Work on historic Cleveland ballpark nears finish

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Cries of "play ball" should be in the air again this summer on the site of League Park, where the Cleveland Indians played in the early 1900s and Babe Ruth hit his 500th career home run.

A $6.3 million city-funded project to restore and renovate what's left of the old ballpark on Cleveland's east side should be done by mid-July, The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/1gSMHey) reported.

"We are looking for this to be a destination, not just a ball field," said Michael Cox, Cleveland's Director of Public Works. "We're hoping to give tours."

Little remains of the ballpark that opened in 1891 when Cleveland Spiders pitcher Cy Young, now the Hall of Fame namesake of major league baseball's pitching award, threw the first pitch. The original first baseline grandstand wall and the three-floor ticket house are part of the restoration effort.

A new artificial turf field will be added in May with home plate with home plate in the same spot where it was for the Indians. The field's dimensions will be the same, too -- 460 feet from center field, 375 feet from the left-field corner, and just 290 feet down the right-field line

Bleachers will be added behind home plate. City leaders say the new field will be available for adults and hope it will host high school games. A clay ball field and paved walking path were completed last year beyond the outfield fence.

"I love that it's a replica of what was there," Cox said. "I played on that field as a kid growing up. It was great to play there, and it will be exciting to see the kids on the field again. We can teach them the historical value of League Park when they play there."

The site has a lot of history in addition to Ruth's historic 500th home run in 1929. The Indians won their first World Series at League Park in 1929, and Joe DiMaggio got the last hit there in his 56-game hitting streak in 1941. It's also where the Cleveland Buckeyes won the 1945 Negro League World Series.

The Indians played their final game at League Park in 1946, and much of the ballpark was torn down five years later.