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League Park

In Another League

Cleveland, Ohio

Tenant: Cleveland Indians (AL)
Opened: May 1, 1891
Reopened: April 21, 1910
First night game: Never
Last game: September 21, 1946
Demolished: 1951
Capacity: 9,000 (1891); 21,414 (1910)

Architect: Osborn Engineering (1910)
Construction: n/a
Owner: Cleveland Indians
Cost: n/a

Cleveland Indians tickets:

Location: Intersection of East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue 3 miles east of City Hall. 1st base (W) E 66th St.; 3rd base (N) Linwood Ave.; left field (E) E 70th St.; right Field (S) Lexington Ave.

Dimensions: Left field: 385 (1910), 376 (1920), 374 (1930), 373 (1934), 374 (1938), 375 (1942); left-center: 415 (1942); deepest corner, just left of center field: 505 (1910), 450 (1920), 467 (1930), 465 (1938), 460 (1939); center field: 420; right field: 290 (1921), 240 (when roped off for overflow crowds); backstop: 76 (1910), 60 (1942).

Fences: Left field: 5 (concrete); left-center: 10 (7 screen above 3 concrete); center field scoreboard: 35; right-center clock: 20 (left and right sides), 22 (center of clock); right-center field: parts not covered by chicken wire screen, 45 (20 concrete topped by 25 steel chicken wire screen supports, 1920); right field: parts covered by chicken wire screen, 45 (20 concrete topped by 25 chicken wire screen, 1920).

Before the Cleveland Indians baseball team moved into the fabulous retro-modern Progressive Field in 1994 they played in the "mistake by the lake" officially known as Cleveland Municipal Stadium. A 1931 vintage monstrousity which seated 74,000 people, it was originally built as part of Cleveland's failed bid to host the 1932 Olympics. Before that, however, the Indians played in an obscure little ballpark three miles east of downtown called League Park.

League Park had been around before the Indians came along. Cleveland had a team in the National League for a while called the Spiders and they played at League Park. Cy Young pitched the first game there in 1891 for the Spiders. Maybe you've heard of him. Now guys like Roger Clemens win awards named after Mr. Young, who died before most of us were born.

The main road heading east from Cleveland is Euclid Avenue. Before the advent of the Interstate Highway, that was the street you would have taken to get from Cleveland to places like Buffalo and Boston. When John D. Rockefeller was building his fortune refining oil, he resided on Euclid Avenue. Later in the 19th century, dozens of newly made millioinaires built their mansions on that same street. For over one hundred years the area east of Cleveland that Euclid Avenue passed through was one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in America. Through most of the 20th century, the finest office buildings, department stores and playhouses lined the street.

It was in this neighborhood that League Park was built.

League Park in March of 1999

Today there are some remnants of former times, but most of the once glorious district has decayed beyond recognition. Police officers in urban combat uniforms walk the area in groups of four, and that's on Sunday mornings. Once bustling neighborhoods are eerily calm, primarily because there aren't enough people living there to create a bustle. Close to half of the homes in that part of town have burned or been torn down. Twenty years ago, the neighborhood was full of boarded up buildings, but now even those buildings are gone.

At the corner of 66th Street and Lexington Avenue, there is a block that is largely vacant. The block across the street as well as several others close by are also vacant, but this lot has an old baseball park on it. The baseball diamond is in the same spot that it was when the Indians played on it. The outfield is where it always was. A swimming pool is located where the stands once looked out at left field. A small section of the stands behind first base remains, although it is crumbling and a deteriorating fence surrounds it. Behind the stands is part of the original exterior wall. One could walk past it and imagine what it must have been like to go to a game there a lifetime ago. Adjacent to that section of stands is the original ticket office. It was converted into a recreation hall, but it doesn't look like it gets used very much. Just a few feet from the old ticket office and visible from the street is the historical marker placed there in 1979.

In 2002, architect Paul Volpe drew up plans to rebuild League Park. The plan called for a rebuilt 4,000-seat stadium and a museum dedicated to League Park's history. The plan also calls for conference rooms, a picnic area and a community park that could host outdoor concerts. That same year, Cleveland mayor Jane Campbell announced the plan to great fanfare and the city set aside $1.7 million to jump-start the renovation. The project's total estimated cost is $18 million.

Aerial view of League Park

Trivia:

  • Cy Young pitched the first game played in League Park on May 1, 1891.
  • Was a National League park until 1900.
  • Balls hitting 20-foot-high screen above the 40-foot-high right field wall were still in play.
  • Renovated for the 1910 season. The wooden grandstand was replaced with steel and concrete and double decked.
  • Seats were added for the 1920 World Series which cut the center field distance from 460 feet to 420 feet.
  • Called Dunn Field from 1916 to 1927 after then owner Sunny Jim Dunn.
  • Indians second baseman Bill Wambsganss made the only unassisted triple play in World Series history here on October 10, 1920 in game 5 against the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers). In the same game Elmer Smith hit the first grand-slam and Jim Bagby became the first pitcher to hit a home run in World Series history.
  • Joe DiMaggio set a record by hitting safely in his 56th consecutive game here on Wednesday, July 16, 1941.
  • Used only for the Indians weekday and Saturday day games from 1934 to 1946.
  • Owner Bill Veeck moved all of the Indians home games to Cleveland (Municipal) Stadium in 1947.
  • A park now occupies the site and a portion of the outfield stands still exists.
  • The two-story ticket booth built during the 1909-10 renovation is still standing and serves as a recreation center.

More on League Park:

Recommended Reading (bibliography):

  • League Park by Peter Jedick.
  • Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present by Josh Leventhal and Jessica Macmurray.
  • The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic (Revised Edition) by Ron Smith and Kevin Belford.
  • City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks by Philip Bess.
  • Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark by Michael Gershman.
  • Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks by Philip J. Lowry.
  • Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter.
  • Roadside Baseball: A Guide to Baseball Shrines Across America by Chris Epting.
  • The Story of America's Classic Ballparks (VHS).

Cleveland Municipal StadiumProgressive Field

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IMAGES:

In Another League © 1994 by William Feldman.
League Park Circa 1920 © 1996 by Jeff Suntala.
League Park in March of 1999 © 1999 by Paul Munsey.
Aerial view of League Park courtesy of The Sporting News.

Updated January 2008

Tickets to Cleveland Indians, Justin Timberlake Cleveland, NCAA Football, Wicked Cleveland, College Football Bowl, Paul McCartney, NCAA Basketball Tournament, NIN Cleveland, Lady Antebellum Toledo and Lady Antebellum Cleveland provided by Ticket Triangle.

BALLPARKS © 1996-2014 by Munsey & Suppes.