Hamtramck Stadium in Detroit, once home to the Detroit Stars of the Negro National League, has received designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built by businessman John Roesink in 1930 as the home of the Stars, the ballpark still exists but isn’t used for baseball. However, the original grandstand (enhanced in 1940 with WPA money), flagpole and pitchers’ mound are still there, and local groups are looking for a way to raise money for a restoration, which could be done for less than a million dollars. (Closed circuit to Detroit Tigers executives: time to step up and be heroes.)
This is a big deal, historically speaking. Good to see an old Negro League facility receiving this sort of attention: it may be the only one still standing that was built expressly to host a Negro Leagues team. There weren’t many built with that rationale: Greenlee Field was the most famous, but most Negro Leagues teams played in ballparks built for Major League and Minor League teams. The preservation group has put together an excellent history.
In fact, there are very few ballparks still standing hosting Negro League baseball at all: we count Indianapolis’s Bush Stadium, Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, Paterson’s Hinchliffe Stadium, Columbus’s Cooper Stadium (known then as Red Bird Stadium), Newport’s Cardines Field, Jacksonville’s Durkee Field, St. Joe’s Phil Welch Stadium, Savannah’s Grayson Stadium, Cleveland’s League Park, Havana’s Estadio Gran, Johnstown’s Point Stadium, Jamestown’s Jack Brown Stadium, Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium, Columbus’s Golden Park, Macon’s Luther Williams Field, Asheville’s McCormick Field, Burtler’s Butler Field, Chatanooga’s Engel Stadium, Durham’s Durham Athletic Park, Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and Bismarck’s Bismarck Municipal Stadium, and there are more out there; Little Rock’s Ray Winder Field was lost to the wrecking ball this summer. (Yes, we should compile a directory. Add it to the list of offseason tasks.) Part of the issue: Negro Leagues teams spent a lot of time barnstorming in the 1930s and 1940s, and the Negro Leagues team owners were known for booking a ballpark where any sort of crowd would gather. The Kansas City Monarchs were famous for spending a great amount of time on the road. This list lumps together ballparks called home by a Negro League team and ballparks where Negro Leagues teams made regular stops on barnstorming tours.
Image courtesy Hamtramck Stadium preservation group.
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