Before Jacobs Field turned in to Progressive Field, and before there was Municipal Stadium, the Cleveland Indians called League Park their home. It first opened its doors on May 1, 1891 as part of a new generation of baseball parks. It first held the Cleveland Spiders, then the Cleveland Indians, and it also played home to the Negro League Cleveland Buckeyes who won the 1945 Negro League Championship. The old park hosted its last game on September 21, 1946 against the Detroit Tigers, but not until baring witness to many historical moments in baseball.
Cy Young threw the first pitch at League Park in 1891, and in 1908 Addie Joss pitched a perfect game. In the 1920 World Series Elmer Smith hit the first World Series grand slam, and Bill Wambsganss recorded the first and only World Series triple play. Nine years later Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run, and in 1936, at the age of 17, Bob Feller struck out 15 St Louis Browns to win his first career start. Finally, in 1941, Joe DiMaggio smacked out two hits for his 56th consecutive game with a base hit, the next day his historic streak was ended.
The Indians left League Park in 1946, and in 1951 the old steel and concrete stadium was torn down. For the last 60 years the site has remained relatively untouched, but now the field on Lexington Avenue will be restored to its former glory. A new baseball diamond will be built on the site, positioned just as it was when the Cleveland Indians roamed the grounds. The field will be artificial turf to provide a better playing surface in the harsh Cleveland weather. Little League, high school, and college games are expected to be played on the grounds, as well as concerts and other events. Visitors can enjoy free admission into the new park further promoting community participation.
Besides the baseball field, three other major landmarks will dot the new park. A grandstand will stretch from first base to third base, and a visitors center will also be placed on the grounds. The old ticket office, which still stubbornly clings to life, will be converted into a League Park museum.
The restoration not only shows a great commitment to a piece of baseball history, but it promotes an interest and participation in baseball among youths in Cleveland. There was a time when children and baseball were inseparable, but over the last decade participation in little league baseball has dropped by 3 million nationwide. This project is not only restoring a historic site, it is restoring a faith in baseball.