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Effort Seeks To Restore Negro Leagues Stadium In Hamtramck

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HAMTRAMCK (WWJ/AP) - A renewed effort is taking place to restore Hamtramck Stadium, a home for Negro Leagues baseball that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gary Gillette, president of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium and baseball historian, is leading fundraising to finance the project. He said it might cost between $250,000 and $600,000 to repair the former home of the Detroit Stars.

“It is one of only a handful. Depending on how you count them, there’s about six major Negro Leagues ballparks still standing in the U.S.,” Gillette told WWJ’s Chrystal Knight. “There are very few left and very few that could be renovated like this one, with the adjacent field.”

The stadium in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 and the Michigan Historical Commission has approved a historical marker for the site. A ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 14 at the stadium.

Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center, said the state’s Historical Commission believes in preserving the stadium’s legacy.

“It tells a story that not everyone knows about the Negro Leagues,” Clark said. “It played a very important role in Detroit’s history. In those years where professional baseball was still segregated, this is one of these stadiums that still exists.”

The grandstand and field date to 1930 and are located in Veterans Memorial Park. Joyce Stearnes Thompson, daughter of Stars player Norman (Turkey) Stearnes, recently toured the site and tried to imagine her father playing there.

“Thousands of black fans went there to cheer for their teams and this was one of the only places they could do it and one of the few places they could play,” she said.

Her father played for the Stars from 1923-31. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, years after his two decade-long career and 21 years after his death.

Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski said she has been watching the project unfold over several years and is excited it finally might happen.

“The living history that the stadium still embodies, we’re learning ourselves,” Majewski said. “There’s so much that went undocumented.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help preserve Hamtramck Stadium or making a donation to the effort may contact Gillette by email at GGillette@247Baseball.com or by telephone at 313-331-3423.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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