CLEVELAND -- A makeover is planned for what's left of the old home of the Cleveland Indians and the 1945 Negro League champion Cleveland Buckeyes, as the city aims to return the site to its baseball glory days.
League Park, east of downtown in the Hough neighborhood, hosted its first game in 1891 with pitching legend Cy Young on the mound for the Cleveland Spiders, but it was eventually converted into a park that later disintegrated.
Now League Park and adjacent parkland will undergo $5 million in renovations, Ken Silliman, chief of staff for Mayor Frank Jackson, told The Plain Dealer.
Silliman said work will begin in late spring or early summer and be finished in about a year.
City Architecture is wrapping up plans that include restoring the ticket house and a bleacher wall and creating a Major League-size diamond in the same place as the original. Home plate will go in the exact spot where it rested the day that Babe Ruth whacked his 500th career home run in 1929.
Paula Gist, who heads the League Park Heritage Committee neighborhood group, said the project will provide a focus for an area that has seen dozens of new houses built in recent years.
The committee wants to raise another $1.7 million for a track and other work. Gist, who grew up in Hough and remembers a vibrant middle-class neighborhood that existed prior to riots in the summer of 1966, said her father, now 94, attended Negro League games at League Park.
"This is important to us, to our neighborhood," Gist said. "We don't want just a ballpark; we want a revitalization."
She hopes League Park also will become a regional attraction, hosting minor league baseball games and other special events.
Plans also call for a community building with a museum, a youth baseball diamond and a field for football and soccer. The Indians used League Park from 1900 through 1946, continuing to play some games there for 15 years after Municipal Stadium opened.
It was the team's home field during the 1920 World Series. Besides Young and Ruth, greats such as Bob Feller, Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Shoeless Joe Jackson passed through the park.
The site, now on the National Register of Historic Places, served as a practice field for the Cleveland Browns until 1951, when the city bought the property.
The Associated Press