Hamtramck Stadium, the former home of Negro League baseball stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Detroit’s own Norman “Turkey” Stearnes will be restored and updated for baseball, soccer, cricket and general community use through a new crowdfunding campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Piast Institute, and Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium announced. The campaign is being offered through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.
Located on the border of Detroit in the diverse city of Hamtramck, Michigan, Hamtramck Stadium hosted many Negro League legends over the years. It was also the home of Hamtramck’s 1959 Little League World Series champions.
If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by April 2, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program.
Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League (MML), and Patronicity, in which residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can apply at https://patronicity.com/puremichigan.
“The restoration of the historic stadium in Hamtramck will not only honor the past significance of the space but create new use of the space for a diverse community,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Katharine Czarnecki. “We are pleased to provide resources for this effort through our Public Spaces Community Places program.”
The campaign will restore the historic Hamtramck Stadium, a rare, cultural site and one of only five home ballparks of major Negro League teams in the U.S. remaining. The funding will update the field, install new historic art pieces at the stadium, and create signage around Hamtramck to direct visitors to the site.
The existing grandstand, which hasn’t been used since the 1990s, is currently closed to the public, but the city of Hamtramck has a plan for its redevelopment.
“We’re thrilled to be participating in the MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program,” said Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium Founder and President Gary Gillette. “Hamtramck Stadium is one of just five remaining locations where major Negro League teams once played their home games and represents a historic period in the Detroit community. We’re hopeful the historic preservation community will help us meet our goal.”
“As a field that’s welcomed at least 18 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, including great Negro League players like Turkey Stearnes, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige, Hamtramck Stadium serves as an important reminder of African-American history here in metro Detroit and across the country.”
Detroit Cass Tech alum and rock star Jack White, an avid baseball fan best known for fronting legendary Detroit garage-rock band the White Stripes, is helping kick off the campaign with a very generous $10,000 donation.
“Our hope is to preserve this very special place where my father and his teammates made history,” said Rosilyn Stearnes-Brown, daughter of Hall of Fame Detroit Stars outfielder Turkey Stearnes.
“It’s important to provide our young people with opportunities that will enrich their minds and will make them productive, positive individuals, striving to make a difference in our society just like the players in the Negro Leagues,” said Stearnes’ daughter, Joyce Stearnes-Thompson. “Hamtramck Stadium can be a magnificent field of dreams that will preserve the legacy of my father and the Negro Leaguers in this special place they loved.”
Built in 1930, Hamtramck Stadium was home to the Negro National League Detroit Stars in 1930-1931 and again in 1933. The field was also home to the Detroit Wolves of the Negro East-West League in 1932, and to the Negro American League Detroit Stars in 1937.
“The history of Detroit cannot be told without including the history of African-Americans,” Gillette said “And the history of Detroit’s black community is not complete without the history of the Negro Leagues and the Detroit Stars. Norman ‘Turkey’ Stearnes and his teammates fought against segregation and discrimination both on and off the field, leaving a legacy we can help preserve by restoring Hamtramck Stadium as a community gathering place and a venue for youth sports.”