Review by Gary
If you thought the oldest continuous baseball site in the world was in the United States, you would be incorrect. That title belongs to Labatt Park in London, Ontario, Canada, where baseball has been played on this field since 1877, about 50 years after the town was settled. Labatt Memorial Park holds the Guinness World Record for the baseball ground in longest continual use. The founding of the London Tecumseh Baseball Club in 1868 ultimately led to the creation of Tecumseh Park in 1877 by local pioneer WJ Reid. London is 132 miles east of Detroit, Michigan and 244 miles west of Toronto, Canada, the closest major league parks to these hallowed grounds.
Labatt Park is chock full of history. The exterior of the stadium features a dozen or so placards with photos, stories, bios of seemingly every team, player or celebrity who ever set foot here. From the London Tecumsehs (1877-1890) to the London Majors (1925-present), this storied ballpark has seen Negro League teams, women's baseball & softball and other activities, including bicycle racing, Labatt soccer, football, track and field, wrestling, boxing, political rallies and civic receptions.
While the grounds themselves are ancient, the grandstand is a little newer. A flood of the nearby Thames River in 1883 destroyed the original grandstands, located near today's outfield foul lines. The Labatt Brewing Company donating a whopping $10,000 to renovate the park, as well as deeding the park itself to the City of London on December 31, 1936. Written provisions dictate that the park remain a public athletic park in perpetuity and that Tecumseh Park be renamed "The John Labatt Memorial Athletic Park." Apparently, corporate ballpark branding has been around for quiet some time.
Originally, home plate was located in today's left center field. The new grandstand was built in 1937 with stands added down the lines, first in the 1950s, and again in 1989. A newer grandstand with a fantastic high metal-screened backstop overhead was erected in 2000 and is the signature feature of this grand old venue. The roof covers 500 seats with first and third base areas for 3,500 additional fans. In total, Labatt Park seats around 5,000 people.
Seating is all first come, first serve with first comers having the option to sit in traditional stadium-style seats closest to the field. Most of the rest of the seating is metal bleachers with backs that extend down both baselines into the outfield. All seats afford their occupants stunning views of the downtown London skyline beyond the tree-lined outfield fence.
The London Majors have won 14 championships as the primary resident of Labatt Park, winning the league as recently as 2021 and 2022. The Eastern League’s London Tigers, AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, called Labatt Park home from 1989 to 1993, the only AA franchise in Canada at the time.
Fans of baseball and ballpark history should add a pilgrimage to London, Ontario to checkout Labatt Park. Whether you take in a game or check out the 1930s era clubhouse museum or just walk these historic grounds, you will be transported a place that has seen over 140 years of baseball and its history.