About a month ago, I finally read Tom Stanton’s The Final Season, which chronicles the news writer-publisher’s plan to see all 81 home games during the 1999 season at Tiger Stadium.
Stanton’s record of all 81 home games is inter-cut with stories of his family; painting a picture of a multi-generational love affair with a sport, a team and of course, a stadium. The author spend much of his time at the stadium talking, both famous and otherwise. He hears many of the same stories, before understanding how and why a place becomes more than just a ballpark.
I’m not sure how many fans outside of Detroit, or outside of Tiger fans more to the point, can appreciate a premise such as this. However, as Michigan native and a lifelong Tiger fan, I instantly connected with this story. Thousands, if not millions, of fans have been lucky enough to pass through the turn styles at Tiger Stadium, and therefore, can appreciate the full scope of this story. For that matter, any fan with deep feelings of any team can at least relate and find his an enjoyable read.
Recommended to any passionate sports fans; but particularly to Tiger fans.
The demolition of Tiger Stadium has begun. I’m hoping to get a few pics of it old girl myself when I go to Michigan next week. All I can say is it’s long overdue. I’m more sentimental about that old park than the average fan is, but it’s got to go. The most frustrating thing about is that it’s taken nine years to happen. In most Major League cities, old ballparks are demolished with a year or two of the team moving to their new park. Furthermore, when ballparks are torn down, there’s usually a plan in place to redevelop the area. Obviously, neither of these were true in the case of Detroit. The has resultefd in thousans, if not millions of passionate fans watching “The Corner” rot like so many other abandoned buildings in the city. I can’t blame the Tigers for this. They sold the stadium to the city over 30 years ago. The blame for this rests solely on the shoulders of the city of Detroit – but I’ll spare everybody that rant.
I could get all Field of Dream-ish and reminisce about the green grass, the overhang and the smell of hot dogs and beer, but I’ll leave that to the poets and share a few of my memories with you:
I don’t exactly how many games I attended at Tiger Stadium, dozens if I had to guess. Growing up, my family tried to make it to at least one game each season. My earliest memory of the stadium is from when I was around 5 or 6 (which would make it 1979 or 1980). I fell asleep on the way to the game and I awoke when we pulled into the parking lot. I asked my family “Where are we?” because I had never seen anything like that stadium, or the neighborhood surrounding it, in my life. Al Kaline has described Tiger Stadium as looking like “an old battleship” . I always found that description fitting.
I remember my dad snagging a Frank Thomas foul ball during the first game of a double header against the White Sox in 1990, which was when I really started to rediscover my love for the game. That day I was thinking “let’s play three!” to paraphrase Ernie Banks.
Then in 96 or 97, my brother and my father decided to go in on a 21 game season ticket package – with the understanding that it would give them priority status for seats at Comerica Park when it opened in 2000. Tickets then were pretty cheap, since the Tigers weren’t playing very well. I spent a lot of afternoons and evenings the stadium in those last few seasons.
I remember the euphoric feeling on that Sunday afternoon in June 1997 – the day after the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup; the Tiger game being almost an afterthought at that point.
On a darker note, I remember getting into my first and only car accident on the way home from a game in 1999. My little red Toyota truck was totalled, but I had no regrets about going to the game that night.
Then there was the Final Game. Dad and I had upper deck seats in left field – row 24 – the top row. To this day, Dad and I joke about how we probably got the last pair of side-by-side seats in the stadium.
By the way, if you own any Topps baseball cars from the 80s or 90s, look at how may player photos were take at Tiger Stadium – and I’m not just talking about Tiger cards. It must’ve been considered on of the most picturesque park in the game.
It’s taken some time, but I think Comerica Park has finally created some memories of its own – the 05 All Star Game, Maggs’ pennant clinching home run and the 06 World Series (I didn’t attend Verlander’s no hitter). Some long time fans complain because Comerica it’s not Tiger Stadium. It was never meant to be. It’s like anytime you move into a new home – you want things to be different than they were in the old home. Only once you’re there, you already start finding things you would have done differently in hindsight. Comerica has its drawbacks, but so did Tiger Stadium. Of course in the case of Tiger Stadium we chalk up these drawbacks as part of it’s “charm”.
Maybe in the decades to come, we’ll look at Comerica the same way
- Apparently most MLB players are NOT in favor of the “winner get home field advantage in the World Series” stipulation for the All Star Game. Let’s face it – it was knee-jerk reaction to the highly improbable conclusion of an EXHIBITION.
Before 2003, MLB used to alternate Home-field advantage in the World Series between leagues. That made soem sense before Interleague games were played during the regular season, but it wouldn’t make sense today. MLB needs to follow the lead of the NBA and NHL on this one and award home-field advantage to the team with the better regualr-season record, period.
While I’m at it, MLB needs to get rid if the “every team must have a representative” stipulation as well. I understand the league’s rationale – they want fans of every team to have some to cheer for – I just don’t agree with it.
Suggestions aside, the fact is MLB still has, by far, the BEST All-Star Game of any of the four major sports leagues.
- ESPN did a story a while back sports funerals and cemeteries. They talked about a cemetery in Germany (I think) for fans of the local football (soccer) team. Apparently, deceased Cub fans will get a chance to get in on this after-life action with a place of their own.
Now, I consider myself a big Tigers fan; but when I check out, I’d rather be buried next to my wife than the flag pole from old Tiger Stadium.