Renovations to Hamtramck Negro League ballpark celebrated with a ceremony, tribute game

Detroit Free Press

After a $2.6 million renovation, the historic Hamtramck Stadium — one of the few remaining Negro League ballparks in America — was unveiled Monday with a ceremony and a Negro Leagues tribute baseball game.

The stadium, built in 1930 and the former home of the Detroit Stars, is one of five major Negro Leagues home ballparks in the U.S. The Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, the nonprofit that hosted the event, has worked since 2012 to preserve and restore the stadium, to make it into a community resource and a recreational asset.

“Today we see how the years of vision by a few, the years of planning by many, and the years of both struggles and cooperation between government, organizations and community can have a major impact,” Hamtramck Mayor Amer Ghalib said.

Wayne County managed the grandstand’s construction and allocated Community Development Block Grant funds to Hamtramck for the project. Additional funding was provided by National Park Service African American Civil Rights grants, the Detroit Tigers Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

“You might say, ‘Why spend $2.6 million on a baseball field?'” Stephen Grady Muhammad, deputy chief of staff for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, said in front of a crowd of several hundred. “We are on hallowed ground. You had Negro Leagues — baseball players like Turkey Stearnes, Cool Papa Bell and, my personal favorite, Satchel Paige — who literally ran these bases.”

Speakers at the ceremony noted that it was no coincidence that the ceremony and tribute game were held on the day Juneteenth — the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of ending slavery in the U.S. — was observed.

“We are so honored today to have such a piece of history with us that we are able … to bring back to life,” State Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said. “Now, it’s incredible that just yesterday we celebrated Juneteenth, where this country is finally beginning to realize that part of building the future is recognizing the legacy of the past.”

The event honored native Detroiter Ron Teasley Sr., one of four living players from the Major Negro Leagues’ era, the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium said. Teasley played with the New York Cubans in the Negro National League in 1948 and also played in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm system.

Teasley, a Wayne State University graduate, taught for more than 30 years and coached baseball, basketball and golf at Detroit’s Northwestern High School for more than two decades. Teasley spoke at the event, and was joined by his family and a few of the players he had coached.

More: The Detroit Tigers, and the city look to invest in the future, by renovating the past

More: Jack White donates $10,000 to Hamtramck Stadium restoration

The tribute game teams represented the Detroit Stars and the Chicago American Giants. Southeastern Michigan baseball players played for the Detroit team, while high school players from the Chicago area played for the Chicago team.

The stadium, located at 3201 Dan St., was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

Contact Adrienne Roberts: amroberts@freepress.com.

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