Historic Black Baseball League Stadium Regains Heartbeat

The Hamtramck Stadium is on its way to once again become a center of Detroit sports culture

The Hamtramck Stadium. Photo courtesy of The Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew.

Last year, the Wayne County Commission has approved a $850,000 grant for the restoration of the historic Hamtramck Stadium. Today, “There are games – baseball games going on almost every weekend. There’s some vintage baseball games, senior men’s hardball leagues, high school games,” Gary Gillete, founder of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, said in an interview with NPR.

One of just five remaining Negro League home ballparks, the Hamtramck Stadium consists of a field and grandstand situated in what is now Veterans Memorial Park on the south side of Hamtramck, Michigan. In the 1930s, this was the home of two baseball teams: the Detroit Starts and Detroit Wolves of the “Negro Major Leagues,” an MLB-recognized professional baseball league for Black Americans founded at the height of segregation. The State Historic Preservation Office accorded the baseball field the historic classification in January 2012. It was formally added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 2012, and a Michigan historic marker was unveiled there in 2014. At least 17 baseball hall of fame names have once played on the stadium’s grounds before they went on to the peak of their sporting careers. These hallowed names include Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Turkey Stearnes of the Detroit Stars. Willie Wells, Cool Papa Bell and Mule Suttles of the Detroit Wolves also adorn the stadium with honor and prestige.

In addition to the Wayne County grant, another $2.6 million has been donated for the restoration of the stadium. Funding came from The Detroit Tigers Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, a African American Civil Rights grant from the National Park Service, Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, Michigan Municipal League Foundation, the Hamtramck Parks Conservancy, and the Kresge Foundation.

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