League Park Demolition
While viewing fellow blogger www.andrewclem.com I discovered that the long standing grandstand wall at the old League Park in Cleveland has recently been torn down.
While many ballpark entustiasts have recently heard about the City of Detroit’s demolition of Tiger Stadium and failure to save it, many may have forgotten of Tiger Stadium’s Cleveland contemporary, that met a similar fate more than 50 years prior.
League Park was the home to many Cleveland sports clubs. Cleveland, like Detroit will always be known as an American League city, however, both cities began with entries in the National League. The Detroit Wolverines played in Bennett Park on “The Corner” in the 19th Century before Cobb and the Tigers came in. Also, Cy Young and the Cleveland Blues and later the Cleveland Spiders played at the original League Park, located on Lexington Avenue just less than a mile from downtown. The Blues had some very competitive teams in the early 1890s with many early stars suiting up for them.
The National League retracted four cities for the 1900 season. Three of those cities, Detroit, Washington and Cleveland were absorbed into the upstart Eastern League. The EL changed it’s name for the ’01 season to the American League and a new Major League was born.
The original League Park was completely wooden and seated only 9000. For the 1910 season, the Indians rebuilt the structure in the new concrete and brick fashion that spread through every ML city in the first park of that decade. The city block league park sat on was very oblong. With an incredibly short right field fence. It was less than 300′ down the line and only 317′ to the power alley. The right field fence was an impressive 60′ high, in order to cut down on easy homers. The fence in left was short but the power alley was over 400′ away. League Park had double decked grandstand wrapping around from foul pole to foul pole with no outfield seating. Overflow crowds would often sit in roped off areas in the outfield. Small bleacher sections were added deep in left field.
Seating just over 21,000 League Park, which was offically known as Dunn Field, was very small even for early 20th century. In 1932, Cleveland built the massive, modern Municipal Stadium in hopes to attract the Olympic Games. The Olympics went elsewhere and the Indians moved into what was known as “The Mistake by The Lake” for a single season. The Indians moved back to League park for the 1933 season. From then until 1946 the Indians split games between the two parks. Night games, holidays, Opening Day and games where overflow crowds were expected the Indians played at Municipal Stadium but League Park was their offical home field.
Bill Veeck bought the team for the 1947 season and moved the then very popular Indians full time to Municipal Stadium. After winning the 1920 World Series, the only World Series played at League Park, the Indians were a middle of the pack team in the American League and during that time, dwarfed by the powerhouse Yankees and Athletics clubs. There were attendance spikes in 1926 and 1940 when the Indians finished in second in tight pennant races but after just their second season, full time, at Muncipal Stadium the Indians drew over 2.5million, average 33,000 per game in 1948 en route to their second and so-far, final World Series Title.
League Park was also home to the very popular Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League League. The Buckeyes won the last Negro League World Series before integration in 1945 over the Homestead Greys. The NAL folded along with the Buckeyes following the 1950 season which left League Park tennant less.
The Cleveland Rams of the NFL played several season at League Park before moving to Los Angeles. The Cleveland Browns used League Park as a practice facility during the 1950’s. Most of the park was demolished during 1960. The site has been used as a playground ever since. Surprisingly the cut out of the infield has remained since the time of Speaker, Lajoie, Cy Young and Wambgnass.
Since the time of demolition a small section of the first base grandstand has remained until recently. Even after the grandstand was taken down in the last few years a section of the old grandstand wall, with its arched red-brick facade remained until this summer. Now, only the old ticket office remains and is trying to be preserved and refurnished by the League Park Society. If you want to learn more about this mostly forgotten park visit http://www.leaguepark.org/ this is a great website.