War Memorial Stadium Will Close After 50 Years

Associated Press

War Memorial Stadium, home to championship football and baseball's mythical Roy Hobbs, celebrates its golden anniversary this fall by closing.

The bowl that locals call "The Rockpile" has had baseball players such as Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, Jon Matlack, Ray Burris, Tony Pena and Dave Dravecky play in it. Football stars O.J. Simpson and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White did, too.

But next season, the Buffalo Bisons, the Cleveland Indians' Class AAA farm team and the sole tenants of the stadium, are scheduled to move into new, $56.4 million Pilot Field downtown.

The new ballpark, whose 19,500 seats could be expanded to nearly 40,000 if the city gets major league baseball, will feature a symmetrical playing field, a stylish exterior and ample fan accomodations. All of those will be new to the city's baseball fans, who have endured War Memorial's rust-streaked, crumbling concrete facade, its short right field, and its antiquated, inadequate restrooms.

"This park gets older every year," said Joe Ryan, president of the American Assn. in which the Bisons belong. "It's reached the point where you just wouldn't want to play in it."

Despite its decaying state, War Memorial was used as Knights Stadium in the movie version of Bernard Malamud's novel "The Natural." The 1984 production starred Robert Redford as Hobbs, a mysterious home run hitter of the 1930s.

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