Last Roar at
Essay by Chris Edwards
the dirt and cobblestones
An origin so humble
Emerged the famous Corner
Michigan and Trumbull.
Harwell, the famed voice of the Tigers
just a building.
the outside, it looks more like a giant airport hangar than one
of the most treasured landmarks in this area. But once through the
gates, down the long corridors- a field of dreams. Do you remember
the first time?
never forget the first time I saw it," says Al Kaline. "I had to
convince the guards that I was a player- I was only 19 years old.
When I walked in, I saw the most beautiful place I have ever seen,
before or since. It was all green- the grass and seats. I'll never
in the shades we never knew existed. The sound of the crowd and
vendors. And the smell of the place- didn't the air seem fresher,
corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues in Detroit has hosted baseball
since the first game at the old Bennett park on 1896, making it
the oldest continuing home to professional baseball in the world.
the winter of 1912, the wooden Bennett Park was torn down, home
plate was moved from right field, and a renamed concrete and steel
Navin Field was built. Navin Field was expanded three times, the
last coming in 1938 when it was renamed Briggs Stadium and the ballpark
assumed the current structure that we know today.
place that has served as a connection to life during turn-of-the-century
America. Where we could visit the past. For over five generations,
a place to forget one's troubles. A healing place during depressions
and riots, where spirits could be raised, hungry for something that
could provide hope for tomorrow. A place to come together as a community.
Tigers played 6,873 regular season games at Tigers Stadium, where
they had a won-lost record of 3,764-3,090 and 19 ties. In that time,
there were only four World Series Champions; this was not a place
of baseball dynasties. Maybe that's why the ones we remember seem
so special- 1984's "Bless You Boys", the 1968 miracle team, or for
the oldtimers, the 1945 post-war victory or the 1935 team, when
the city partied through the night, a collective amnesia from the
grips of the Great Depression. This event propelled baseball into
the status of a civic religion, with the ballpark as its cathedral.
those of us on this side of the river, perhaps a trip across the
ferry to the Jos. Campeau or Walkerville docks, in times that have
been softened by memory. On a streetcar through downtown Detroit
to the old ballpark. Years later, we'd travel by car or bus to a
park that was always closer in proximity for us than for most Detroiters.
Lions played football here, boxing matches were contested, opera
and rock concerts performed, Mandella dropped in on his Freedom
tour. For a people who had been through personal struggle, Mandella's
visit to the corner joined Detroiters in celebration. Another moment
that proved this was much more than a baseball park- it was a place
that defined the city.
this has always been a place for baseball, a mythical game that
so succinctly defines the American spirit- a game of heroes- Cobb
and Kaline, Kell and Crawford, Greenberg and Gibson. Tiger Stadium
was one of the last bastions of an era that has almost completely
disappeared- a time when it was a game, not a business, before the
mass and crass commercialization of a sports machine that feels
compelled to tell us when it is time to cheer.
two of these parks will carry the old tradition into the next century-
Wrigley Field in Chicago, probably the purest baseball park left
on the planet and Boston's Fenway Park- on the endangered species
list. The Cubs are famously stubborn in their traditions- the team
bans advertising signs on the field and features ivy against its
outfield wall. Wrigley has less than 40 sky boxes in an age when
many clubs claim 100 luxury boxes are essential to help financially
support a team; it is a huge tourist draw. But Boston's Fenway Park
will probably be toast in the next five years.
they're just buildings˜
are these places so important? And why do we feel a pang when they
are taken away? Notably, the crowds on the final day at Tigers Stadium
booed whenever the new "Comerica" Park was mentioned (shamefully,
the new park won't even be called Tigers!)..
the end, it is important to note that baseball is now a huge business.
Players' salaries have changed the entire game, resulting in the
need for owners to generate staggering sums of money every year.
New parks serve that purpose, with their corporate boxes and sponsorships.
And in 100 years, maybe they'll be saying: "Isn't it a shame they're
tearing down that old building- Comerica Park."
find their nostalgia in the wierdest ways. For some it's the Bleachers,
the hard benches in centrefield where you could a get seat for $3.50
during the magical summer of 1984. I spent 25 games as a "Bleacher
Creature" that year, in a place we lovingly called "The Beach".
Who can forget the notorious men's trough-like urinals? When it's
crowded it feels like a cattle call. Surprisingly, for many men
this experience remains a vivid memory of their trip to Tigers Stadium!
Thrills and Voices Heard
ghosts of the great players who ever played here- I felt they were
pushing you. You could almost hear Ty cussing you at. It was a thrill
just to stand out there- I tried to continue what they started.
Those ghosts will be moving to the new place because baseball is
a continuing legacy of their spirit.
Darrell Evans, member, 1984 world champion
that one particular year (1984) it was like a dream come true˜ they
don't make them like this place anymore.
Alan Trammell, member, 1984 world champion
play in the next century you need a different outlook on the sport
of baseball. You need a financially viable franchise to compete.
Bill Freehan, member, 1968 world champion
was as close to a perfect day as you can get.
Lance Parrish, member, 1984 world champion
fans think about Tigers Stadium they think about the people they
were here with.
Jack Morris, member, 1984 world champion
greatest thrill was to be on that team that won in 1945- this place
will always be special for me.
Billy Pierce, member, 1945 world champion
of the nice things about getting old is you forget a lot of things.
Dick Tracewski, member, 1968 world champion
into Comerica Park I hope some of those old memories don't die.
Dan Petry, member, 1984 world champion
those days, the crowd didn't need to be prompted- they knew enough
about the sport.
Gates Brown, member, 1968 world champion
All I've been
thinking about are the ones in my baseball family that aren't here
Willie Horton, member, 1968 world champion
They told me:
watch this kid in leftfield (Al Kaline) - he is going to be the
best you ever saw.
Gordie Howe, hockey legend
The stadium is
coming to an end but there are great memories here. Even though
they are moving to a new facilities it will always be the Tigers.
Cecil "Big Daddy" Fielder
long to all that was here but good things must come to an end.
The Tiger Room Staff
to Border Cities