League Park is America's Historic Ballpark. It was a place for baseball pioneers and served as a great stage for baseball to grow and develop as America’s national pastime. The field opened in the late 19th century on May 1, 1891 with the legendary Cy Young pitching for Cleveland before 9,000 fans. This set the stage for what would be an iconic show of baseball talent that would follow. In 1910 League Park joined a new generation of ballparks and was transformed into a a modern steel and concrete structure seating over 21,000 persons. Located in Cleveland's expanding eastside, League Park is a neighborhood park very much in the same vein as Shibe Park in Philadelphia or Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. In 1916 League Park was renamed to Dunn Field after the Cleveland Indians owner Sunny Jim Dunn. The name change lasted until 1927.
Fame came to Cleveland in 1920 with a World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians led by Hall of Fame player manager Tris Speaker. Indians fans would see several firsts in that World Series and witness Cleveland clinching a first ever world championship. As the 1920's roared along many important baseball events would transpire in League Park/Dunn Field. Future Hall of Fame batters and pitchers would pass through the 3,000 hit plateau or collect an record amount of wins. Among those milestones was the 500th home run of the “Sultan of Swat", Babe Ruth on August 11, 1929. His towering shot cleared a fence taller than the fabled "Green Monster" of Fenway Park and landed on Lexington Avenue.
Fifty-five years after it all began the last major league game was played at League Park on September 21, 1946 with the Detroit Tigers. The sounds and smells of this venerable old ballpark were gone. When League Park closed it ranked along side Fenway Park, Tiger Stadium, and Wrigley Field as a neighborhood ballpark of great importance. Baseball greats like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Addie Joss, Tris Speaker, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, George Kell and Cy Young made history there. The boys of summer had truly left a lasting imprint at League Park
Since closing its gates in 1946 the importance of League Park has been overcome by events. As you explore both the photographs and articles posted at LeaguePark.org I think you will come to appreciate that Cleveland's League Park remains an integral part of America's collective baseball history. League Park is literally part of our national baseball DNA.
Today there remains very little of what was League Park. Years of neglect have left only the ticketing building and the 1st base grandstand wall. Unlike Shibe Park or Ebbets Field the soul of League Park is still intact. On a spring day a visitor can still walk into this place and see the green grass. They can gaze down the old first base line and just imagine what Ruth felt on August 11, 1929 when he hit his 500th home run over the wall onto Lexington Avenue or stand where Addie Joss throw his perfect game. You can close your eyes and just for a moment or two go back in time. Yes, the brick and mortar may largely be gone but the soul of League Park is still very much alive. The grass is still green and this field of dreams begs baseball fans everyone come and say hello.
We would like to thank the Cleveland Memory Project for their assistance and permission to use their rich collection of historical photos concerning League Park. You may find out more about the Cleveland Memory Project at http://www.clevelandmemory.org/.
Other photos courtesy of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Virtual Hall of Fame at
Shoeless Joe Jackson Virtual Hall of Fame
In Another League © 1994 by William Feldman.
League Park Circa 1920 © 1996 by Jeff Suntala.
League Park in March of 1999 © 1999 by Paul Munsey.
Aerial view of League Park courtesy of The Sporting News.