Negro League baseball has not been played in the City of Detroit in nearly 70 years. But when it was, the Detroit Stars played its home games at Hamtramck Stadium, which sits near the city’s border, in the historic city of Hamtramck.
Thursday, it was the site of a sandlot-style charity baseball game between Detroit native and rock star Jack White’s Warstic Woodmen and the Detroit All-Stars. The game was put on by the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium to help raise funds for the 89-year-old stadium. It is one of only five Negro League stadiums left in America and hosted many Negro League legends over the years, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Detroit’s own Norman “Turkey” Stearnes.
White, who is a 1993 graduate of Detroit Cass Tech, led his Warstic team to a 17-5 victory. Warstic refers to the Dallas-based sporting goods company founded by former Philadelphia Phillies farmhand Ben Jenkins, White, and former Detroit Tiger Ian Kinsler. Earlier this year, the former founder of White Stripes kick-started a crowdfunding campaign to help restore the playing field, donating $10,000 of his own money. Funds will be used to restore the field and eventually the stands.
Despite the outcome of the game, the entire day celebrated the history of the stadium Negro League baseball. Former Negro Leaguer Ron Teasley, 92, threw out the first pitch to former Detroit Tiger and Hamtramck native Ike Blessitt.
Stearnes’ daughters, Joyce Thompson and Rosilyn Brown, sang the national anthem prior to the game, and Detroit’s own Robert Bradley sang his original composition “Born in America” during the fifth-inning stretch. Stearnes’ granddaughter, Vanessa Rose, started in center field for the home team, just as her grandfather did decades prior.