Posts Tagged ‘Willie Wells’

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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Rickwood Field – Baseball’s Time Capsule

September 19th, 2013

Rickwood Field, located at 1137 2nd St W, in Birmingham, Alabama, is a century-old time capsule of America’s National Pastime. It is recognized by the Historic American Building Survey as the country’s oldest surviving baseball park.

Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Constructed by Birmingham Barons owner Rick Woodward (hence the name), the first professional game  played there was a contest between the Barons and the Montgomery Climbers on August 18, 1910. This was approximately two years before the opening of Fenway Park, major league baseball’s oldest surviving ballpark.

Ridkwood Field, As Seen From 11th Street

Rickwood was the first concrete and steel minor league ballpark constructed in the United States. The stadium’s facade is truly remarkable for its unspoiled, vintage appearance, and would be worthy of a photo essay all its own.

Rickwood Field Third Base Side Grandstand

The first base side grandstand runs the length of the ballfield and wraps around behind right field.

Rickwood Field First Base Side Grandstand

Two historic plaques honor the history of Rickwood Field. The first plaque, erected by the Alabama Historical Commission in 1996, recognizes Rickwood Field’s placement on the National Register for Historic Places.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker

The second plaque, erected by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2010, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker Noting Opening Day 1910

The distinctive Mission style front entrance to Rickwood Field was added in 1928.

Mission Style Front Entrance to Rickwood Field

On the first base side of the ballpark, past the front entrance, is a sign welcoming visitors to a guided tour of the ballpark. Free pamphlets are available there for visitors to take along on their tour.

Rickwood Field's Self Guided Tour

The main entrance way to the ballpark appears much as it did in 1940.

Rickwood Field Front Entrance Turnstiles

A chalkboard listing the players for the day’s contest sits just to the right beyond the turnstiles.

Lineup From 2013 Rickwood Classic

Rickwood was home to the Southern Association (later Southern League) Birmingham Barons from 1910 until 1987.

Field of Dreams, Alabama Style

It also was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1920 until 1963. The Black Barons played in various leagues over the years including the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League, and the Negro American League.

Rickwood Field Tower

Notable players who called Rickwood Field their home included Hall of Famers Willie Mays (a native of Birmingham), Sachel Paige, Willie Wells, George Suttles, Bill Foster, Pie Traynor, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, and Burleigh Grimes.

Rickwood Field Third Base Dugout

During the design phase of Rickwood Field, Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack served as a consultant. The field and stadium were patterned after Forbes Field and Shibe Park. Both the Philadelphia Phillies (1911, 1920) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1919) held their spring training at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field View From the First Base Dugout

The distinctive cantilevered light stanchions date to 1936, when Rickwood became one of the first minor league facilities to host night baseball.

Louvered Windows at Rickwood Field

The steel and wood roof is a visual masterpiece. The supports for that roof, placed one per section, provide vintage obstructed views of the field.

Right Field Seating Rickwood Field

Rickwood Field currently has a seating capacity of 10,800. All of the original seating has long since been replaced.

Obstructed View At Rickwood Field Is Part of the Charm

The first base side grandstand, which wraps around to right field, was designed after Forbes Field, which had a similar wrap around, right field grandstand.

View From the Right Field Grandstand

The concrete outfield fence dating to 1928 sits behind the “newer” wooden fence. In 1948 Walt Dropo famously hit a home run over the wooden fence that hit the concrete fence on the fly.

Original Outfield Wall at Rickwood Field

Although long since replaced, at one time Rickwood Field could boast having wooden box seats and wooden row seats from the Polo Grounds, with wrought iron “NY” emblems at the end of each row. In the 1970s the seats were replaced and, for a time, could be purchased at nearby Legion Field in Birmingham.

Gambling Not Permitted at Rickwood Field

Because Rickwood Field offers so much to see, including the colorful outfield wall signage  and the recreated scoreboard, as well as so many great angles from which to photograph the ballpark, I have included a four minute video meant to capture the feel of the ballpark.

If you would like to see more photographs of Rickwood Field taken by a professional photographer, please visit Lou Dina at dinagraphics.com. As you can see from the picture below, Lou has an amazing eye for detail.

Today the Birmingham Barons play their home games at Regions Field. From 1988 until 2012, they played at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Once a year, since 1996, however, the Barons return to Rickwood Field to take part in the Rickwood Classic. Held typically on a Wednesday around the last week of May, the game is an official Southern League contest that helps insure professional baseball is still a part of Rickwood’s present and future.

Regions Field, Home of the Birmingham Barons

Friends of Rickwood has been the caretaker of Rickwood Field since 1992. If you are interested in reading more about their organization or how you can help insure the preservation of the ballpark, visit them at rickwood.com. Baseball fans owe that organization a debt of gratitude helping insure that Rickwood Field never becomes just another lost ballpark.

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