With the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, you can bet you’ll see plenty of shots of the old Tiger Stadium site before and during the games. The grandstand may be gone, but the ballpark lives on.
Go to Michigan and Trumbull and almost any day you’ll find someone tossing a ball, stepping in the batters’ box or just strolling across the same field where Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Al Kaline played. Yes, the grandstand is long gone, thanks to some shocking ineptitude from Detroit leaders, but the playing field is intact, with a bevy of volunteers arriving regularly to trim the grass and pick up the trash.
What Detroit did to Tiger Stadium was absolutely criminal: tearing down a 90-plus-year-old historic facility in the hopes a big-box retailer would build on the site was a terrible decision, especially when there was money from the feds and energy from volunteers like Ernie Harwell to turn the original Navin Field grandstand into a baseball museum and a working ballpark. (We’re not going to let Mike Ilitch off the hook: we’ll give him props for investing in Detroit when the city needed a shot in the arm, but leadership from the Tigers could have saved the ballpark.) Right about now, we’re guessing, Corktown residents would love to have another attraction to bring folks to a rising part of town. Instead, we have a lovely playing field, little hope of landing a developer, and an uncertain future.
There’s a lot of baseball history in Detroit, between Tiger Stadium and Hamtramck Stadium. Time for someone in the city or at the state level to step up and say these gems are worth preserving in some manner.
Images courtesy Ripken Design.
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