Postcard of League Park
|Location||Lexington Ave & E 66th St, Cleveland, Ohio|
|Opened||May 1, 1891|
|Renovated||April 21, 1910|
|Closed||September 21, 1946|
|Architect||Osborn Engineering (1910)|
|Former names||Dunn Field (1916-1927)|
|Tenants||Cleveland Indians (MLB) (1901-1946)|
Cleveland Spiders (MLB) (1891-1899)
Cleveland Buckeyes (Negro American League) (1943-1948)
Cleveland Rams (NFL) (1937, 1942, 1944-1945)
League Park was a baseball park located in Cleveland, Ohio. It was situated at the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and E. 66th Street in the Hough neighborhood. It was home to the National League Cleveland Spiders, the American League Cleveland Indians, and the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League. Most of the structure was demolished in 1951, although some remnants still exist.
League Park was opened on May 1, 1891, with 9,000 wooden seats. The National League's Cleveland Spiders played there until going out of business after a disastrous 20–134 season in 1899 due to having their best players stripped from their roster by an unscrupulous owner. They were replaced the very next year by the Cleveland Lake Shores, which was initially a minor league team. In 1901, the renamed Cleveland Indians were a charter member in the new American League, which became a major league. The park was rebuilt for the 1910 season as a concrete-and-steel stadium—one of two to open that year in the American League, the other being Comiskey Park. The new park had more than double the seating capacity of its predecessor.
In 1916, new team owner "Sunny Jim" Dunn renamed the park "'Dunn Field." The Indians hosted games four through seven of the 1920 World Series at Dunn Park. When Dunn passed away in 1922, his wife inherited the ballpark and the team. When Dunn’s widow, by then known as Mrs. George Pross, sold the franchise in 1927 for $1 million to a group headed by Alva Bradley the name reverted to the more prosaic "League Park" (there were a number of professional teams' parks generically called "League Park" at the time).
From July 1932 through the 1933 season, the Indians played at the new and far larger Municipal Stadium. However, the players and fans complained about the huge outfield, which reduced the number of home runs. Moreover, as the Great Depression worsened, attendance at the much larger facility plummented. In 1934 the Indians moved most of their games back to League Park.
In 1936, the Indians began splitting their schedule between the two parks, playing Sunday and holiday games at Cleveland Stadium during the summer and the remainder at League Park. Beginning in 1938, they also played selected important games downtown at Cleveland Stadium. Lights were never installed at League Park, and thus no major league night games were played there. However, at least one professional night game was played on July 27, 1931, between the Homestead Grays and the House of David, who borrowed the portable lighting system used by the Kansas City Monarchs.
By 1940, the Indians played most of their home schedule at Municipal Stadium, abandoning League Park entirely after the 1946 season. League Park became the last stadium used in Major League Baseball never to install permanent lights.
After the demise of the Negro American League Cleveland Buckeyes following the 1950 season, League Park was no longer used as a regular sports venue. Most of the structure was demolished the next year. The Cleveland Browns football team would continue to use the aging facility as a practice field until the late 1960s.
When it originally opened in 1891, it had 9,000 wooden seats. A single deck grandstand was behind homeplate, a covered pavilion was along the first base line, and bleachers were located at various other places in the park. The ballpark was shoehorned to fit into the Cleveland street grid, which contorted the dimensions into a rather odd rectangular shape by modern standards. The fence in left field was 385ft, a tremendous 460ft away in center, and a short 290ft down the right field foul line. However, batters had to hit the ball over a 60ft fence in right for a home run (by comparison, the Green Monster at Fenway Park is only 37ft high).
It was essentially rebuilt prior to the 1910 season, with concrete and steel double-decker grandstands, expanding the seating capacity to 21,414. The design work was completed by Osborn Engineering, a local architecture firm that would go on to design several iconic ballparks over the next three years, including Comiskey Park, the Polo Grounds, Tiger Stadium, and Fenway Park. The front edge of the upper and lower decks were vertically aligned, bringing the up-front rows in the upper deck closer to the action, but those in back could not see much of foul territory.
The fence was rejiggered, bringing the left field fence in 10 feet closer (375ft) and center field fence in 40 feet (420ft); the right field fence remained at 290ft.
But batters still had to surmount the 60ft fence to hit a home run in right. The diamond, situated in the northwest corner of the block, was slightly tilted counterclockwise, making right field not quite as easy a target as Baker Bowl's right field (which also had a 60ft wall), for example.
League Park today
Today the site is a public park. A small section of the exterior brick facade (along the first-base side) still stands, as well as the old ticket office behind what was the right field corner. The last remnant of the grandstand, crumbling and presumably unsafe, was taken down ca. 2002 as part of a renovation process to the decaying playground.
The park is currently slated for a massive renovation/rebuild that will restore it to its original state.
Some historic events that took place at League Park include the following:
- May 1, 1891: The ballpark opens. Cy Young delivers the first pitch.
- October 17,18,19, 1892: The ballpark hosts the first three games of the first "split season" in the history of the National League. The opposing Boston Beaneaters will eventually win the series over the Cleveland Spiders.
- October 2,3,5, 1895: The ballpark hosts the first three games of that year's Temple Cup Series, a World Series precursor, the Spiders facing the Baltimore Orioles. Cleveland will eventually clinch the Series, in Baltimore.
- October 8, 1896: The ballpark hosts what will prove to be the final game of that year's Temple Cup, a sweep by Baltimore; as well as Cleveland's final post-season appearance for the National League.
- August 30, 1899: Cleveland plays its final National League home game at League Park in a season in which the team would win only 20 games while losing a record 134.
- 1900: The new American League, nominally a minor league, returns professional baseball to Cleveland after the National League contracted following the 1899 season.
- April 29, 1901: Cleveland's first home game in the American League after the league had declared itself a major league.
- October 2, 1907: The debut of female pitching sensation Alta Weiss
- October 10, 1920: Game 5 of the 1920 World Series against the Brooklyn Robins, includes several World Series "firsts":
- In the bottom of the first inning, Cleveland right fielder Elmer Smith hits the first grand slam in the history of the Series.
- In the bottom of the fourth inning, Cleveland pitcher Jim Bagby hits the first home run by a pitcher in a World Series game.
- In the top of the fifth inning, Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss executes the first (and only, so far) unassisted triple play in Series history.
- October 12, 1920: The Cleveland Indians win their first World Series.
- August 11, 1929: Babe Ruth hits his 500th career home run, the first player to achieve that milestone.
- July 16, 1941: The final game of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. The streak would be snapped the following night, at Cleveland Stadium.
- 1945: The Cleveland Buckeyes win the Negro Leagues World Series.
- September 13, 1946: The Boston Red Sox clinch the American League pennant, the game's only score coming on a first-inning, home run by Ted Williams.
- September 21, 1946: The final game at League Park. The Indians round out their 1946 home season with 3 games at Cleveland Stadium.
- David Briggs, David League Park may glisten once again mlb.com, August 8, 2007 (accessed July 22, 2010)
- The Cleveland Indians,Franklin Lewis (2006). pp. 153–156. The Kent State University Press, Kent OH, reprint originally G.P.Putnam & Sons, NY NY 1949. ISBN .
- League Park ballparksofbaseball.com (accessed July 22, 2010)
- Briggs, David (2007-08-08). League Park may glisten once again. Retrieved on 2008-10-02.
- Miss Alta Weiss of the Weiss All-Stars of Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved on 2009-09-26.
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- http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1946/B09130CLE1946.htm http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=ted_williams_1918
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