‘Hidden gem’ keeps spirit of legendary Black athletes alive
Detroit Stars Negro League’s Hamtramck Stadium receives plaque, dedication
By Steve Furay
Special to The Michigan Citizen
Hamtramck Stadium — former home of the famed Negro League baseball team the Detroit Stars —received a special dedication Aug. 14. A plaque was unveiled commemorating the site as a historical landmark by the State of Michigan. Dozens of attendees gathered to tour the field and hear from local officials and former players.
“Hamtramck Stadium is an open air time capsule hiding in plain sight at Veterans Park,” said Gary Gillette, executive director for Friends of Hamtramck Stadium. “Instead of containing articles and artifacts, however, the historic grandstand is home to something far more precious. The co-mingled spirits of the Negro Leaguers and the youth of Hamtramck and Detroit, both Black and white, joyfully played baseball for decades on this emerald diamond.”
The former players of the Negro League are heralded as national heroes for playing during a time when segregation kept Black players from participating in Major League Baseball. Many stars of the league, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, who played for the Detroit Stars, are regarded as being as great of players as their major league contemporaries, despite not being able to compete against them.
“I came to this park over 80 years ago — my father brought me here. He was a great, great fan of ‘Turkey’ Stearnes and the Detroit Stars,” said Ron Teasley, a former Negro League player who once played at Hamtramck Stadium, located at 3128 Goodson Street at Joseph Campau. Teasley played baseball at Wayne State University and Northwestern High School, where he also coached.
“I can remember coming out here as a kid and seeing the great joy that emanated from all of the fans who attended the game,” said Teasley. “They really appreciated this stadium because they were not welcomed down at the other stadium, but they were welcomed here. I’ll never forget that.”
Hamtramck Stadium opened in 1930, featuring the first pitch thrown out by Detroit Tiger baseball great Ty
Cobb. The Detroit Stars had previously played at Mack Park, located on the city’s east side at Mack and Fairchild, before the stadium was damaged in a fire.
“The better we are together, we can really teach this community about what it is to get ahead,” said State Sen. Bert Johnson, who attended the event. “I think this marker stands as a testament to what it is we intend to do to keep this community relevant.”
Today, the site features a mural painted by youth from the community organization Summer in the City, paying tribute to the Detroit Stars, “Turkey” Stearnes and Andrew “Rube” Foster, founder of the Detroit Stars.
“This was once a field of dreams for children playing the great American game,” said Gillette. “Hamtramck’s open air time capsule remains a hidden gem.”