Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd! Today, we’re going to do just that, but first, we’re traveling back in time. Surely you know that Progressive Field (or, The Jake, as many still call it) is not the first official home of the Cleveland Indians. It’s still a young field compared to its predecessor, and it was at Cleveland’s former ballpark that many countless moments in history were made. Are you ready for a trip through time? Just remember to root, root, root for the Indians along the way.
1. League Park, 1911
When it opened in 1891, League Park was an instant home run with Clevelanders. Located at the corner of northeast corner of E. 66th St. and Lexington Ave., the giant wood structure offered fun for locals and was home to both the National League team, the Cleveland Spiders, and the minor league team, the Cleveland Lake Shores. It also eventually housed football teams in the Ohio League and early National Football League, most notably the Cleveland Rams.
2. Opening Day, 1928
In 1910, the original wood frame of the ballpark was replaced with concrete and steel, and the park's seating capacity was expanded to just over 20,000. In 1927, the naming rights to the field (which had been affectionately known as Dunn Field since 1921) changed, and its name reverted to League Park by the 1928 season.
3. Billy Evans, Walter Johnson, and Babe Ruth at League Park, 1925
Countless famous players once took to this field. In 1901, the Cleveland Spiders were officially replaced by the Cleveland Indians, and it was this team that faced off with legendary ballplayers like Babe Ruth. Ruth actually hit his 500th career home run at the park in 1929.
4. Crowds fill the stadium, 1937
Cleveland Stadium opened its doors in 1932, and with its 70,000 seats, the massive structure began to spell the end of League Park's existence. Despite crowds favoring the larger and more comfortable stadium, many still had a soft spot for Cleveland's old ballpark.
5. Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth at League Park, 1927
"Sunny Jim" Dunn had previously owned the team before his death in 1922, and he likely would have been in awe if he had been alive to see the baseball legends that would face off against his beloved team.
6. Opening Day, 1926
Opening Day is - and has always been - a hit with baseball fans. You can practically hear the cheering in this photo!
7. League Park as it appeared in the early 1900s
This lovely field would go on to become the site of the 1920 World Series, and its vibrant atmosphere delighted attendees.
8. The League Park grounds crew, 1932
These gentlemen are in high spirits, despite the opening of Cleveland Stadium. From July of 1932 through the 1933 season, the Cleveland Indians played at the new and sparkling Cleveland Stadium. The park’s huge outfield, however, reduced the number of home runs scored by the team, much to their dismay.
9. A vendor preps coffee and hot dogs, 1927
Hot dogs, get your hot dogs here! Even back in the day, food vendors were an essential part of the game day experience.
10. League Park as it is being razed, 1951
All great things must eventually come to an end. Though it was mostly razed, the former ticket house remains and is operated as the Baseball Heritage Museum today.
11. Music at the ballpark, 1928
Let's go Indians, let's go! Music has also been an integral part of sporting events for countless decades.
12. Fans waiting to purchase tickets, 1940
Though it was a mere decade away from its destruction, League Park still attracted crowds in the 1940s. In fact, in 1941, this stadium hosted the final game of Joe DiMaggio's famous 56-game hitting streak.
13. Swimming lessons at League Park, 1954
Following its destruction, the old stadium became a public park in the 1950s. Children continued to spend summers at League Park, enjoying a playground and taking swimming lessons on site.
14. Crowds gather outside of League Park in anticipation of a win at the World Series, 1920
Last but not least, we're going to delve into the exciting events of the 1920 World Series. This groundbreaking game was not only the first ever World Series game won by the Cleveland Indians, but it set many records. It was here that Cleveland right fielder Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam home run in the World Series, and it was here that Jim Bagby hit the first home run by a pitcher. Second baseman Bill Wambsganss scored the first and only unassisted triple play in the history of the World Series, and fans truly went wild.
Cleveland has a rich and fascinating history, particularly when it comes to our sports teams. Did you ever attend any games at League Park? What do you remember about it?
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