A Beloved Bandbox – Tiger Stadium

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It was quaint little bandbox. A beloved bandbox that represented the evolution of the game and had seen them all – greats from Mack and Cobb to Ruth/Gehrig, DiMaggio, Williams, Bob Gibson, Reggie Jackson and Sparky Anderson just to name a few. If you mentioned the intersection to even the most casual baseball fan, chances are they would know exactly where you were talking about. Detroit’s Tiger Stadium opened in April, 1912 and housed the Tigers until 1999. The origins of the ballpark began with the incarnation of Bennett Park in 1896.

The park open in 1912. That same week, the maritime tragedy of the Titanic, occurred. During its life, it hosted three All-Star games, 1941, 1951 and 1971. The Tigers also won four World Series – 1935, ’45, ’68 and ’84. The 1984 team, in particular; started out the season at 35-5. Tiger Stadium featured a flag pole within the field of play at the centerfield “440 feet” marker. Upon relocating to Comerica Park in 2000, the original plan to take the flagpole with them. However, the ball club instead erected a different pole in the spirit of Tiger Stadium.

Lou Gehrig’s Iron-Man streak of 2,130 consecutive games played ended there on May 2, 1939.

Seating capacity was enlarged over the years. What started out as a 23,000 seat stadium in 1912 would grow to 30, 000 in 1923. During the 1930s, the park was expanded and enclosed, increasing seating to 52,346. One of the most notable features was the Tiger Stadium offered “obstructed view” seats, some of which were directly behind a steel support column; while others in the lower deck had sight lines obstructed by the low-hanging upper deck. By making it possible for the upper deck to stand directly above the lower deck, the support columns allowed the average fan to sit closer to the field than at any other major league baseball park.

Exactly 11,111 home runs were hit at The Corner. The final home run was hit up to the Right Field rooftop by Robert Fick in the stadium’s final game in September 27, 1999.

The ballpark was demolished in 2009. A grassroots community group, The Navin Field Ground Crew volunteered their time to maintain the site and the playing surface. Detroit PAL has now gained control of the site and is currently in the process of building a youth sports complex. The grass surface will replaced with artificial turf.

Despite the loss of the beloved grass surface, the historic flag pole will remain.

 

Written by: Rob Fugelseth

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