By Ian Perrotta
The baseball stadium at Veterans Park is seeking approval, and so far it’s getting it.
In late December, the committee working to save the stadium received word from the State Historic Preservation Office that the preliminary application for historical designation of the stadium was approved. It’s now working to complete the final application and hopes to have it completed by the September review board.
Though it was just the first step toward getting the stadium placed on the National Register of Historic Places, committee member and historical preservationist Rebecca Binno Savage said that the preliminary application was crucial in determining whether or not the process would go further.
Explaining that both the state and federal processes for historical designation are combined, she noted that its approval was important because in Michigan the coordinator has very high standards, and, as a result, few applications that make it past him are later rejected.
“What that means is that the stadium is eligible for national designation,” she said. “The word eligible is an important designation on its own, because it means that if a developer wants to do any work on the stadium, it must first be studied.”
The next step is to turn in the full application. Though there isn’t a set deadline for this, the board that decides which applications are approved meets only three times a year – in January, May and September. The target is to be ready by September.
Previously, the goal was to turn in the application by May. However, after the committee received word that another committee was working on a project to designate Hinchliffe Stadium – a Negro League stadium in New Jersey – as a National Historic Landmark, it decided to wait in order to look at their application.
The delay was encouraged by Binno Savage, who said that designation as a National Historic Landmark was the highest and most important rating a historical site could achieve. Her belief is that the Hinchliffe Stadium application could both provide additional information for Hamtramck’s application as well as serve as a guideline for a future National Historic Landmark application of its own.
“What’s important about this is that it gives us something to go by,” she said.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news that came out of the Hinchliffe nomination. In their application they claim there are 14 home sites where Negro League ball was played – rather than five, the number used by the Hamtramck committee – which is a fact that baseball author and historian Gary Gillette disputes.
Gillette, who is also working on the Hamtramck committee, maintains that there are only five remaining home sites that are historically significant. He says that despite the fact that the last Negro League folded in 1961, by 1955 many of the league’s best players had already been integrated into Major League Baseball. By including sites from this era, as well as other places where teams may have played only a few times, Gillette says it’s easy to artificially inflate the amount of places that are historically important. But regardless of that fact, he is absolutely positive that the stadium in Veterans Park is of the utmost significance.
“This is a field for a team during an important era in the Negro League. The players were of Major League Caliber and the Detroit Stars were a significant team,” he said. “Trust me – this is much more important than Hinchliffe Stadium.”