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For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age.
Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida International League teams, Miami Stadium was an initial rarity thanks to its high-arch cantilevered roof over the grandstand.
For decades, the venue hosted spring training for the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Dodgers. A team called the Miami Marlins played there as a Minor League Baseball club in the 1950s. Baseball legends inlcuding Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Joe DiMaggio ran its bases. In the 1970s, major rock groups like the Eagles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac played concerts on its field.
The ballpark, like the also-demolished Orange Bowl in Little Havana, which was home for the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes football teams, was a symbol of sports in South Florida.
In 1987, the 9,000-seat ballpark was renamed Bobby Maduro Stadium in honor of the late Cuban baseball entrepreneur who owned the Havana Sugar Kings.
But a few years later, after big league teams left, the stadium began falling into disrepair. Miami tore it down in 2001 to make way for the Miami Stadium Apartments, a 336-unit affordable-housing project, which, until Tuesday, was the only evidence of the landmark that once stood on these grounds.
Super fan Abel Sanchez raised $2,500 through a GoFundMe campaign to create and install a historic marker on the site. On Tuesday, Sanchez saw the placement of his marker at the old site. On Saturday, at about 3 p.m., the city will host a simple dedication ceremony, Sanchez said.
In June, Lewis and Elizabeth Swezy, the owners of Miami Stadium Apartments, 2301 NW 10th Ave., kicked in $900 to bring Sanchez to his $2,500 goal after reading an article in Miami New Times about his endeavor.
“We are honored to help [Abel] reach his goal,” Elizabeth Swezy wrote in a post. “When Lewis purchase [the] stadium it had already be shut down by the city of Miami. Lewis said, ‘I felt really bad tearing down the stadium. You could not have grown up in Miami and not had [an] attachment to the Miami Stadium.’ We are looking forward to having the Historic Marker placed on the property.”
Built by former Cuban Minister of Education José Aleman, with money funneled from the Cuban Treasury, the stadium was a half-million-dollar monument to Miami’s big-league dreams, the Miami Herald reported in 2003, two years after the ballpark was demolished.
The stadium may have had a premature end, it was still around much longer than Miami Arena in Overtown. The original home of the Miami Heat made it to 20 years when it was demolished in 2008 in favor of AmericanAirlines Arena, just a couple miles to the east on Biscayne Bay.
Miami Stadium was home to minor league teams the Miami Sun Sox (1949-1954), the old Miami Marlins (off and on from 1956 to 1988), the Miami Orioles (1971-1981), the Miami Amigos (1979) and the Gold Coast Suns (1989-1990).
Fans’ greatest memories, however, revolved around the stadium as host for two Major League Baseball teams for spring training — the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1950 to 1958, and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990.
“A healthy portion of my childhood was spent at Miami Stadium,” Sanchez, 44, said in his fundraising pitch. “Back in the ’80s I saw countless games there and even ended up as an Orioles spring training bat boy, clubhouse kid. It has been 16 years. A historic marker is both well-deserved and long overdue.”