Miami Stadium is long gone — but a baseball fan won’t let you forget it

In this 1998 file photo, Warren Jones and Brenda Lipford clean up the front of the Miami Baseball Stadium, aka Bobby Maduro Stadium. The stadium was home to the Baltimore Orioles for many years.
In this 1998 file photo, Warren Jones and Brenda Lipford clean up the front of the Miami Baseball Stadium, aka Bobby Maduro Stadium. The stadium was home to the Baltimore Orioles for many years. EL NUEVO HERALD FILE

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.

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.

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 a crew from Turin Construction place his marker at the old site. On Saturday, at about 3 p.m., Sanchez, donors and officials who helped install the sign, will host a simple dedication ceremony, Sanchez said.

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 including 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 video for Journey’s clip “Faithfully” features shots of lead singer Steve Perry and keyboardist Jonathan Cain on stage at the Miami Stadium from the 1983 Frontiers Tour.

“My first concert. I celebrate the anniversary every year,” Miami musician Tony Landa said on a Facebook post. “In the official ‘Faithfully’ video, there is a shot of Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain on stage at Miami Baseball Stadium seen at 3:06-3:09, followed by the shot of the tour bus’ side view mirror driving east on 395.”

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.

Abel Sanchez FB
Abel Sanchez Courtesy Abel Sanchez Facebook

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.”

Miami StadumMarker
The Miami Stadium Historical Marker was installed on the site of the former ballpark, now an apartment complex, at 2301 NW 10th Ave, in Miami. Abel Sanchez

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, but 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 of miles to the east on Biscayne Bay.

Miami Stadium Abel Sanchez
Abel Sanchez sits in front of the Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium in 2001 before the baseball park was torn down to make way for affordable housing in Miami. Sanchez used this image on his GoFundMe campaign to raise $2,500 to install a historic marker on the site. Courtesy Abel Sanchez

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.”

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen