Category Archives: Lost Ballparks

The Lost Ballparks of Cleveland

  

The Ballparksmobile sits in foul territory down the right field line at a Lost Ballpark

 

— Matt Nelson  

Many cities have “Lost (Major League) Ballpark” sites. Believe it or not Keokuk, Iowa, is one of those places. In 1875 the highest level of professional baseball was played there by the Keokuk Westerns of the National Association.  

Most cities don’t have a list of Lost Ballpark sites as long as Cleveland, Ohio though. “Green Cathedrals” by Philip J. Lowry lists more than ten in Cleveland and the surrounding area.  

Cleveland Browns Stadium today, old Cleveland Stadium site from 1932-1993.

 

On the north side of downtown Cleveland is Cleveland Browns Stadium. This is the site where Cleveland Stadium was from 1932-1993 (the Indians played at Cleveland Stadium full time starting in 1947).  

For ballpark nerds that site is nice, but there’s a real Lost Ballpark site a couple of miles east of downtown Cleveland that is easily one of the best anywhere in the country.  

League Park III (1891-1909) and more notably League Park IV (1910-1950) were located at Linwood Avenue and East 66th Street.  

Even though most of League Park IV was demolished in 1951 parts of it still stand! The ticket booth at the corner of East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue is in very rough shape today, but is a great piece of ballpark history.  

Ticket Booth In Past Years.

Ticket Booth Today.

Also still standing is part of the exterior brick wall on the first base side which runs right along East 66th Street.  

 

In both right field and left field are foul poles that mark the spots where those were located.  

 

Best of all, there is a non-profit effort now by the League Park Society to restore the parts of Cleveland’s League Park that do still exist, while improving the entire block and giving the area a place to hold baseball games at the site where many Major League games were played through the years. You can check out their efforts here.  

 

 

 

 

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Fifth Third Ballpark – Comstock Park, Michigan

100_9658— Matt Nelson

(Click here to watch the video reports from Comstock Park!)

Don’t confuse Fifth Third Ballpark with Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio (I was there this summer on vacation). Or with Fifth Third Field in Dayton, Ohio (a 2010 Ballparks of the Midwest visit). Fifth Third Ballpark is the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Detroit Tigers affiliate in the Midwest League.

100_9666The ballpark was built in 1994 when the team moved to town from Madison, Wisconsin, and is located in the suburb of Comstock Park, which is about 5 miles north of Grand Rapids. While the location is easy to get to, just off a major highway, there isn’t much atmosphere surrounding the park. Just parking lots and a go-kart track. It’s too bad that they didn’t build downtown, but the organization says the owners ran into several roadblocks when they tried to do just that. The ballpark was privately built, so give them credit for that.

100_9659On the exterior Fifth Third Ballpark doesn’t necessarily stand out, but the field is at street level. Most parks built today have the field level below street level meaning you usually walk right in at street level. However at Fifth Third Ballpark the street level field means a climb to get up and into the ballpark from behind home plate.

100_9687Once inside the ballpark, fans find themselves in one of the largest Midwest League stadiums. Seating capacity is about 10,000 people. With the addition of a Stadium Club and other outfield specialty seating the capacity has actually dropped a little bit from what it was.

100_9635Easily the coolest historical feature of the ballpark is the set of four Tiger Stadium seats about 10 rows behind home plate. These were added in 2008 and can be bought specifically (click here for the info). The seats do not have numbers, but instead are named for legendary Tiger names: Cobb, Gibson, Kaline, and Harwell. 100_9639What a great idea to make use of some historical artifacts, and appeal to all of those Tiger fans in the western parts of Michigan!

They like their foodin the Grand Rapids area. The team has been well known for its “swimming pig” sandwich. That was a pork chop covered in barbecue sauce, onions and other stuff. In fact, one of the mascots is…Franky…a swimming pig. (The original mascot is “Crash” who has never won the mascot race, quite the losing streak Crash has, going back to 1994)

100_9664However in 2009 the Whitecaps outdid themselves and the swimming pig. The FifthThird Burger has taken the minors by storm. Nearly 5,000 calories including five burger patties, it costs $20 and is available down the third baseline. The burger is also topped with Fritos and chili. It is a monster.

100_9665Many people choose (wisely) to share the burger. Others take it on by themselves. For those who eat the burger during the game, a referee awards them a “Call 911 I ate the Fifth Third Burger” t-shirt, and a photo for the wall of winners. When I was there the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food had just been in town. The record for eating the burger at the time I visited Comstock Park was 13 minutes!! No, I didn’t try it, but the video is very entertaining, I promise. Be sure to check it out!

100_9674On the field, the Whitecaps have been very successful during their time in Grand Rapids. Five Midwest League Championships between 1996 and 2007!

Fifth Third Ballpark is a nice facility, but there aren’t too many things that really stand out about it. The one that does, is the team’s commitment to making sure that no one goes home hungry. They love their food at Whitecaps games!

(Click here to watch the video reports from Fifth Third Ballpark)

A few miscellaneous Grand Rapids notes…

100_9632– If you’re in the area be sure to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum (he’s buried there too). It’s located right downtown and provides a lot of interesting info and artifacts on the 38th President and his short White House tenure, but longtime connections to Grand Rapids. Plus for sports fans, he was an All-American football player at Michigan.

100_9608– Did you know that one Major League Baseball game has been played in Grand Rapids? It was on May 24, 1903  at Ramona Park in East Grand Rapids and the Detroit Tigers were the home team. You can find the site today near a lake on the east side of town, a very nice part of the city over there. Grand Rapids has also been host to Negro League games through the years as well as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Grand Rapids Chicks.

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Metropolitan Stadium

100_9242— Matt Nelson

Shopping and baseball. They don’t usually go together. However, a visit to the Mall of America provides both.

If you visit the mall you’re at the old site of Metropolitan Stadium. Met Stadium was home to the Minnesota Twins and Vikings from 1961-1981. It also hosted the Minneapolis Millers prior to the Twins arrival, and also the Minnesota Kicks soccer team.

100_9243Home plate is marked with a gold marker in the ground. That location is in a walkway in the NW section of the Mall of America’s theme park, “Nickelodeon Universe.” It is a little wierd to see roller coasters and think that Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew used to play here, but at least it’s safer than visiting many other lost ballpark sites which are now located in rough neighborhoods.

100_9247The other signficant marker that honors Metropolitan Stadium is a red seat mounted on a wall near the Log Chute. That seat marks where Harmon Killebrew hit the longest home run at Met Stadium on June 3, 1967. It’s estimated that the ball traveled 520 feet. Killebrew finished his career with 573 dingers!

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Other St. Louis Stuff

100_9170— Matt Nelson

(This is an article that compliments Busch Stadium III)

The place to find baseball history in St. Louis is the Cardinals Hall of Fame. I haven’t been there, but that’s what I’m told. Problem is, because they have yet to build the planned ballpark village, there is no current HOF to visit. 

The Missouri History Museum isn’t a bad alternative. Admission is free, parking is free, and it’s located in Forest Park.

100_9201The museums exhibits include ballpark seats from Sportsman’s Park (a.k.a. Busch Stadium I) and Busch Stadium II. Old photos of the ballparks, old jerseys, video (film), turnstiles, program sales stands…basically a little bit of everything. Right now there’s a display case near the main entrance that includes All-Star Game related artifacts. There’s also an All-Star Game arch outside the front door.

100_9195While at the Missouri History Museum, be sure to check out the exhibits on Charles Lindbergh and the 1904 World’s Fair. Those exhibits are very well done. The 1904 World’s Fair exhibit includes a little bit of info on the 1904 Summer Olympics which were also in St. Louis. It’s really too bad Tug of War and Fancy Diving are no longer sports, or at least called those names.

100_9189If you want more information on the Lost Ballparks of St. Louis, check out this site that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has put together.

100_9163There is no shortage of baseball themed restaurants in the St. Louis area. Near the ballpark are Mike Shannon’s and The Mad Hungarian’s joints. Out in the suburbs you’ll find Pujols 5 and Ozzie’s Restaurant.

100_9165We went for Ozzie’s. Good food at a very reasonable price. Nice collection of memorabilia including a whole lot of Gold Glove Awards.

100_9097Of course no trip to St. Louis is complete without a trip up to the top of the Arch. We bought our tickets for later in the day and then came back at that time (you can also buy them on-line). The only thing is that you have to wait in the security line just to be able to buy tickets at the arch. Another thing to keep in mind, when they say your ticket is for a time such as 4:00, it’s more likely to be 4:45 before you actually get on your way up to the top. Despite a short wait, it’s worth it! 

The best thing about a drive from Eastern Iowa down to St. Louis? As of last July the Avenue of the Saints is now complete. It’s all 4-lane once you get to the AOS.

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