From Dave Mesrey at the Detroit Metro Times on November 5, 2014, with mention of SABR member Gary Gillette:
As a member of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, Gary Gillette fought the good fight. With the help of U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Gillette and his colleagues tried in vain to spare that historic Corktown ballpark from the wrecking ball.
Detroit development officials, of course, had other plans for “the Corner” and razed the original Navin Field configuration of Tiger Stadium back in 2009.
More than five years later, the city of Detroit is still entertaining proposals to redevelop the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Meanwhile, the city of Hamtramck is entertaining ideas from another group Gillette is involved in called the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium.
Hamtramck Stadium, which opened in 1930, was home to several Negro Leagues teams over the years, including Turkey Stearnes’ Detroit Stars, and Cool Papa Bell’s Detroit Wolves. It was also home to perhaps the greatest Little Leaguer who ever lived, Art “Pinky” Deras, who led his hometown team to victory in the 1959 Little League World Series.
The Stars left Hamtramck Stadium after the 1937 season, and the ballpark itself, after changing hands multiple times, officially closed in the mid-1990s. It’s been sitting fallow ever since.
Last summer, Hamtramck recognized the preservation efforts of Gillette’s group and, with members of Turkey Stearnes’ family on hand, unveiled a new State of Michigan historical marker commemorating the ballpark’s storied past.
Gillette, editor of the Emerald Guide to Baseball and former editor of the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, also heads up the Detroit chapter of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. The man knows his baseball.
We caught up with Gillette recently to see how the restoration effort is coming along.
Originally published: November 5, 2014. Last Updated: November 5, 2014.