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Kansas City's Municipal Stadium

22nd and Brooklyn of old
22nd and Brooklyn as it appears today.

Every Lou Gehrig fan needs to memorize the following location: East 22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. Gehrig played baseball here on June 12, 1939 -- playing baseball for the very last time. To fully appreciate Gehrig's last game, its important to understand the situation and the rich history of the field he played on. As with Gehrig, the field was important in baseball history, but was eventually overshadowed.

This field in discussion is most widely recognized the now-deceased Municipal Stadium, a desegregated playground of the Negro Leagues' Monarchs, the minor leagues' Blues, major league's Royals, and the Chiefs football team. Opened in 1923 as a simple, one-level-grandstand baseball park, it was first christened with the name Muehlebach Field after the builder. Between then and its demolition, it had one major remodeling sabbatical, a few name changes, and many historical moments.

Between 1937 and 1943 the field went by the name Ruppert Stadium after the Yankees' owner (Gehrigs check signer) Colonel Jacob Ruppert. Ruppert had farmed some of his most promising prospects out with the Blues, as the Kansas City team was known at that time. With Ruppert's death in 1943, the stadium was re-named to Blues Stadium. The Yankee farming continued. Big shots such as Mantle, Berra, and Maris played in Kansas City.

For many years, Blues Stadium was the place to be to watch not only future MLB stars, but also the legends of the Negro Leagues thanks to the pinnacle team the Monarchs. God-in-man forms like Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Buck O'Neil all stamped the dirt in Kansas City's stadium until the league ceased in 1955. It was at this point that the stadium was given its most widely recognized name, Municipal.

Municipal was also the place to be for non-sports events; the Beatles played a show in Municipal Stadium in 1964.

But back to those eager Gehrig fans reading this. For you Municipal Stadium had one of the biggest heart tugs of Gehrigs life -- his last appearance in a Yankee lineup. Contrary to the record books, the last game didn't happen in Yankee Stadium. It happened in a comparatively small stadium with very little aesthetic appeal smack dab in the heart of the country.

Gehrig and the rest of the '39 Yankees stopped by Kansas City on June 12 to play against their farm hands, the Blues, in an exhibition game. Gehrig played that afternoon game, headed to the Mayo Clinic for testing the next day, was diagnosed with ALS 6 days later, and never played baseball again.

The record books don't count this game, as it was only exhibition. Even the Baseball Hall of Fame contends that his last game was April 30 against the Senators at Yankee Stadium. Regardless, the thing that should matter most is that he was playing baseball for the last time. And he was playing on ground doomed to be teetering on obscurity.

For all the history within its walls, Municipal Stadium lasted only until 1975, when it was torn down by the city to re-route fans to the modern, multimillion-dollar Truman Sports Complex on the east side of town.

Today all that remains of Municipal Stadium is the plot of land, which, save for a community garden in one section, is mostly overrun with sunflowers and weeds. On the very southeast tip of the plot is a mini memorial park of sorts. Mother Natures tangles are separated from the "park" by a rusty chain link fence. On the spot where an entrance to the stadium used to be, the park consists of a manicured yard with small trees and two tidy benches flanking the actual memorial which is quite reminiscent of an architects desk.


The memorial tells the tale of Municipal, displays the orientation of the playing field to the surrounding city streets, and highlights the most memorable events that took place on the ground beyond the chain link. Fourth (appropriately, as he was fourth in the lineup) on the list of events is the one where Gehrig played his last game.

Standing there in the mini park, staring into the wild greenery, it makes you wonder where Gehrig walked. It makes you wonder if that plot of land could still be the desegregated playground it once was, with the ghosts of players past gaming away unseen. You find yourself wishing that things would go Field of Dreams style and suddenly images of your heroes engrossed in a pick-up game appear because you believe in them. With help from the memorial, you can guesstimate where first base line was and stare longingly.

Standing there, looking at where this incredible home of wonders used to be, it feels like you just missed out on the party; like you were two lottery numbers short of a jackpot.

True, visiting this memorial is not nearly as romantic as being inside Yankee Stadium's home locker room, and, very true, the destruction of Municipal may not have been as devastating as that of Ebbet's, but being on the ground Gehrig and so many other legends were once on is moving. Especially for those fans who would have been there on June 12, 1939, had they had the chance.

Visiting Municipal's grave is rather disappointing if you don't know the history of the land. On the hem of Kansas City's downtown area, it's not really a place to walk around by yourself, so the tourist-attraction power is barely on the scale. But in all fairness the memorial is not located in the heart of Compton. The city has done fine in putting a memorial marker in the phantom threshold of Municipal, but for such a vital section of an historically baseball town, its a bit disappointing to wind through the city's rough edges just to find a patch of grass and a decorated architect's desk.

Take it as it comes, though; there seems to be no push in KC to revamp the site of Municipal. Gehrig may have agreed with this, seeing as how even his birthplace wasn't perserved. And his fans know well how to appreciate such sentiments of simplicity as Municipals mini memorial park.

As a die hard Gerhig fan, it's easy to make some connections between Gehrig and Municipal that, though maybe a bit reaching, seem to show the fates at work. For instance, the same year Gehrig started his baseball career, Municipal (Muehlebach) Stadium opened (1923). For certain, the shared name of the street Municipal resided on and the borough of the city that Gehrig was born in cannot be overlooked. The stadium held the name of Gehrig's big boss, Ruppert, for 2 years before Gehrig retired until 2 years after he died. Both the stadium and the man would eventually become a remnant of memory and lore of a time when baseball was played for the sake of baseball. And, of course, the most important connection between man and field, the last game.

Kaden gazes a la Ray Kinsella at where right field used to be in KC's Municipal Stadium.

Written by S. Kaden, 2002