Major League Baseball Park #24 out of 39
Monday, August 2, 1999
Chicago White Sox 6, Detroit 2
W– Kip Wells
L – Brian Moehler
Attendance – 26,637
Tuesday, August 3, 1999
Chicago White Sox 9, Detroit 6
W– John Snyder
L – Justin Thompson
Attendance – 24,484
Navin Field opened for American League baseball on April 20, 1912, just a week after the sinking of the Titanic. The stadium was renamed Briggs Stadium in 1938 and then, finally, Tiger Stadium in 1961. I guess Detroit fans got a new park (Comerica Park) because it was easier to find room for a new place in Detroit than it has been to find room for a new stadium in Boston -- Fenway Park opened on the same day.
The NFL Detroit Lions also played there for many years before getting their own place (the Pontiac Silverdome) in 1975.
The upper-deck roof and the vertical almost completely surround the playing field -- only the center-field bleachers are open to the Midwestern sky. A flagpole in center field was within the field of play. A concession plaza was added to the exterior of the building in 1993. Visually, though, the park wasn't all that interesting. The exterior color was a light bluish-gray and you can't see inside the park from anywhere on the square block where the building is located. The whole place made us feel like we were about to enter a giant, blue baseball fortress.
Like Fenway Park, there's been a lot of baseball history in Tiger Stadium. Six World Series. A memorable All-Star Game in 1971 (Reggie Jackson blasted a homer off the transformer over the right-field roof). 18 players in Cooperstown.
Coincidentally (and unfortunately), the city, the stadium, and the team have led parallel lives, though, since the mid-1980s. The Tigers haven't been to a World Series since 1984 (beating San Diego in five games) and they haven't reached the playoffs since 1987 (losing to Minnesota in five games). When we visited Tiger Stadium for two games in 1999, the paint was peeling in just about every place that had paint on it. I was reminded of a classic Rodney Dangerfield line from Caddyshack: "You must have been something before electricity."
While Fenway Park looked like it had been remodeled and upgraded a few times, Tiger Stadium appeared largely untouched -- except for the ravages of time and weather. The park did seem to have the biggest grandstand steps of any park I've ever seen. Each walk up and down the concrete stairs required extra effort. Were the early 20th-century residents of Detroit superhuman people? After all, it did take a ball hit over 440 feet to clear the center-field fence. I was happy to see very few advertisements in the stadium, though, and combined with the Tigers' classic home jerseys, our two games did have a very old-time feel to them. One odd pre-game gimmick was a closest-to-the-pin golfing contest. Ernie Els teed it up against two fans who had a won a contest.
The Tigers' new stadium -- Comerica Park -- was finished in 2000 and is located near the downtown area. I hope it lasts as long as Tiger Stadium and I hope the fortunes of the town and the team improve very soon. The first five pictures below should all be self-explanatory. The last one is from a museum that shows a section of an automobile assembly line.
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