on 66th Street

The City of Cleveland has done a wonderful job restoring the first base grandstand outer wall as well.

Renovated Wall Along First Base Side of League Park on 66th Street

Renovated Wall Along First Base Side of League Park on 66th Street

The brickwork of League Park’s outer wall is quite exquisite and was worth saving even apart from the historic nature of League Park.

Detail of League Park Brick Work, First Base Grandstand Outer Wall, 66th Street

Detail of League Park Brick Work, First Base Grandstand Outer Wall, 66th Street

Baseball once again will be played at the corner of Lexington and 66th. The City of Cleveland and the many baseball enthusiasts who helped encouraged League Park’s renovation have done a wonderful service not only for Cleveland fans, but also for fans of the game around the country. I always have felt that League Park was a historic site that any baseball fan traveling to Cleveland should see. Hopefully now with the park’s renovation,  fans from around the country will stop by the corner of Lexington and 66th to see the wonderful gem that is League Park. With apologies to W.P. Kinsella, “if you renovate it, they will come.”

And speaking of Shoeless Joe Jackson, on your visit to League Park, be sure to make a stop at the vacant lot just two blocks East of League Park at 7209 Lexington Avenue.

Vacant Lot at 7209 Lexington Avenue, Site of Shoeless Joe Jackson's Cleveland Home

Vacant Lot at 7209 Lexington Avenue, Site of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Cleveland Home

On that spot once sat the home of Mr. Jackson, the place where he lived during his time with the Cleveland Indians. If only he had never left Cleveland . . .

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Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium On The Banks of Lake Erie

January 2nd, 2014

Municipal Stadium was located at 1085 West Third Street in Cleveland, Ohio. Also known as Lakefront Stadium, the ballpark was situated on the banks Lake Erie just north of downtown.

Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (Postcard Curteichcolor, Distributed by Wilbur Evans)

Built in 1931 and designed by the same engineering firm (Osborn Engineering) that designed such ballparks as Fenway Park, Tiger Stadium, Forbes Field, and old Yankee Stadium, Municipal Stadium was the first publicly financed Major League ballpark in the country.

Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (Postcard Pub. by Ohio Natural Color Card Co., Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers, Inc.)

The stadium was known in Cleveland as the “Mistake by the Lake,” in part because of the uncertain weather patterns at the stadium caused by its proximity to Lake Erie.

Bird’s-Eye View of Cleveland Municipal Stadium and Downtown Cleveland (Photo by Butler Airphotos, Inc., Postard Distriubuted by George Klein News Co., Genuine Curteich-Chicago)

Although some believe that the name is a reference to Cleveland’s failed attempts to bring the 1932 Olympics to the City, in actuality the City of Los Angeles had been awarded those Olympics over a decade earlier.

Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (Postcard Curteichcolor, Distributed by George Klein News Co.)

Municipal Stadium was the first multipurpose, Major League stadium in the country. Beginning in July 1932, it was the home of the American League Cleveland Indians. Prior to that time, the Indians had called League Park their home. The Indians brought the World Series to Municipal Stadium in 1948 and 1954.

Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium , Huorticultural Gardens and Boat Docks (Postcard Tichnor Quality Views, Tichnor Bros., Braun Art Publishing)

By 1934, the Indians had begun the practice of playing weekday games at League Park and weekend and night games at Municipal Stadium (League Park had no lights). Playing in the smaller confines of League Park (located just four miles east of Municipal Stadium) made economic sense during the Great Depression, given the cost of opening and running Municipal Stadium versus the cost of holding games in the smaller venue. Several Cleveland professional football teams called Municipal Stadium home, including the American Football League and National Football league Cleveland Rams periodically from 1936 to 1945, and the All-American Football and National Football League Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1995.

Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (Postcard Tichnor Quality Views, Tichnor Bros., Braun Art Publishing)

In 1993, the Indians played their final home game at Municipal Stadium, and the following season moved one mile south to their new home, Jacobs Field (named after the team’s owner). The new ballpark also was designed by Osborn Engineering. In 2009, the ballpark’s name was changed to Progressive Field.

Jacobs Field (Now Progressive Field), Home of the Cleveland Indians, Circa 2003

In 1996 the Cleveland Browns departed the city to become the Baltimore Ravens and demolition of the Mistake by the Lake commenced soon thereafter. In 1997, the city began construction of a new football stadium, also designed by Osborn Engineering.

Main Entrance to Cleveland Browns Stadium Circa 2003 – Facing Alfred Lerner Way

Cleveland Browns Stadium opened in 1999. It is constructed on the footprint of Municipal Stadium. The main entrance to the stadium facing, Alfred Lerner way, is the former location of Municipal Stadium’s first base grandstand.

Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (Postcard Pub. by Nelson Jones Co.)

Now known as FirstEnergy Stadium, the entrance along Erieside Avenue (facing northwest) is located near where Municipal Stadium’s left field once sat.

Entrance to FirstEnergy Field Near Former Location of Municipal Stadium's Left Field

Entrance to FirstEnergy Field Near Former Location of Municipal Stadium’s Left Field

Municipal Stadium’s home plate was located on western most end of the football stadium near W. 3rd Street.

Browns Stadium Circa 2003 – West End, Former Location of Municipal Stadium’s Home Plate

Significant changes to the exterior and interior of the FirstEnergy Stadium were made in 2014.

Panoramic Photo of FirstEnergy Field West End

Panoramic Photo of FirstEnergy Stadium West End

Municipal Stadium’s center field was located just beyond the eastern most entrance to FirstEnergy Stadium.

FirstEnergy Field Eastern Most Entrance

East Side Exterior of FirstEnergy Field

FirstEnergy Stadium, like Municipal Stadium, is surrounded on three sides by the Port of Cleveland.

Port of Cleveland

Entrance to the Port of Cleveland Across from FirstEnergy Field

Two plaques located at the stadium’s main entrance on Alfred Lerner Way commemorate the new Brown’s Stadium (now known as FirstEnergy Stadium) and the politicians who helped make it possible.

Cleveland Browns Stadium Dedication Plaque, Located At Main Entrance on Alfred Lerner Way

Cleveland Browns Stadium – Plaque Honoring Opening Day August 21, 1999, Located At Main Entrance on Alfred Lerner Way

Although Municipal Stadium is now a lost ballpark, some solace can be taken from the fact that the field where the game once was played is still used for professional football. If anyone know of any plaques or displays at the stadium that commemorate Municipal Stadium or recognize the stadium’s former history, please let me know so I can add that information to this website.

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

July 20th, 2012

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

View Inside League Park Center

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

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.

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

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 – Now Steps To Nowhere

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

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.

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 nytimes.com article about League Park

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Steps To The Past

March 26th, 2010

A Journey to the Past

They lead nowhere now, but these steps at League Park once took Cleveland players from the dugout, underneath the first base grandstands, to clubhouse, and back again.

And it is here, at League Park, that I will begin recounting the steps I have taken over the years to find the past hidden within this country’s many lost ballparks.

Lawrence Ritter did all baseball fans a great service, not just for his groundbreaking work “The Glory of Their Times,” but also with the publication almost 20 years ago of his book “Lost Ballparks.”  Over the years it has served as an inspiration and a travel guide for my many visits to this country’s long-lost major league ballparks.

There is much to tell about the trips I have taken, tracking down these former ballpark sites.  Some still retain a piece or two of the old ballpark – League Park, Forbes Field,  Braves Field, Sportsman Park.  Others have perhaps an outline, or markings where the field once stood – Fulton County Stadium, old Comiskey Park, Shea Stadium.  But most lost ballparks have nothing, just the memories of the men who played there and those who attended the games.  Pictures of those old ballparks, and understanding of what has been built in their place, and the memories of those fortunate to have seen the vanished ballparks, will aid in my attempt to bring these ballparks back again.

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