Lucey: The downfall and resurgence of Cleveland’s League Park

From SABR member Bill Lucey at The National Pastime Museum on November 13, 2014:

The beginning of the end for League Park can be traced back to November 1928, when Cleveland voters approved the financing for the construction of a colossal $2.5 million downtown multipurpose stadium on the Lakefront.

Ground was officially broken on June 24, 1930; and the stadium opened for business on July 1, 1931. The Indians played their first game at the new facility on July 31, 1932, and wound up playing the entire season there in 1933.

But the change of venue did not bode well for gate receipts.

In their book, League Park: Historic Home of Cleveland Baseball 1891–1946, Ken Krsolovic and Bryan Fritz report that Indians players began referring to Cleveland Municipal as “Cleveland Morgue” for its low attendance. The Tribe drew more than 40,000 fans only twice during the 1933 campaign. Overall, their attendance was down 80,000 from the previous year, and nearly 100,000 less than the final season at League Park in 1931. The Tribe’s poor performance in 1933 was a further letdown, as they finished 75–76, their worst season in five years.

The Indians returned to League Park in 1934 with minor facility upgrades, including 1,000 additional seats; they then began journeying between the two venues for the next 13 years.

The other fatal blow to League Park’s future came on May 24, 1935, when the Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2–1 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. It was the first night game in Major League Baseball. League Park was a facility without lights.

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Originally published: November 13, 2014. Last Updated: November 13, 2014.