One of the charter franchises of the Negro National League (1920-1931) was the Detroit Stars, who played in Mack Park (located about four miles east-northeast of downtown Detroit) until 1929. In July of that year a fire broke out, injuring 103 people. At about the same time, construction began on a new stadium located in the city of Hamtramck, an ethnic enclave lying entirely inside (but independent of) the city of Detroit. The new stadium featured steel beams but most of it was constructed of wood planks, including the bench seats.
Structurally, the grandstand of Hamtramck Stadium was fairly simple. The roof covered the entire seating area, and it extended farther down the third base side compared to the first. Due to the lack of historical photos, it is hard to pinpoint the location of certain details such as the dugouts, so there are conjectural in the diagrams above. Likewise, it is hard to be sure about the exact outfield dimensions. The figure for right field (407) given in Lowry's Green Cathedral is markedly different than the rough estimate of 370 feet that I obtained by using an image at historicalaerials.com. The left field figure of 315 only makes sense is there was some kind of interposing fence, which I conjecture to be of a diagonal shape. Finally, the 528 figure for center field must have referred to the deepest corner, slightly to the right of dead center field, which I estimate to have been 480 feet.
The timing of construction was unfortunate, as the Great Depression put enormous pressure on all professional sports, especially those with meager financial support. The Negro National League dissolved after 1931, replaced by the Negro East-West League and the Negro Southern League in 1932. (See the Negro Leagues page.) In 1933 a new Negro National League was founded, and the Detroit Stars were "reborn," but they only lasted one year. In 1937 a new Detroit Stars franchise was created, as one of the founding members of the Negro American League, but for some reason they played in a different location, De Quindre Park. Once again, however, they only lasted one year.
During the 1950s there was a Detroit Stars team in the Negro American League (called the "Clowns" in one year), but by this time racial integration was fully underway, and the teams in that league were no longer were considered professional. On June 28, 1957 the Detroit Stars played one game in Tiger Stadium instead of Mack Park.
From the 1960s until the late 1970s, Hamtramck Stadium was incorporated into Veterans Memorial Park, used for football and other local sports. For safety reasons, however, it had to be closed by the 1980s due to physical deterioration. For over 30 years it lay abandoned, just rotting away. All but a small portion near home plate was demolished. Tennis courts and an ice skating rink for hockey were built on the southwest (third base) side.
After the city of Detroit finally agreed to build a public ball field on the lot where Tiger Stadium used to stand, the "Navin Field Grounds Crew" historical preservation group turned its attention to doing likewise for Hamtramck Stadium. In August 2021 restoration on Hamtramck Stadium took a big leap forward, thanks to $2.6 million in funding from various organizations, including the Ilitch family, which owns the Detroit Tigers. In confunction with the observance of "Juneteenth" in Detroit, on June 20, 2022, there was a dedication ceremony at the newly-restored Hamtramck Stadium. The Detroit Stars' greatest star player was Norman Thomas "Turkey" Stearns, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. His daughter has played a big role in the civic efforts to restore Hamtrack Stadium. Hamtramck Stadium is one of only six former Negro League stadiums that is still standing today.
SOURCES: Lowry (2006)
WEB LINKS: historichamtramckstadium.org, detroiturbex.com, www.historicaerials.com, wxyz.com
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