Though Tiger Stadium dominates discussion of Detroit’s endangered ballparks, there’s another old ballpark also worthy of attention: Hamtramck Stadium, former home to the Detroit Stars of the Negro National League.
We’ve written about Hamtramck Stadium before; in 2012 it received a 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.
A historical marker is planned for the ballpark, with the installation ceremony planned for Aug. 12. Our friend Gary Gillette, president of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, is heading the fundraising effort. Joyce Stearnes Thompson, whose father played for the Stars, notes the importance of renovating the facility:
Preserving the stadium “would serve as a reminder that these players were some of the greatest players of all time,” she said.
Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center, said the state’s Historical Commission believes in preserving the stadium’s legacy.
“It tells a story that not everyone knows about the Negro Leagues,” Clark said. “It played a very important role in Detroit’s history. In those years where professional baseball was still segregated, this is one of these stadiums that still exists. I know that most of the places where the Negro Leagues were are gone now so to have actual stadium still there, this is a piece of history that is important to not lose.”
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, 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, Helper’s Ernie Gardner Field, 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, Bristol’s Muzzy Field, Butler’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 undoubtedly more out there.
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