Jump to content
  TPR Home | Parks | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram 

Tiger Stadium in Detroit finally comes down


Recommended Posts

http://detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080717/OPINION03/807170388/1129/SPORTS0104

 

The pilgrimage continues, day after day, carload after carload. They come at all hours, from the Bloomfields and the Grosse Pointes, from Detroit's east and west sides, old and young, black and white, dry-eyed and misty-eyed, all connected by an old building that's empty and falling, but in many ways, forever full.

 

It's mostly a somber processional, marked by the occasional shout of dismay from an on-looker as a mechanical claw takes another bite. Tiger Stadium has been crumbling for a while, since the last game there on Sept. 27, 1999, but now it's officially dying, and it can be agonizing to watch.

 

But they watch, we watch, in growing numbers, stopping on the I-75 service drive, standing on car hoods and straining to see over the fence, to see what's left, to remember what used to be. Is it gawking? Not really. It's reminiscing, which means the occasional tear is allowed to escape.

 

Tiger Stadium has stood, in various forms under various names, at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull since 1912, and soon it will be gone. It's disheartening that another of Detroit's one-time treasures will be reduced to trash, that a story of baseball and tradition and family will end with another vacant lot, with no clear plan for development.

 

Advertisement

 

Ernie Harwell and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy are trying desperately to raise money to preserve some element of the ballpark, and it's absolutely a worthy cause. If you have the means and harbor the memories, you should help. If you're ambivalent about saving any of her, I suggest you swing by the lot that's rapidly becoming a plot and gaze at the hole where the center field bleachers once stood, where the flagpole still stands, flying the colors.

 

From the freeway at dusk, Tiger Stadium looks like some grotesque road kill, spilling twisted metal and frayed aluminum, as clouds hover and the machines gnaw. If you have the time, if you believe that paying last respects serves the mourner as well as the mourned, come spend one more night at the Old Ballpark.

 

• • •

 

Larry Whitfield was running errands on Saturday night when the lure became too great. He turned and headed toward his favorite corner, got out of his car and just stared.

 

"The more I look, the more I talk about it, the more emotional I get," he said. "I've been coming here since the '60s. My grandmother used to bring me here for bat day. Remember bat day? Oh my God, bat day was great."

 

Whitfield, 53, from Detroit, blinked through his frameless glasses. He still has the sod from 1968, when he ran on the field after the Tigers won the American League pennant. He still has the memories of sitting in the frigid stadium with his dad, sipping hot chocolate, watching the Lions.

 

It all returns now, as the big crane swings and another chunk tumbles.

 

"I've been wanting to come by for the longest time," he said. "It's kind of sad, but I like Comerica Park. I just wish they could've done something with this, renovate it or something. It's part of our history, part of my family's history. Now it just looks spooky."

 

For a moment, there's a flash of annoyance.

 

"Why do they have to put up that plastic to block people's view? Isn't the fence good enough?"

 

Through the opening, you can see the distant blue and orange seats. You can see the light tower on the right field roof, where Reggie Jackson hit a ball during the 1971 All-Star Game. You can see once-forgotten games and fathers and mothers sitting with sons and daughters.

 

"Fond memories, man, fond memories," Whitfield said. "It's like you're losing somebody, you know?"

 

• • •

 

Jim Reno drove over from Grosse Pointe Woods with his wife and two sons, and they came not to mourn, but to reminisce. This is how it is during the final nights at the ballpark, like it is at funerals. You tell stories, you smile.

 

"My first job was right here, as a seat wiper," Reno, 51, said. "Well, I was an usher, but all we did was wipe seats. Most I ever made in tips was 50 cents."

 

His sons, James, 25, and Marc, 19, laughed. They joked about Tiger Stadium's famously daunting bathrooms with the massive urinals, where as kids they were lifted up for the first time by their dad.

 

It's funny what you remember at the end. It's funny too, while spending four hours over three nights outside Tiger Stadium, I heard only warm stories, nothing about the losing seasons or the obstructed views or the dark, narrow concourses.

 

In the dying light, all is bright.

 

"My dad saw Babe Ruth play here, right on this field," Reno said. "It's sad to see it come down, piece by piece. Couldn't they just do one big boom?"

 

His family nodded. More cars pulled up. More people wandered over.

 

"It's really shocking to look at," Reno said, "like a decaying corpse."

 

It's unfortunate Tiger Stadium never garnered the national appeal of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, but it was every bit as wonderfully distinctive, from the right-field overhang to the closeness of the seats to the field. There was an intimacy about it, despite its size. It was completely enclosed, a placid scene in the middle of a rugged city, a world suddenly, obscenely opened to the outside now, as the walls fall.

 

• • •

 

The security guard didn't want to give his name. He patrolled the sidewalk, reminding people not to climb on the chain-link fence, not to tear away the plastic. He says he's had to call the police a few times but they've stopped coming. Since the demolition began a couple weeks ago, he has caught two people inside. One was a young lady he handcuffed to a post. When he returned, she was gone, leaving the bloody cuffs behind.

 

The guard shook his head.

 

"The more they tear down, the worse it gets," he said. "I get grown men crying, begging me to let 'em get a chunk of grass or a brick. These people really love this place. It's making them sad, so just tear it down already."

 

The guard, who appeared to be in his mid-20s, admitted he didn't quite get it. He went to a few games there and he loves sports, but not enough to weep over a relic.

 

As the cars kept coming and the pleas grew more insistent, he understood a bit more.

 

"I wish I could open it up for people, but I can't," he said. "I got a job to do."

 

• • •

 

Scott Sitner, 43, clicked away, poking his camera over the fence to take random photos. They came out amazingly sharp, the grass amazingly green inside.

 

He wasn't sure he wanted to come because he had driven past many times and the old stadium saddened him. But he knew he had to see.

 

"As I pulled up, I was thinking it's time for the place to come down," said Sitner, from Birmingham. "But then you walk up and you get that feeling in your stomach and you see the hole and it's just the finality of it. It's jarring."

 

Joe Grutza and his friend, Val MacIsaac, stood nearby. They drove up from Trenton, and like many, felt compelled to visit.

 

"I don't feel sad, because right now, all the good times I had here are flooding back," Grutza said. "It would've been nice if they could've saved it, but it's time."

 

No tears?

 

"Nah, we paid our respects at the last game in '99," he said. "Only two events in my life I cried at -- when Yzerman raised the Cup and the closing of Tiger Stadium. I said my good-byes then, and I don't mind saying, I cried like a baby."

 

• • •

 

For the most part, there aren't tears, at least not yet, with one corner of the stadium knocked down. But the crowds will increase in the coming weeks and people will discover what many already have found.

 

The lump in the throat returns, no matter how long it's been gone.

 

"When I saw that hole in the wall, it was like somebody punched me in the gut," said Dan Centers, 32, of Taylor, who drove over with a couple buddies, one sporting an Olde English D tattoo on his right forearm. "I remember seeing Cecil Fielder, sitting in the bleachers with my friends. I remember just the smell of it, you know what I mean?"

 

Everyone knows what he means. It was the smell of old cigars and fresh grass and grilling hot dogs and musty bathrooms. It was the smell of tradition passed through the ages, of generations connected.

 

"I was gonna watch the All-Star Game (Tuesday night), but then I heard them talking about the nostalgia of Yankee Stadium and I said the hell with that, I'm going down to Tiger Stadium," said Ric Vivyan, 39. "This is killing me."

 

The Tigers won four World Series here -- 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984 -- and the Lions won their last championship here in 1957, when it was known as Briggs Stadium.

 

But it's not just about the games. It never really was.

 

"I'm feeling a lot of hurt right now," said Edward Lee, 60, of Detroit. "I probably spent 50 years of my life down here. One of my father's last requests was to see a game here and we did, back in '97, just before he died."

 

Lee's gaze never left the old building. He stood next to his car, the door open, but couldn't leave, not yet.

 

"I can't think of one bad thing about this place," he said. "Remember the hot dogs? Oh man, I don't even eat hot dogs, but when I came here, I had two or three, right off the grill, mustard only of course."

 

He laughed good and hard. And then he stopped.

 

"I'll never, ever forget this place. I know it's outdated, but how come in Europe, they save all their old buildings and here we tear 'em down and put in parking lots?"

 

He didn't expect an answer, and there isn't a simple one. Some tried to save Tiger Stadium but there wasn't enough money, or solid-enough plans, or enough motivation from the city or from the Tigers. And eventually, there wasn't enough time, even after a decade of dormancy.

 

On this night, the crane tore into the white aluminum and as each layer peeled away, it revealed an older layer. The mechanical claw clutched a steel beam and battered away at the siding, literally using pieces of Tiger Stadium to beat itself to death.

 

"Aw man, that's terrible, like they're making it suffer," Lee said, wincing, staring, shaking his head slowly.

 

In the fading light, the old building was succumbing, its guts spilling out. Amid the loud crunch of metal, you could hear the soft click of cameras. In the growing crowd, nothing was said, and no one turned away.

2871HCAPVRA27CA4JJEBBCAU5BOYPCAZ17IBQCA4PHLI2CAGOYODPCAGSYZLPCACYKLMMCAOZT8HQCALWJPFPCA36SH1RCAATPC26CAE7WNR6CAR3WLXXCAV6862ECAH92D0KCA142SKG.jpg.13bf750c93739e09f3a630f7dc14f27f.jpg

bilde.jpg.cc335515b54a1e5d5a3b0e79e1f01f9e.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 30
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Posted Images

It is sad seeing another one of the classic ballparks come down. I never went to Tiger Stadium, however I do recall watching games there and don't recall it looking that great in it's final years. I really just wonder if these new stadiums will stand the test of time as good as some of the old ones being taken down did. The good news is at least Fenway and Wrigley look safe for now!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a chance to see a game in 1997 against the Mets at Tigers Stadium, and I though it was a neat old place to watch a ballgame. We sat on the first deck out in left field and it was neat the way the top deck had a bit of overhang to the first level.

 

In that game, Bobby Higginson had three homers, along with three other home runs for the Tigers as they won 14-0. A blow out of a game, but I still had a great time. It is a shame to see old ballparks go, but considering the state it was in when I drove by it this past December, It was not in very good shape.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not known to many, the former home of the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Stadium, was abandoned for six years before it was finally torn down, in 1986. Knowing Detroit's hard times for the past 40-50 years, there's no haste to tear down an old building and replace it with something new.

 

Even in its final years, the Olympia was in great condition, having an intimate, on-top feel. Of course, the Red Wings were wanting a new venue at a "safer" location and also a better money-maker (something with suites).

 

I've never been in Joe Louis Arena (nor the Olympia), but JLA is very lackluster IMO, (with the fake organ music) - if it weren't for the Wings' success, they'd be more desperate for a new arena, which they probably deserve. I've seen some pages online of those hoping for a "New Olympia".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny thing...we were just talking about baseball stadiums earlier today. I knew Tiger Stadium was doomed, but it's still sad to actually see it coming down. Another classic ballpark destroyed.

 

And Shea Stadium in New York is going to be torn down, too. I didn't know that till just last week when I saw an article about Billy Joel playing there for the "last time."

 

Dodger Stadium here in L.A. will become the second oldest park in the major leagues once Yankee Stadium is torn down later this year. I'm glad to see that the Dodgers haven't jumped on the "let's build a new multi-bazillion dollar stadium" bandwagon. Theirs will be 50 in 2012, and in my opinion is still a great place to see a ball game. My first visit there was in 1970 when it was just eight years old, and I'm glad to see that its owners are putting so much into it---most recently, replacing seats to restore its original pastel color configuration.

 

And I'm going tomorrow for the game!

 

You can go here to get updates on it.

 

Eric

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shea stadium, unlike several others, needs to be torn down. That place has been a dump for a long time. I've never seen a game there, yet have never heard a good word about it.

 

A small bit of trivia, Shea was originally intended to go to the Dodgers. However things fell apart and the Dodgers went to LA, while the New York area was awarded an expansion team in the form of the Mets.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nothing to be particularly sad about since it's just been rotting for the better part of a decade, and when it was open, it was mostly just a vacant dump.

 

Tough call there, Joe. To me, it's sad to see any historical park torn down. I've always found it odd that so many other buildings in various cities across the country can get a historical preservation society label stamped on them and remain untouchable to the wrecking ball. At the same time, how can one argue that Ebbets Field, Tiger Stadium, The Polo Grounds, The Boston Garden, etc. are not an equally important piece of Americana? Heck, how many times have you heard the cliche', "That's as American as baseball or apple pie"?

 

I mean, if baseball is an American measuring stick, then why eliminate the grand places where the game became what it is today? In an era of ever-creative architecture, I can't see how some of these places can't be turned into partial museums/public parks, etc. I realize space and location is sometimes an issue, but never-the-less, to me, it's always sad to see a big part of history torn down for an inevitable shopping mall or cheap condos.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I don't really think Yankee Stadium is going to be torn down. I haven't seen anything about that. I thought they were going to turn it into a kind of museum.

 

They are tearing it down and turning the entire surrounding area into a park. This article talks all about the travesty of tearing down Yankee Stadium, this article discusses how taxpayers are financing the demolition, and this page from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation discusses the entire project.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I recall, I read somewhere that the Tigers still had one employee that "kept the lights on" at Tiger Stadium the last few years. They waited to tear it down because they kept trying to make deals for a minor league team or, for use with the Park District.

 

Does anyone remember a movie where Roy Scheider was the manager of the Tigers? I loved that movie as a kid.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And I don't really think Yankee Stadium is going to be torn down. I haven't seen anything about that. I thought they were going to turn it into a kind of museum.

 

They are tearing it down and turning the entire surrounding area into a park. This article talks all about the travesty of tearing down Yankee Stadium, this article discusses how taxpayers are financing the demolition, and this page from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation discusses the entire project.

 

Thanks for that Scott. I guess that is what I get for not paying attention.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I mean, if baseball is an American measuring stick, then why eliminate the grand places where the game became what it is today?

if ballparks were like Tiger Stadium, no one would go

 

Think about it.. after the big 94 strike, attendance was slumping, was it not? So they had to build new, flashy parks, make the game more of an entertainment value, and start to attract people who don't know was a sac fly is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first baseball game was at Tiger Stadium in 1987 Oakland vs Detroit.. of course the tigers lost lol but still what a great stadium.... Last july i drove thourgh Detroit right past Tiger Stadium... sucj a great historic site...

 

Its sad that here in America we destroy our monuments, landmarks and history.. Tiger Stadium will always be there even after the demo is done....

 

Let'a Go Marlins!!!!!!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I mean, if baseball is an American measuring stick, then why eliminate the grand places where the game became what it is today?

if ballparks were like Tiger Stadium, no one would go

You obviously never visited Boston Garden or The Orange Bowl....both were dumps that people loved.

 

Think about it.. after the big 94 strike, attendance was slumping, was it not? So they had to build new, flashy parks, make the game more of an entertainment value, and start to attract people who don't know was a sac fly is.
Yeah, that made sense for most of the concrete donuts and smaller markets. However, regarding the old time classics, Boston's ownership managed to find the right mix of modernization and classic charm without demolishing the past. And following '04 it would've been pretty easy to find any necessary funding to build a new Fenway which had been proposed.....and probably triple attendance as well.

 

I'm not saying the new wave of stadiums aren't cool, just that I'd rather see creative ways of preserving the classics. Anything is possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^I agree that this is a shame. I remember my Grandpa taking us to Tiger stadium on Willie Horton bat day. I was only 3, but the memory is still there. I still have the bat too!

 

When they remodeled Tiger stadium, my Grandpa got each one of us boys a chair from the box seats. I still have the chair also!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Deal temporarily saves part of Tiger Stadium from demolition

11 hours ago

DETROIT — A portion of Tiger Stadium will remain standing until at least next spring after a tentative deal was reached Tuesday to stave off complete demolition.

 

A non-profit organization that works with the city on economic issues and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy reached the agreement.

They are expected to negotiate a more detailed framework of financing and deadlines for the preservation effort to present to the Detroit city countil Aug. 8 for approval.

 

Part of the stadium between first base and third base will be retained and turned into a sports museum. The field also will be saved.

The preservation group has until March to raise about US$15.6 million for the renovation project.

 

Demolition of the ballpark started last month. The former home of the Detroit Tigers opened in 1912.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use https://themeparkreview.com/forum/topic/116-terms-of-service-please-read/