|Former names||Dunn Field (1916–1927)|
|Location||E 66th St. & Lexington Ave.
Cleveland Ohio, United States
|Field size||Left Field – 375 ft (114 m)
Left-Center – 415 ft (127 m)
Center Field – 420 ft (128 m)
Deep Center – 460 ft (140 m)
Right-Center – 317 ft (97 m)
Right Field – 290 ft (88 m)
|Opened||May 1, 1891|
|Renovated||April 21, 1910|
|Closed||September 21, 1946|
|Architect||Osborn Engineering Company (1910)|
Cleveland Spiders (NL) (1891–1899)
|Location||Lexington Ave. and E. 66th St., Cleveland, Ohio|
|NRHP Reference #||79001808|
|Added to NRHP||August 8, 1979|
League Park was a baseball park located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is situated at the northeast corner of E. 66th Street and Lexington Avenue in the Hough neighborhood. It was built in 1891 as a wood structure and rebuilt using concrete and steel in 1910. The park was home to a number of professional sports teams, most notably the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball. League Park was first home to the Cleveland Spiders of the National League from 1891 to 1899 and of the Cleveland Lake Shores of the Western League, the minor league predecessor to the Indians, in 1900. In the late 1940s, the park was also the home field of the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League.
In addition to baseball, League Park was also used for American football, serving as the home field for several successive teams in the Ohio League and early National Football League (NFL) during the 1920s and 1930s, as well as for college football. Local colleges including Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology utilized League Park for larger games, and often in their annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against one another. Western Reserve University played a majority of homes games there from 1929–1941, and all home games after joining the Mid-American Conference from 1947–1949. Most notably, the Cleveland Rams of the NFL played at League Park in 1937 and for much of the early 1940s. Later in the 1940s, the Cleveland Browns used League Park as a practice field.
Although Cleveland Stadium opened in 1932 and had a much larger seating capacity and better access by car, League Park continued to be used by the Indians through the 1946 season, mainly for weekday games. Weekend and other games expecting a larger crowd were held at Cleveland Stadium. Most of the League Park structure was demolished in 1951, although some remnants still remain, including the original ticket office built in 1909. After extensive renovation, the site was rededicated on August 23, 2014, as the Baseball Heritage Museum and outdoor recreational baseball facility.
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 Field. When Dunn died 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 385 feet (117 m), a tremendous 460 feet (140 m) away in center, and a short 290 feet (88 m) down the right field foul line. However, batters had to hit the ball over a 40-foot (12 m) fence to get a home run (by comparison, the Green Monster at Fenway Park is 37 feet (11 m) 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 Architects & Engineers, 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 (375 feet (114 m)) and center field fence in 40 feet (420 feet (130 m)); the right field fence remained at 290 feet (88 m).
Batters still had to surmount a 40-foot (12 m) fence to hit a home run (by comparison, the Green Monster at Fenway Park is three feet shorter at 37 feet (11 m) high). The fence in left field was only five feet tall, but batters had to hit the ball 375 feet (114 m) down the line to hit a home run, and it was fully 460 feet (140 m) to the scoreboard in the deepest part of center field. 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 had a 60-foot (18 m) wall), for example.
Modern League Park
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.
On February 7, 2011, the Cleveland City Council approved a plan to restore the ticket house and remaining bleacher wall, as well as build a new diamond on the site of the old one. On October 27, 2012, city leaders including Mayor Frank G. Jackson took part in the groundbreaking of the League Park restoration. The project included a museum, a restoration of the ball field, and a community park featuring pavilions and walking trails. The community park was dedicated in September 2013 as the Fannie M. Lewis Community Park at League Park. Lewis was a city councilwoman who encouraged League Park's restoration. Restoration was completed in 2014, and League Park reopened August 23 of that year. As part of the renovation, the Baseball Heritage Museum (housing artifacts from baseball history as well as many specifically from the history of League Park) was relocated from downtown Cleveland to the restored ticket house.
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 2, 1908: Addie Joss' perfect game against the Chicago White Sox.
- 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 home run 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.
- December 2, 1945: The Cleveland Rams play their last game at League Park by topping the Boston Yanks, 20-7. Two weeks later, at Cleveland Stadium, they defeat the Washington Redskins, 15-14, to win the NFL championship. A month later the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
- 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.
- Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Warsinskey, Tim (August 23, 2014). "League Park reopens to a historic appreciation, beautiful restoration and hopeful future". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- David Briggs, David League Park may glisten once again mlb.com, August 8, 2007 (accessed July 22, 2010)
- Franklin Lewis (2006). The Cleveland Indians. The Kent State University Press, Kent OH, reprint originally G.P.Putnam & Sons, New York NY 1949. pp. 153–156. ISBN 978-0-87338-885-6.
- "Clem's Baseball ~ League Park (IV)". Andrewclem.com. 1909-11-21. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- League Park ballparksofbaseball.com (accessed July 22, 2010)
- Krsolovic & Fritz. "League Park, Historic Home of Cleveland Baseball 1891–1946", McFarland & Co., 2013, pp. 33-34.
- Gillispie, Mark (2011-02-08). "Cleveland City Council approves spending to get historic League Park project started". Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- Briggs, David (2007-08-08). "League Park may glisten once again". Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- Scali, Maria. "Historic League Park to be Restored to Old Glory". WJW-TV. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Scali, Maria (2013-09-07). "Park Created to Honor Baseball's History". WJW-TV. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Martin, Angela. "Baseball Heritage Museum moves to fitting place — renovated League Park". MLB Pro Blog TribeVibe. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
- "1891 Log For League Park III in Cleveland, OH". Retrosheet.org. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Events of Wednesday, August 30, 1899". Retrosheet.org. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Events of Monday, April 29, 1901". Retrosheet.org. 1902-04-29. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Miss Alta Weiss of the Weiss All-Stars of Cleveland, Ohio". Retrieved 2009-09-26.
- "Addie Joss Perfect Game Box Score by Baseball Almanac". Baseball-almanac.com. 1908-10-02. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Retrosheet Boxscore: Cleveland Indians 8, Brooklyn Robins 1". Retrosheet.org. 1920-10-10. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Retrosheet Boxscore: Cleveland Indians 3, Brooklyn Robins 0". Retrosheet.org. 1920-10-12. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "Retrosheet Boxscore: Cleveland Indians 6, New York Yankees 5". Retrosheet.org. 1929-08-11. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
- "CNN/SI – The New York Yankees Greatest Hits". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- "Retrosheet Boxscore: Boston Red Sox 1, Cleveland Indians 0". Retrosheet.org. 1946-09-13. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- "FDA approved US store. Cialis Sale – FDA APPROVED Drug Store". Baseballlibrary.com. Retrieved 2013-03-06.
- "Retrosheet Boxscore: Detroit Tigers 5, Cleveland Indians 3". Retrosheet.org. 1946-09-21. Retrieved 2012-11-08.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to League Park.|
- Official League Park Society Site
- Diagram re-creation, and photo of the remnants of the ballpark
- Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park
|Events and tenants|
National League Park
|Home of the Cleveland Spiders
|Home of the Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Cleveland Municipal Stadium
|Home of the Cleveland Rams
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum