If you are a longtime reader of this site, you probably are aware that I am a diehard Cleveland sports fan. I look at my allegiance to our franchises as somewhat of a birthright. My father told me stories when I was growing up about how his dad would to take him to games at League Park and Municipal Stadium.
My dad witnessed many Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Buckeyes, Cleveland Rams, and Cleveland Browns games as a kid. His stories, and my aunt secretly telling me that the temptation of afternoon baseball during the weekdays got him expelled from Cathedral Latin for skipping too much school, of growing up in the shadows of League Park always intrigued me. The family grew up on Melrose Avenue which is within walking distance to where League Park still sits.
A skeleton of the structures still stood in place of the original home of the Cleveland Indians sixty plus years after the team moved away from the jewel box baseball diamond that was designed to fit inside the Eastside Cleveland neighborhood. The overall consensus of the site, which saw Cy Young throw its first pitch and where Babe Ruth would hit his 500th home run, was a portrait of urban decay. When League Park turned 100 years old in 1991, I remember bringing it up to my father who said that the park was in such bad shape when he was a kid that he thought it was 100 years old in the 1940's.
The old dugout steps, a rundown old bleacher, the old ticket window, and the field all were virtually untouched as the years went on. The historic significance of the location caught the attention of baseball historians who desired to restore the property in some way, but those plans fell by the wayside as the funds were simply not there to take on such a large project.
A movement began to emerge to tackle the project in 2010. Early last year, Cleveland City Council heard their voices and voted to invest $6.2 Million in the property to host Little League and Senate League baseball, along with concerts and pee wee football in the fall. The historic ticket office, which had been a blight on the neighborhood with numerous broken out windows, will be the host of a baseball museum that will teach younger generations about America's national pastime.
The groundbreaking to restore League Park was held in late October last year, an event I would have typically attended. My family and I, unfortunately, had bigger things to worry about at the time.
My father, who spent countless hours watching events at the place that was set to get a new lease on life, was diagnosed with liver cancer and died just days later. While I would have loved to take a walk through the finished product with him and heard his stories of yesteryear, I take solace in the fact that in his final days he knew that such an integral part of Cleveland history would be preserved. Sometime in the near future I can share that history with his grandson, who will become a fourth generation Cleveland sports fan himself.