Not much left of Tiger Stadium but a flagpole and our memories.

I’ve stood on the field in Tiger Stadium a number of times. Several times were for stories, once was a pre-game clinic with my son and another time was to watch Kiss launch its reunion tour.

And Will and I were last at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull for the stadium’s final game in 1999.

But Saturday afternoon we stood on the field where Ty Cobb and Al Kaline played, and Trammell and Whitaker turned double plays. Gone were the fans and the stands, the bustle and noise. All that remained was the flagpole in centerfield, the infield with a somewhat tamped down mound and a grassy field slowly losing a battle to weeds.

We were in Detroit to see the Diamondbacks play the Tigers, and with some time to kill before the Comerica Park gates opened he headed over to the site of the stadium where we watched so many games together in the 1990s.

Exiting I-75 to get a closer view, we noticed that the large gate in the chain-link fence surrounding most of the site was wide open.

As with the Astrodome in October, an open gate is practically an engraved invitation to a couple baseball adventurers.

The whole area was deserted, and we decided that should a security guard appear, we’d easily see them coming.

We bravely walked out along what was the third base line. Tall weeds and some construction rubble dotted where the stands once stood, but we were surprised at how intact the playing field remained 10 years after the final out.

The infield dirt looked especially good, as if a good raking from the grounds crew would make it playable again.

We took turns standing on the mound, which was lower than it should have been but still identifiable as the spot where Jack Morris and Mickey Lolich fired fastballs.

We moved to the spot where home plate was removed in a ceremony after that final game, and the mound seemed closer than I would have imagined. I can see how intimidating it must have been for a Tiger batter to stand there and see Randy Johnson scowling and dealing.

Of course I ran the bases.

We walked out to the flagpole in center, famous for standing 125 feet tall and 440 feet from home place – and standing in fair territory.

I’m glad the city left something standing, but the pole will need some work if its going to function ever again. Some of the wires that held the flags were twisted in a pile of knots at the base. Someone scrawled a tribute to Ernie Harwell.

We explored a little more, picking up some rubble with flecks of blue paint for souvenirs, before taking a last look and heading back through the gate.

Detroit is a disaster. There have been stories lately about the city looking at things to do with the open space at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. I hope they keep the field there, even if it’s just for community games – or even for a couple fans to wander around and remember good times.

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Comment by Kurt Smith on June 19, 2011 at 5:15am

I just recently returned from a fact-finding mission for Ballpark E-Guides, and Detroit was one of the stops. Of course I stopped by Michigan and Trumbull, and it's really hard to believe that a great stadium once stood there.

 

I really hope they do something with the space that pays tribute to the memories of Tiger Stadium. I think it would be great as a Little League or instructional field.

Comment by Dave Block on June 19, 2011 at 12:25am
Dave, I really enjoyed this post. Keep it up!
Comment by Kurt Smith on February 13, 2011 at 3:39pm

Wow, this is heartbreaking. I was last in Detroit in 2002, and the whole stadium was still standing then. Quite a shock to see these pictures, even though I shouldn't really be surprised.

 

Someday I'm going to take a trip to the site where Memorial once stood in Baltimore. Love Camden Yards, but I STILL miss that old girl.

 

Great post Dave.

Comment by Rob K on July 3, 2010 at 9:21am
Dave - Thanks for bringing back my wonderful childhood memories of getting an autograph from Dick McAuliffe, watching Lolich battle Jim Palmer, and laughing with "The Bird". I am driving through the Midwest this summer with my two daughters and have tickets to the Tiger game. What a great idea to stop at Michigan and Trumball and hopefully get a chance to walk on the field that so many of my childhood heros did. Thanks again.
Comment by Jack (6) on June 26, 2010 at 9:02am
Really enjoyed reading this one.
Comment by Doug Miller (30) on June 22, 2010 at 8:31am
Nice job, Dave. I did the same thing when I was in Detroit in April. I was in Detroit in October after it had come down and they had security at the gate, but I was pleasantly surprised to see they weren't there in April!

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