HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – “I’ve been telling this story for almost 10 years now,” Gary Gillette said.
Gillette is a baseball historian. He knows everything and anything about the Detroit Stars, a Negro League baseball team that used to play in Hamtramck Stadium in the 1930s.
Gillette has been working for a decade to preserve the stadium to its former glory.
The first step was to get the stadium -- one of the few remaining Negro League ballparks -- on the National Register of historic places. The second step is to restore the field where Satchel Paige and Norman “Turkey” Stearnes used to play.
“We don’t want a static museum here,” Gillette said. “We want that field behind me to be a place where kids can play baseball, soccer, cricket, whatever they want to play.”
That second step requires money, so the Friends of the Historic Hamtramck Stadium, which Gillette founded, set up a one-month crowdfunding campaign.
One of the first contributors was Detroit rock star Jack White, who donated $10,000.
“It was a great gesture,” Gillette said. “Allowing us to use his name was something, too. I know he does a lot of charitable work anonymously, so allowing us to use his name meant a lot of people picked up the story.”
The story went viral and since then, the donations have totaled $24,000. If the group can get to its goal of $50,000 by April 2, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will match it with a grant, meaning that the field, once home to the stars, could shine again.
If you’d like to donate, click here.