After years of restoration work, League Park will be holding a grand opening this Saturday to celebrate the former home of the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians played at League Park between 1901 and 1946. This was actually the second League Park at the site. The first opened in 1891 and was a wooden facility holding 9,000 or so. That ballpark was torn down in 1909 and new steel and brick ballpark seating 21,000 was erected for the 1910 season, with the Cleveland Naps as the main tenant. That team — which eventually became known as the Indians — would call League Park home for many more years. In the 1930s the team would play both at League Park and at Municipal Stadium, an odd situation to be sure: because of the need to fit the ballpark in the city street grid it was only 290 feet down the line in right field — as opposed to the spacious environs of cavernous Municipal Stadium. (Why the split? No night games at League Park; lights were never installed.) At the end of the 1946 season Indians owner Bill Veeck announced the team would play full-time at Municipal Stadium. It was a place with some distinct history: the Indians won a World Series title there in 1920, Babe Ruth hit his 500th homer there, and the Negro American League’s Cleveland Buckeyes captured a Negro World Series title there in 1945.
The city has been working on League Park renovations since 2011, when $6.4 million was dedicated to its restoration. There wasn’t a lot left to the old ballpark: just an iconic brick ticket-office/team-office building on Lexington Avenue (shown below in a vintage postcard) and a grandstand wall along East 66th Street.
The refurbished park will include a new artificial turf baseball field designed to League Park’s quirky, original dimensions, including a 460-foot span from home plate to the center field wall, and a 45-foot-high right field fence.
The field will be city-owned. Michael Cox, the city’s director of public works, said it will host the city’s recreational league games, as well as home games for Rhodes and Lincoln West’s high school baseball teams.
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