When I moved to Howell in 1983 to take a job as the sports editor of the Livingston County Press, Lucy Road Park was the place to be on warm summer nights.
Located just east of downtown Howell, Lucy Road Park had (as I recall) four softball fields that were filled with games every night. You’d pull in off Lucy Road, and the driveway would wind its way past the various fields as you made your way into the park.
The LCP fielded a women’s softball team in the summer of 1983, and I was corralled into serving as its coach. All of our games took place at Lucy Road Park, so I was there two or three times a week. That fall, we had a co-ed team sponsored by the LCP, and I served as the team’s light-hitting leftfielder.
It was just such a cool, vibrant place – filled with activity and filled with life. I loved Lucy Road Park. I’ve been in a lot of softball complexes through the years, but there was always something special about Lucy Road Park.
Perhaps the biggest event in the park’s history took place in the summer of 1985, when the King and His Court came to Howell for a charity softball game.
The King was the legendary Eddie Feigner, perhaps the greatest fastpitch softball pitcher of all time. His “Court” consisted of three other players, and every summer, they would barnstorm the country playing charity games – four of them vs. nine of the other team.
The King and His Court came to Lucy Road Park that summer and played a game against nine Howell all-stars, and (of course) Eddie Feigner’s team won easily.
I was there covering the event for the paper, and it was amazingly fun and entertaining. The King and His Court were sort of a softball version of the Harlem Globetrotters, mixing comedy and gags with incredible softball.
I’m guessing there were 1,000 or more people who filled Lucy Road Park for that game. It was great. It was surely the high point in Lucy Road Park’s long history.
Three years later, though, the park closed for good. They discovered that the ground was contaminated by something called tetrahydrofuran, a highly flammable industrial compound. A company called M.A. Hanna Plastic Group Inc. was responsible.
It was too unsafe for the games to continue, so they closed the park for good. They sealed it off with iron gates and put up stern “No Trespassing” signs.
It took more than 20 years for the industrial clean-up to take place. And now – almost 30 years since the last softball game was played at Lucy Road Park – it’s still sitting empty.
I hadn’t been to the Lucy Road Park site for at least 30 years, but I stopped there last week. I wanted to see if the backstops and diamonds were somehow still in place. I wanted to see if the memories were still strong.
And while the backstops and diamonds were no longer there, the memories were still flowing. The park is just an empty field now – filled with dirt and grass and a few small ponds – but I could picture exactly where all the fields used to be. I remembered exactly where I used to stand when I coached the LCP women’s softball team. I remembered exactly where I was sitting when I watched the King and His Court.
To see for yourself what Lucy Road Park looks like today, check out the drone video below. And if you squint your eyes just right, you might even see the great Eddie Feigner, striking out yet another batter…