The Pittsburgh Crawfords’ Greenlee Field, built in 1932, has often been said to be the “first African American owned stadium in the Negro Leagues” (as its state marker has it), or the “first black-built and black-owned major league baseball field in the United States” (as some other sources have it). As it turns out, several other, older ballparks fulfilled one or both requirements: Lewis Park in Memphis (opened in 1922), Central Park in Pittsburgh (opened in 1920), and Giants Park in St. Louis (opened in 1919), were all built on the initiative of African American businessmen and controlled by them or by the black-owned baseball clubs they housed. And, while I don’t know the architects or contractors for Lewis Park or Giants Park, Central Park was, like Greenlee Field, designed and constructed by a black architect (more on this soon).
Tate Field in Cleveland, opened in 1921, was yet another park that belongs to this group. The Tate Stars, run by shirt shop proprietor George J. Tate, had been around for a few years when, in 1920, he convinced a group of investors to back an effort to attain league status.
Tate and company hired Candy Jim Taylor from the Dayton Marcos as player-manager and acquired five acres of land on Beyerle Road. The man they chose to build the park was a carpenter and contractor named George Roven Hooper (1880-1958), who was born in Canada to American parents—one might hazard a guess that his family had been fugitive slaves who fled to Canada before the Civil War.
Here, courtesy of Kevin Johnson, is a partial view of the park from a Sanborn fire insurance map:
(The street in the bottom right corner is Sykora Rd.)
Tate Field opened on June 4, 1921, with a game against the Pittsburgh Keystones (another team with its own park), Cleveland winning 8 to 3.
The park played host to the Tate Stars for three seasons, including one year (1922) as a full member of the Negro National League, finishing sixth. After the 1923 season the Tate Stars fell apart, to be replaced by a new team, run by Sol White, called the Cleveland Browns. The Browns retained Tate Field, but the name was changed to Hooper Field after its builder (perhaps reflecting Hooper’s ownership stake in the ballpark and/or the team).
The Browns lost their NNL franchise for 1925, and Hooper Field played host to several independent pro or semi-pro teams that season before the city again mustered up NNL entries for 1926 and 1927, the Elites and Hornets, respectively. Both played in Hooper Field.
In 1928 the Cleveland Tigers decided to try a change of venue, moving to Luna Park. Hooper Field still existed as late as 1932, but the Cleveland Cubs (1931) used Cleveland Stadium and Cleveland Hardware Field (E. 79th and Kinsman), and the Cleveland Red Sox rented League Park in 1934. Today a golf course occupies the space where Hooper Field used to stand.