LEAGUE PARK was a venue at the corner of East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue that hosted sports events including baseball, football and boxing. The first ballpark at the site was built by FRANK DEHAAS ROBISON, owner of the CLEVELAND SPIDERS on land served by his streetcar line.The first baseball game was played there on 1 May 1891 before approx. 9,000 fans, with CY YOUNG pitching for the Spiders. The park had wooden stands on one level and also served as a picnic ground for baseball fans who arrived early to watch batting practice. After the Spiders were contracted following the 1899 season, the ballpark became home to the new Indians of the American League. The original wooden ballpark was replaced by a steel-and-concrete park, one of the first ballparks designed by OSBORN ENGINEERING, for the 1910 season. Once again, Cy Young was the starting pitcher for the Cleveland team for the first game. A second level of seats was added and boxes became available to increase the ballpark’s capacity to around 27,000. The park was the scene of the first and only unassisted triple play in baseball history and the first WORLD SERIES grand slam, both of which occurred during Game 5 of the 1920 series. ADDIE JOSS threw a perfect game there in 1908, and after his untimely death in 1911, League Park hosted a benefit game for his family, pitting the Indians against a team of American League all-stars, a forerunner to the All-Star Game we know today. In 1936 BOB FELLER pitched his first professional game there, and the 56th and final game of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak was at League Park.
The CLEVELAND INDIANS played fewer games at the park after the CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL STADIUM was built in 1931 but returned there (except for Sunday and holiday games), in order to reduce costs and to improve the team's batting average, which had plummeted in the larger stadium. The Indians used League Park until BILL VEECK moved the team to Cleveland Stadium full-time following the 1946 season. League Park also was the home of the 1945 American Negro World Series champion CLEVELAND BUCKEYES, and the CLEVELAND RAMS played professional football games there during the 1940s, including their NFL championship season of 1945 (but the NFL title game was played at Cleveland Stadium in anticipation of larger crowds). The BROWNS never played at League Park, but used it as a practice field into the 1960s. The city of Cleveland bought the field in 1951. The deteriorating stands were torn down and the area was converted to a playground. A portion of the outfield was also used as a swimming pool. In 1979 the site was declared a Cleveland landmark and won listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2014, the new League Park was unveiled, the subject of a $5 million renovation. The field is now covered with artificial turf and available for use through the city of Cleveland, and the building at the corner that at one point served as the Indians’ team and ticket offices is now home to the Baseball Heritage Museum.
Updated by Vincent Guerrieri
Jedick, Peter. League Park (1978).
———. Cleveland: Where the East Coast Meets the Midwest (1980).