Greenville players ‘earned passage’ to play at Black Field

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 1:16 pm on Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Greenville Yellow Jackets take the field in 2007.

When Carl Blumburg played football for Greenville High School on Black Field in the mid 1950s, there wasn’t much else to compare the field to throughout the state of Michigan.

He remembers a field that offered a certain closeness to the fans that couldn’t be matched anywhere else.
“At the time, when I played football for Greenville, Black Field was one of the best fields to play on,” Blumberg said. “The closeness, the bowl atmosphere, the proximity to the original high school and the nearby baseball field (which is now the parking lot) — all of those things made it a very special place to play football.”

Blumberg said he can remember practicing on that field every Thursday night under the lights to prepare for evening games and become acclimated with the lights.

“Every game I had butterflies getting ready to play on that field,” he said. “The excitement of the game was always there for me at Black Field. It’s a feeling that I will never forget. It’s been more than 50 years since I’ve played there, but you don’t lose those feelings and emotions from playing on that field.”
Current Greenville High School Athletic Trainer Jeff Day, who played for Greenville in the 1970s, developed a desire to play on Black Field a very early age.

“Kids grew up playing in their backyards,” Day said. “I can remember like yesterday how we used to pretend we were those guys that played on the varsity football field. That was the gig: You went to Black Field on Friday night to watch the guys that were your backyard heroes.”

But according to Day, playing on Black Field was a privilege that had to be earned.

“It was a passage into something that was very special, to be able to play high school football and have the privilege to play on that field,” Day said. “That field was reserved for high school football. There was some mystic to it. It was special, when you walked out there you had earned the passage to be able to play on that field.”

Every game that Day has worked at Black Field as an athletic trainer, he has paced the south sideline as the team moved up and down the field all night long. As a result, every Friday night, Day was given a constant reminder of one of his favorite elements of Black Field.

“I have so many memories, almost 500 games down there,” Day said. “But for me, Black Field, being the unique monolith that it is, awkwardly ran east to west. I always stood on the south sidelines facing north. I always looked at those steps in the northeast corner. They’ll forever, to me, be my vision of Black Field.

“When I played the bus pulled up to the field and we came down those steps,” Day continued. “It was a grand entrance to a grand field that has been there for so long. We were fully dressed and there was no locker room, but as you walked down those steps you could hear the metal spikes go ‘clickety-clack, clickety-clack,’ all of us, two by two, going down those stairs. It was a cool sound. After the game we’d walk back up those stairs. It was a special way to begin and end every game at that field.”

When Blumburg looks back, he has memories of not only playing football, but playing baseball near Black Field as well. The varsity baseball field originally located where the current parking lot sits east of the field.

The baseball field was used until a new field was built along with the current high school on Hillcrest Street.

“It was an oddly shaped field,” Blumburg said. “Home plate was located in the southwest corner of the current parking lot. Down right field it was only about 230 feet. Anything from the right field foul line to what is now the driveway to the parking lot was a ground rule double. The fence went to the base of the hill. Left field was a somewhat standard 310 feet.”

But like the gritty surface of Black Field, Blumburg said teams were always in for a rough outing when they came to play baseball at Greenville on a field that was not meant for those who took the game lightly.

“The playing surface, it was a hard, clay base with no gravel or light dust,” he said. “It made you pay attention and keep your eye on the ball, because any hop that came at you was a hard, nasty hop. There was no stone dust like they use today. The moment that it turned sunny and hot, it got rock hard. But when you have good baseball teams, which we had in my day, the facilities weren’t that important. But we probably had an advantage because it was a nasty field to play on and we were always ready for it.”

Although both Day and Blumberg enjoyed their time and memories collected while playing on and watching games at Black Field, they both agreed that the time is right to say goodbye and move on to the new stadium located behind the high school.

“It’s time to advance with the times,” Blumberg said. “Whatever emotions I or anyone else might have about losing Black Field as the place that you played on, no one can take those feelings and memories away from playing there. It doesn’t matter whether it was Black Field. But more importantly, that it was for Greenville High School. That should be more important. The new facility will be an awesome one and we should take pride in our facilities.”

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