On Tuesday the city of Hamtramck adopted a resolution naming the field at Hamtramck Stadium for Turkey Stearnes. The field’s official name is now Norman “Turkey” Stearnes Field at Historic Hamtramck Stadium.
Deadspin recently posted a story by Joseph Heller about the history and renovation of the stadium, which is one of just five Negro Leagues stadiums still standing.
Vanessa Rose stands at the ready in center field. In a half-crouch with her glove-hand resting on one knee and her throwing-hand resting on the other, she stares in at home plate as the rock star Jack White digs his cleats into the batter’s box.
The fact that Rose is facing a 12-time Grammy-winner is thrilling enough for the 36-year-old public high school teacher and basketball coach from the westside of Detroit. But more magical is that she’s standing in the footsteps of her famous grandfather, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, who played center field for the Negro League Detroit Stars here in 1930 and ’31, and again in ’37.
The field has seen better days. The ground is uneven, the basepaths faded, and behind the White Stripes and Raconteurs frontman is a hulking and rusted out structure in which homeless people regularly seek shelter. But Rose can see the potential — she can imagine what her grandfather would have seen nearly a century ago: The Hall of Famer Josh Gibson at the plate, in the uniform of the Homestead Grays, and a newly minted grandstand teeming with thousands of African Americans recently emigrated from the Jim Crow South and dressed in their Sunday best.