Jack White returns to Hamtramck to help restore historic Hamtramck Stadium

Detroit native and Raconteurs frontman Jack White (left) and 92-year-old former Negro League ballplayer Ron Teasley talk a little baseball before Teasley’s ceremonial first pitch Thursday at historic Hamtramck Stadium.

July 11, 2019

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

HAMTRAMCK— Detroit rock star Jack White and his Warstic Woodmen headlined a sandlot-style charity baseball game on Thursday at Hamtramck Stadium, former home of the Negro League Detroit Stars, to benefit the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium. Hundreds of fans showed up to support the event. (FULL STORY HERE from The Detroit News.)

For more stories about Hamtramck Stadium and Negro League baseball, click here to visit our blog.

Thanks 50,000 Times

With the support of more than 300 donors, the Patronicity crowdfunding campaign launched by the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium and the Piast Institute has exceeded its $50,000 goal!

We are very grateful for the outpouring of support and will soon be getting to work on restoring the historic field in conjunction with the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew.

More to come soon.

FHHS launches new campaign to restore historic Hamtramck Stadium


To help support the restoration of historic Hamtramck Stadium, go to patronicity.com/hhs.


March 4, 2019

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. — With the help of Detroit native and rock star Jack White, the Piast Institute and the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium today are pleased to announce the launch of a new campaign to begin restoration of the former home of the Detroit Stars, one of the few remaining Negro League ballparks in America. 

Located near the border of Detroit in the diverse city of Hamtramck, Michigan, Hamtramck Stadium hosted many Negro League legends over the years, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Detroit’s own Norman “Turkey” Stearnes

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.


The campaign, launched through Detroit-based Patronicity.com, aims to raise $50,000 to restore Hamtramck Stadium’s historic field for baseball and soccer games in advance of a planned restoration of its historic grandstand. Other improvements to be funded with the money raised include enhancing the existing cricket pitch, installing new signage, and installing wayfaring signage around Hamtramck to direct visitors to the site.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match donations to the campaign, up to $50,000.

“We’re thrilled to be participating in the MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program,” says Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium founder and president Gary Gillette. “We’re hopeful the historic preservation community can help us meet our goal.”

The existing grandstand, which hasn’t been used since the 1990s, is currently closed to the public, but the City of Hamtramck has a new plan for its redevelopment.

“From its founding, the Piast Institute has focused on telling the story of Polish-Americans in Detroit and Hamtramck, which are intertwined with the stories of the historic African-American communities in both cities,” says Piast executive vice president Virginia Skrzyniarz. “The revival of Hamtramck Stadium will be a living monument to Hamtramck’s legacy of diversity and tolerance.”


“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,” says Gillette.


It was also the home of Hamtramck’s 1959 Little League World Series champions.

“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,” says Gillette.

“Our hope is to preserve this very special place where my father and his teammates made history,” says 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,” says 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.”

“The history of Detroit cannot be told without including the history of African-Americans,” Gillette says, “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.”

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.#


To help support the restoration of historic Hamtramck Stadium, go to patronicity.com/hhs.


SABR Day is Saturday, Feb. 3

Tram Lou SI

Join the Friends of Historic Hamtramck and the SABR Detroit Chapter at 1 p.m., Saturday, February 3, at the Detroit Public Library for SABR Day, Detroit’s annual convention of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Then join us later that night at Nemo’s for Tom Derry’s 31st Annual Babe Ruth Birthday Party.

As always, these great events are free and open to the public.
Come one, come all!

For more details, click here.

FHHS Board of Directors

Gary Gillette (founder and president)
Author, editor, consultant, and historian Gary Gillette has written, edited, or contributed to dozens of baseball books and websites, including ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus, and TotalBaseball.com. He was the creator and editor of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, executive editor of the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, a contributor to six editions of the seminal encyclopedia Total Baseball, and is currently a historical consultant to Baseball-Reference.com.

Gillette was the lead author on the massive 2009 book Big League Ballparks: The Complete Illustrated History of Major-League Baseball Parks. As a director and officer of the Tiger Stadium Conservancy, Gillette fought for years to save the historic stadium and the hallowed field at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. As founder and president of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, he led the successful effort to place one of the few remaining Negro League home ballparks on the National Register of Historic Places and is now leading the effort to restore the historic site. A former director of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Gillette is the founder and chair of SABR’s Detroit Chapter, as well as past co-chair of SABR’s Business of Baseball Committee and SABR’s Ballparks Committees.

Michael Wilson

For more than three decades, Coach Mike Wilson has trained and mentored thousands of youth in the great game of baseball.

Wilson was born in Hamtramck and graduated from Detroit Mackenzie High in 1974, excelling in both football and baseball. In 1976, he was selected in the winter professional baseball draft by the Detroit Tigers and spent several years playing minor league ball in the Tigers and Seattle Mariners systems.

In 1980, Wilson launched his youth baseball coaching career in California, where he worked under the tutelage of former Negro Leaguers Chet Brewer and John Moseley and helped train future major leaguer Chili Davis.

In 1997, Coach Wilson moved home to Detroit and became an assistant coach at DePorres High for two years under Coach Mark Brown. In 2003, Coach Wilson became head coach at his alma mater, Mackenzie High, where he coached for three years.

In 2008, Coach Wilson joined the Detroit Eagles, a 15 and Under travel team that won the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) world championship in 2008.

In 2003 Mike and his wife, Margaret, developed a nonprofit youth development organization called Abundant Care Training Services (ACTS Detroit). In 2007 they partnered with DPS and began operating the Woodbridge Community Youth Center in a former Detroit Public School building. In 2010 Coach Wilson co-founded and developed the Woodbridge Baseball Academy designed to revive baseball in the urban community.

The WBA produced three travel teams (Woodbridge Eagles) each year to provide advanced competition for player development and elite competition. The Woodbridge Eagles won five travel tournaments and three runner-up finishes in three years. And in 2016, the Eagles 12 and Under team won the Hometown World Series sponsored by the Detroit Tigers.

Coach Wilson is also an ordained minister and has amassed over 25 years of business management experience in both the public and private sectors.

Ian Perrotta
Ian Perrotta is a Hamtramck City Councilman, the owner of Trixie’s Bar, and a student at Wayne State Law School. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg with degrees in English Writing and Political Science, Ian has been an active member of the Hamtramck community since 2009, and previously served as chair of the Neighborhood Restoration and Economic Development Committee for the Hamtramck Weed and Seed program.

In addition to being a reporter and copy editor for the Hamtramck Review, Ian is also a co-founder of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium.

Tom Niczay
Since 2007, Tom has served as the superintendent of Hamtramck Public Schools. A graduate of Wayne State University, Tom previously served Hamtramck Public Schools as principal of Holbrook School (1988-1995) and Dickinson East (1995-2007).

Thomas A. Habitz Jr.
Hamtramck resident Thomas Habitz is a practicing urban planner and active local volunteer. Tom serves on Hamtramck’s planning and zoning boards, and has coached for years in Hamtramck’s youth baseball leagues. He’s also a longtime baseball and basketball official. These activities speak to Tom’s passion for sustainable and walkable communities, and the revitalization of spaces that are important to the Detroit region. He’s excited for the re-opening of Hamtramck Stadium to promote the past and future of baseball in our community.

Debra Walker
A longtime purchasing executive with Chrysler, Debra spent years working in Mexico and Germany [while Daimler Chrysler] training employees on cost-reduction initiatives. Led the team that saved Chrysler millions of dollars, passed on to employees as largest profit sharing. Also worked in Lean Production and Minority Supplier Development, helping to create jobs while growing companies. Initiated Chrysler community outreach programs.

Debra also serves on the boards of the Michigan Cancer Foundation / Karmanos Peoples Community Services, Alternatives for Girls, and the Corktown Economic Development Corporation.

Ray Skrzyniarz

Born in Hamtramck, the grandson of Polish immigrants, Ray Skrzyniarz graduated from St. Ladislaus and was an all-star catcher in Little League, Pony League, Colt League, and American Legion, playing many of his home games at Hamtramck Stadium alongside many future major leaguers, including the Paciorek brothers. Ray also played at Tiger Stadium and even played in the Colt League World Series.

A graduate of Western Michigan University, Ray taught at Marysville High School for 40 years.

Ray is married to the former Virginia Irvin, co-founder of the Piast Institute, a national institute for Polish and Polish American affairs.

The stadium we are seeking to save is more than just an artifact of Black history or a reminder some of the most memorable parts of Hamtramck’s history, Ray says. It’s an icon of America’s story.

Layna Fernandez
The daughter of former Detroit Tiger Chico Fernandez, Layna Fernandez is a graduate of Detroit Public Schools and Wayne County Community College who has spent a remarkable teaching career at the National Institute of Technology-Everest Institute and Baker College.

In her spare time, Layna is active in the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Girls on the Run, and the American Heart Association. Layna is proud to join the board of the Friends and even prouder to help carry on her father’s legacy.

Paul Wilk
Paul Wilk is the former fire chief and fire marshal of the City of Hamtramck, and past president of the Hamtramck Firefighters Association.

Recent News

The National Park Service announced on January 12 that Hamtramck Stadium had received a $50,000 African American Civil Rights Grant for pre-development planning.

NPS announcement (grants listed by state)

NPS press release

The Detroit News published a long piece with photos and video on Friday, December 30, about our plans for 2017 and beyond.

Detroit News piece

SFGate.com, the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle, also ran a shorter piece about Hamtramck Stadium, basically summarizing what the News had reported.

SFGate piece

SABR Detroit Chapter meeting, June 14, 2015

Charles Leerhsen, author of the award-winning 2015 biography Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty was the featured speaker at the Detroit chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research meeting on Sunday, June 14, 2015. Leerhsen took questions and signed copies of his book after he spoke.

SABR Detroit Chapter president Gary Gillette also spoke about Ty Cobb’s 1930 appearance at Hamtramck Stadium, when the Tigers’ superstar threw out the first pitch at the grand opening of the Negro League ballpark. Alexis Morris of Syracuse University discussed her thesis research about the Negro Leagues, the African-American community in Detroit, and how Black Baseball and the Detroit Stars aided in creating a sense of community for Great Migration blacks.

This meeting took place on Sunday, June 14, at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle.

 

An ode to Hamtramck Stadium

Joyce Stearnes Thompson, daughter of Baseball Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes, spoke recently at a gathering of the Eddie Lake Society, a longtime group of Detroit Tigers fans and baseball aficionados founded by the late Joe Falls.

After regaling her audience with tales of her famous father (who starred in the Negro Leagues from 1923-1940), Joyce ended by reciting a poem she’d written in honor of Hamtramck Stadium, followed by a beautiful song in tribute to her father:

Ode to Historic Hamtramck Stadium

How can I tell you about the heritage of this Historic Hamtramck Stadium
An amazing place where I never had a chance to see Dad or the Detroit Stars play;
Memories that can only be envisioned in my mind of one of the best teams ever
Turkey, a nickname given to my father because of the way he ran the bases
Remarkable! Respectful and revered, with many records lost or never recorded
Awesome and exciting describe the way the Negro Leaguers played
Many games were played in this classic ballpark, packed with adoring fans
Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige contributed to the legacy, so don’t let it die
Keep it alive as a reminder for kids interested in playing baseball or other sports

Save this field! Segregation is a thing of the past. Corporate sponsorship is a must!
Today begins the time for redemption for all of the talented players who
Accomplished much, but were denied the chance to play in the Major Leagues
Denied because of the color of their skin and then their dreams were shattered
Imagine the pain they felt. Still, they impacted the game and loved the ballpark.
Understand the importance of restoring this historic and rustic grandstand
Maintenance will surely be provided by the magnificent, dedicated Navin Field Grounds Crew,
who continue to show their love for Tiger Stadium

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngPEonPCAIM

Photos

Press

Metro Times

Diamond in the Rough: Hamtramck Stadium is poised for a comeback

MLive

Hamtramck’s Negro League stadium recognized as relic of baseball’s segregated past

Motor City Muckraker

Ballpark that hosted Negro League games, Hall of Famers is preserved

CBS

Hamtramck Stadium Gets Historic Designation

The Hamtramck Review

Stadium preservation project enters new phase

It’s a home run for old ‘Negro League’ stadium

Baseball stadium takes another step closer towards historical designation

Stadium project ready to play ball with Michigan Historical Commission

A former city jewel gets a well deserved shining

Senior remembers the days when the Negro League played here

Movers and shakers: Rebecca Binno Savage

Word spreads on repairing grandstand

Baseball historian looking for ‘smoking gun’ to help save the grandstands

Anyone game for fixing up the grandstands?

Renovate it… but will they come?

Hamtramck Star

Hamtramck Stadium receives designation

DetroitYES!

Hamtramck Stadium

Ballpark Business

Hamtramck Stadium Placed on Historic Register

Ballpark Digest

Hamtramck Stadium receives historic designation

InDBeat

Hamtramck Stadium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places