Stavenhagen: Saving Hamtramck Stadium: A Negro League ballpark, a changing community and a fight to reclaim history

From Cody Stavenhagen at The Athletic on August 8, 2019, with mention of SABR member Gary Gillette:

It was after 2 a.m., and Gary Gillette could not sleep. He was sitting up, scrolling around on Google Earth, scratching the sort of intellectual itch only a historian can understand.  Zoom, scroll, zoom, scroll. An aerial view of Hamtramck, Michigan — the suburb surrounded by the city of Detroit — sat burned in his monitor. In Gillette’s world, there is a subdued thrill in this process of discovery, and on this night, he was searching for a relic.

Gillette is a respected baseball historian, a co-editor of ESPN’s “Baseball Encyclopedia,” a member of the Society for American Baseball Research since 1983. As such, his job is to research, record and correct the long history of America’s most storied game. “SABR people are special,” Gillette says. “But I don’t live in my mom’s basement.”

Gillette’s indoctrination into the world of baseball research came in the late 1970s, when — long story short — a foray into baseball board-game testing led to rubbing elbows with Bill James, the godfather of baseball’s analytics movement.  Now in 2008, late at night, Gillette was looking for a forgotten structure, a link to baseball history and the larger tale of this country, too. He had recently moved to the Detroit area, and he hoped to visit the sites of all the historic ballparks nearby. That list included Hamtramck Stadium, the former home of the Detroit Stars, mainstays in the old Negro National League. The stadium was home to Turkey Stearnes, the Hall of Fame power hitter. The whole pantheon of Negro League legends — Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and many others — played there, too.

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Originally published: August 8, 2019. Last Updated: August 8, 2019.