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Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Cleveland Stadium
Lakefront Stadium
The Big Ballpark
Location 1085 West 3rd St., Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Broke ground June 24, 1930
Opened July 1, 1931
Renovated 1967 (new seats), 1974 (new scoreboard and suites)
Closed December 17, 1995
Demolished November 4, 1996
Owner City of Cleveland
Operator Cleveland Stadium Corporation
Surface Grass
Construction cost $3,000,000
Architect F.R. Walker of Walker & Weeks
Tenants Cleveland Indians (AL) (1932-33, 1936-93)*
Cleveland Browns (NFL / AAFC) (1946-1995)
Cleveland Rams AFL) (1936)
Cleveland Rams (NFL) (1937), (1939-1941), (1945)
Cleveland Stokers (NASL) (1967-1968)
Great Lakes Bowl (NCAA) (1947)
The Indians split games between Cleveland Stadium and League Park from 1936-46.
Capacity Baseball: 78,000 (1932) 74,438 (1993)
Football: 81,000 (1995)

Cleveland Stadium (commonly Lakefront Stadium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium, located in Cleveland, Ohio. In its final years, the stadium seated 74,438, for baseball and 81,000, for football. It was one of the early multi-purpose stadiums, built to accommodate both baseball and football. It was demolished in 1995, to make way for Cleveland Browns Stadium, which now stands on the site.


The impetus for Cleveland Stadium came from city manager William R. Hopkins, Cleveland Indians' president Ernest Barnard, real estate magnate and future Indians' president Alva Bradley, and the Van Sweringen brothers, who thought that the attraction of a stadium would benefit area commerce in general and their own commercial interests in downtown Cleveland in particular.[1] However, some have incorrectly stated that it was built in a failed bid to attract the 1932 Summer Olympics, which had been awarded to Los Angeles before ground was broken on the stadium.[2] That misconception may have contributed to some in the media calling the stadium, "The Mistake by the Lake". Another common misconception is that Cleveland Stadium, was a Works Progress Administration project; in fact, the WPA was not created until 1935, four years after the stadium was built.

In November 1929, Cleveland voters passed by 112,448 to 76,975, a 59% passage rate, with 55% needed to pass, "a $2.5 million levy for a fireproof stadium on the Lakefront." Actual construction costs overran that amount by $500,000.[3]


Cleveland Stadium under construction in 1931

Built during the administrations of city managers William R. Hopkins and Daniel E. Morgan, it was designed by the architectural firms of Walker and Weeks and by Osborn Engineering. It featured an early use of structural aluminum.

The stadium was dedicated on July 1, 1931. On July 3, 1931, it hosted a boxing match for the National Boxing Association World Heavyweight Championship between Max Schmeling and Young Stribling, with 37,000 fans in attendance. Schmeling retained his title by a technical knockout (t.k.o)-victory in the 15th round.

The Donald Gray Gardens were installed on the stadium's north side in 1936 as part of the Great Lakes Exposition.



The stadium was built for football as well as for the Cleveland Indians, who played their first game there on July 31, 1932, losing to the Philadelphia Athletics' great pitcher Lefty Grove 1-0 while attracting a then-major-league-record crowd of 80,184.[4] The Indians played all of their games at the stadium from the middle of the 1932 season through 1933. However, the players and fans complained about the huge outfield, which reduced the number of home runs. Moreover, as the Great Depression worsened, attendance plummented.[5] In 1934 the Indians moved most of their games back to their smaller previous home, League Park.

In 1936, the Indians began playing Sunday and holiday games at Cleveland Stadium during the summer. Beginning in 1938, they also played selected important games there. Starting in 1939, they played night games there as well because League Park didn't have lights. By 1940, the Indians played most of their home slate at Cleveland Stadium, abandoning League Park entirely after the 1946 season. They played there until the end of the 1993 season, after which they moved to Jacobs Field (which was later named Progressive Field).[6]

View of center field in 1993. Lake Erie can be seen just outside the stadium, as well as some of the original larger outfield area.

The stadium anticipated problems that would emerge 40 years later when cookie-cutter stadiums were in vogue. Due to the fundamentally different sizes and shapes of baseball and football fields, the baseball sight lines generally left much to be desired. The original baseball playing field was so large that an inner fence was constructed in 1947 to cut down the size of the spacious outfield. Even after it was put in, the distance markers on the bleacher walls remained visible for many years; it was 470 feet from home plate to the bleachers in straightaway center field. No player ever hit a home run into the center field bleachers. Ted Williams hit the only inside-the-park home run of his career at Cleveland Stadium before the inner fence was installed. According to his own autobiography, Veeck - As in Wreck, Indians owner Bill Veeck would move the fence in or out, varying by as much as 15 feet, depending on how it would favor the Indians, a practice that ended when the American League specifically legislated against moving fences during the course of a given season.

Like some other facilities built before warning tracks became standard, the stadium had an earthen berm in front of the center field wall. After the inner fence was installed, the berm was still visible during football season.

The facility, located just south of Lake Erie, was known for the biting cold winds that would blow into the stadium in winter and, for that matter, during much of the spring and fall. Because of its proximity to the lake during hot summer nights, its lights attracted swarms of midges and mayflies. Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series, in Jacobs Field on October 5, 2007, brought back memories of the old stadium, when swarms of midges (misidentified by the television announcers as mayflies) infested the field, particularly the pitcher's mound.

In 1948, when the Indians won the American League pennant and World Series behind pitcher Bob Feller and shortstop/player-manager Lou Boudreau, the Indians set three Major League attendance records: they had the highest single season attendance, 2,620,627, which was not eclipsed until the 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers,[7] largest regular season night game attendance of 72,434 for the first major league start of Satchel Paige,[8] and biggest World Series game attendance of 86,288 for game 5 on October 10, 1948.[9] However, during the Indians' lean years from the 1960s through the 1990s, they rarely attracted more than 30,000 people, and even crowds of 40,000 looked sparse in the cavernous environment.

In 1949, after the Indians lost the pennant to the New York Yankees, as a black humor-themed promotion they held a mock funeral procession on the field and buried their 1948 championship flag in the outfield. Interestingly enough, the Indians have not won a World Series since, coming as close as the final inning in 1997. On four separate occasions, it hosted the All-Star Game: 1935, 1954, 1963, and 1981. The 1981 All-Star Game was notable for two reasons: it was the first game after the conclusion of the players' strike of that year, and it was held the day after a Cleveland Browns exhibition football game. On May 15, 1981 it was the site of Len Barker's perfect game. On its last day as home of the Indians on October 3, 1993, the team's fans, led by comedian Bob Hope, who grew up an Indians fan and was once a part-owner, sang a version of his signature song "Thanks for the Memory" with special lyrics for the occasion.


Cleveland Municipal Stadium was the first home of the Cleveland Rams, which became a charter member of the second American Football League in 1936. After finishing second in the AFL, the Rams left the league for the National Football League in 1937, but stayed in their original home for one more year before moving to Shaw Stadium.

The NFL's Cleveland Browns began playing at the facility in 1946, and played there until 1995. The stadium was the site of the AAFC Championship game in 1946, 1948 and 1949, and of the NFL Championship Game in 1945 (Washington Redskins v. Cleveland Rams), 1950 (L.A. Rams vs Browns), 1952 (Detroit vs. Browns), 1954 (Detroit vs. Browns), 1964 (Baltimore Colts vs. Browns) and 1968 (Baltimore Colts vs. Browns). It was also the site of the Denver Broncos and John Elway's famous Drive in the January 11, 1987 AFC Championship Game It was also the site of the 1980-81 AFC Divisional Championship game, where Mike Davis of the Raiders intercepted Brian Sipe in the Oakland endzone with 41 seconds left, securing Oakland's 14-12 victory.

Dawg Pound

The center field bleachers at the east end of the stadium were home to many of the club's most avid fans and became known during the 1980s as the Dawg Pound after the barks that fans made to disrupt opposing teams' offensive plays. The fans were copying Browns players Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, who frequently appeared to bark to each other and to the opposition. Some of the fans even wore dog masks and threw dog biscuits at opposing players.

Records and milestones

  • July 1, 1931 - Dedication
  • July 3, 1931 - Opening event: World Heavyweight Championship boxing match between Max Schmeling and Young Stribling, with 37,000 fans in attendance
  • July 31, 1932 - First Cleveland Indians game, vs. Philadelphia Athletics (loss, 0-1); pitched by Mel Harder[10]
  • September 12, 1954 - A league record 84,587 people attended a Yankees-Indians game
  • April 19, 1960 - The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians played 15 innings on Opening Day, tying the record for the longest Opening-Day game
  • June 17, 1960 - Ted Williams hit 500th career home run
  • June 21, 1970 - Detroit's Cesar Guitierrez got seven hits in seven at bats in 12 innings
  • June 25, 1977 - 83,199 people attend a concert by the British rock group Pink Floyd.
  • August 21, 1986 - Boston's Spike Owen tied Major League record by scoring six runs
  • January 11, 1987 - The Drive: In one of the city of Cleveland's many sports disappointments, John Elway leads the Denver Broncos 98 yards down the field for the tying score late in the AFC Championship Game. Denver wins in overtime, 23-20, earning the right to play in Super Bowl XXI.
  • October 3, 1993 - Last Cleveland Indians game, vs. Chicago White Sox (loss, 0-4)
  • December 17, 1995 - Last Cleveland Browns game, vs. Cincinnati Bengals (win, 26–10)

Other events

College Football

The only Great Lakes Bowl was held there in 1947.

The stadium hosted the annual Notre Dame/Navy college football game 11 times: in 1932, 1934, 1939, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1952, 1976 and 1978. The games were well attended, with an average attendance of 69,730 and a high of 84,090 fans for the 1947 game, which was won by Notre Dame 27-0. Local colleges Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University used the field from time to time as well. The Illinois Fighting Illini played the Penn State Nittany Lions there in 1959. The Ohio State Buckeyes played in the stadium four times. The first was in a 1942 win over Illinois before 68,656, the second a 1943 loss to Purdue, and the third a 1944 victory over Illinois. The final college football contest played there was on October 19, 1991, when the Northwestern Wildcats played a "home" game against the Buckeyes. While Northwestern received the home team's share of the gate receipts, the crowd was mostly Ohio State fans.[11]


In addition to sporting events, the stadium hosted a number of other events, including the World Series of Rock from 1974-1980, featuring big-name acts, such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys and Aerosmith. The Rolling Stones' July 1, 1978 concert of 82,238 attendees was reportedly the first concert to gross over $1,000,000.[12] The Series was discontinued following racial confrontations between whites and blacks in 1979.

On September 2, 1995, it hosted the inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert, which featured James Brown, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and The Allman Brothers Band, among others.[13]

Religious events

The stadium also hosted numerous religious services. Its most heavily attended event was the Roman Catholic Church's Seventh Eucharistic Congress, hosted by the Diocese of Cleveland in 1935, which attracted 75,000 to a midnight mass on September 24, 1935 and an estimated 125,000 to Eucharistic service the following day.[14] One of the stadium's last events was a Billy Graham crusade.


Several scenes for the motion picture, The Fortune Cookie, were filmed during the game between the Browns and the visiting Minnesota Vikings on 31 October 1965. Much of the 1949 movie The Kid From Cleveland, in which Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Bill Veeck and Satchel Paige played themselves, was filmed there. Despite being set in the stadium, the motion picture Major League was not actually filmed in the stadium. While aerial distance shots of the actual stadium were used, Milwaukee County Stadium, whose grandstand interior looked similar to that of Municipal Stadium, was the actual stadium used for filming. [15] Some scenes in the 1991 made for TV Babe Ruth bio-pic movie were filmed there.[16]


The stadium was an economic drain on the City of Cleveland, which owned it and originally operated it. In the mid-1970s, Browns owner Art Modell leased the facility for $1 per year. In exchange, Modell's newly formed company, Stadium Corporation, assumed the expenses of operations from the city. Stadium Corp. invested in improvements, including new electronic scoreboards and luxury suites. Renting the suites and the scoreboard advertising generated substantial revenue for Stadium Corp and Modell. Modell refused to share the suite revenue with the Indians baseball team, even though much of the revenues were generated during baseball games as well as during Browns games. Eventually the Indians prevailed upon the local governments and voters and convinced them to build them their own facility where they would control the suite revenue. However, the stadium's inadequacy was becoming apparent in any event; chunks of concrete were falling off and the pilings were starting to petrify.[17]

Modell, mistakenly believing that his revenues were not endangered, refused to participate in the Gateway Project that built Progressive Field for the Indians and Quicken Loans Arena for the Cavs. Modell's assumptions proved incorrect, and Stadium Corp.'s suite revenues declined sharply when the Indians moved from the stadium to Jacobs Field in 1994. The following year, Modell decided to move the football team to Baltimore, Maryland after the 1995 season.

Modell's move of the Browns breached the team's lease, and the City of Cleveland sued. After the suit was settled, the stadium was demolished the next year and the pieces were dumped into Lake Erie to create an artificial reef for fishermen and divers.[18]


  1. The Cleveland Indians,Lewis, Franklin (2006). pp. 166–167. Kent State University Press reprint from Putnam. ISBN 9780873388856.
  2. The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip,Pahigaian, Josh; Kevin O'Connell (2004). . Lyons Press. ISBN 1592281591.
  3. Municipal Stadium: Memories on the Lakefront, Vol. 1,Cormack, George (1997). . Instant Concepts, Inc.. ISBN 1882171217.
  4. Cormack, op.cit. p.17.
  6. Green Cathedrals,Lowry, Phillip (2005). . Walker & Company. ISBN 0802715621.
  7. Cleveland Stadium: The Last Chapter,Toman, James A. (1997). . Cleveland Landmarks Press, Inc.. ISBN 0936760109.
  8. Cormack, op.cit. p.59.
  9. Cormack, op.cit. p.58.
  10. Fox, John L. I Pitched Opening Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium Baseball Digest, September 1993, page 82 (accessed July 19, 2010)
  11. Cleveland Stadium: Sixty Years of Memories,Toman, James A. (1994). pp. 45–46. Cleveland Landmarks Press, Inc.. ISBN 0936760095.
  12. Toman, op.cit. pp.59-65.
  14. Toman, op.cit. pp.45-46.
  16. "Video", CNN, September 30, 1991. 
  17. Jon Morgan (1995-12-17). Inside the Browns deal. Baltimore Sun, reprinted by the Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 2008-07-01.
  18. Cleveland Area Artificial Reefs. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. Retrieved on 2008-12-22.
  • Leventhal, Josh.(2000) Take me out to the ballpark: an illustrated tour of baseball parks past and present. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc. p. 59.

External links

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