If it was up to the boy mayor and his Cass Tech lieutenants, they’d probably steal away in the dead of night and plant the implosives themselves, and depress the plunger before anyone could stop them. Down it would all come, and the matter of what to do with Tiger Stadium would be over with, once and for all.
I really don’t blame them.
There was the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan. The first field of Willie Mays. The spot of the Shot Heard ‘Round The World. The teams used to enter the field from a steep set of stairs in dead center field. It was by those stairs that Mays robbed Vic Wertz of an extra-base hit in the 1954 World Series. Only maybe the most famous defensive gem in postseason history.
The Giants moved away from New York after the ’57 season. Off to San Francisco they went, leaving the Polo Grounds vacant. The impatient New Yorkers wasted little time in turning the field of Ott, Hubbell, Mays, and Thomson into a brand new set of apartment housing.
The Polo Grounds, Manhattan
There was Ebbets Field, across the river in Brooklyn. Branch Rickey’s Dodgers called it home. Da Bums. Announcer Red Barber used to say that when the Dodgers lost, there were a lot of suppers that went cold and uneaten that evening. Ebbets Field, where Jackie Robinson broke the ancient color barrier. Where Roy Campanella blocked the plate. Where Gil Hodges hit home runs. And where the Dodgers played many a World Series themselves, usually losing to the Damn Yankees.
But when the Dodgers joined the Giants in the venture out west, to Los Angeles, in time for the 1958 season, Ebbets Field’s fate was sealed. It, too, was being battered by the medicine ball before long – thumped until its concrete crumbled and the structure came crashing down onto the weeds it housed.
Ebbets Field, Brooklyn
There was Sportsman’s Park, in St. Louis. Stan “The Man” Musial played there. Did you know that of Musial’s 3,630 hits, exactly half were made on the road, and half at home? Half at Sportsman’s. But when the Cardinals moved into Busch Stadium in the 1960s, the city figured it had no more use for a vacant ballpark. Down Sportsman’s Park went. Out with the old, in with the new.
Comiskey Park, in Chicago. The White Sox started playing there in the early 20th century. Down by the stockyards, on the city’s South Side. It’s where the fans almost took the place down themselves, in 1979, during an ill-conceived “Disco Demolition” promotion. They blew up disco records in center field, between games of a twi-night doubleheader with the Tigers. Soon the field was covered with drunken, non-baseball, but disco-hating fans. The turf was torn to shreds as the explosives rang out. The White Sox forfeited Game 2 to Detroit.
“The night they drive old Comiskey downnn….” (almost)
Anyhow, they built a new Comiskey Park, adjacent to the old one, and opened it in 1991. The Tigers, ironically, were the first opponents in the new Comiskey Park. They destroyed the White Sox, much like the disco-hating fans destroyed the old Comiskey turf, by the score of 16-0. The Tigers did it all, except for cracking a champagne bottle against the new building. As for Old Comiskey? Leveled – a parking lot for new Comiskey, which is now U.S. Cellular Field or some such thing. Didn’t take long – didn’t take long at all, for the aldermen and other politicos in Chicago to declare Old Comiskey D.O.A. Not much wrangling or swapping of pie-in-the-sky plans for its preservation. They needed parking. So there you have it.
Atlanta used to have Fulton-County Stadium. It was a banner year for Atlantans in 1966. That’s when the Braves moved there from Milwaukee, and the NFL’s Falcons first spread their wings. They called FCS the Launching Pad, for all the home runs that took off there. It was where Henry Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth, in April 1974. Neon Deion Sanders ran back punts and interceptions with brilliance there, channeling another similarly talented DB – a guy named Lem Barney.
But then the city had Turner Field built, named after Braves owner Ted Turner. Before long it was evident that Atlanta had no need for FCS. BOOM! Implosives took it down. No controversy. No real debates to speak of. No more need, so down it came.
Other cities seem to know what to do with their old stadiums. In fact, there isn’t a municipality that comes to mind that has left one of their relics to sit and decay for the eight years that Tiger Stadium has, having been of no more use to the Tigers.
I have the same memories and fondness for what Tiger Stadium used to be, just like the next person. I know that it will never truly be replaced as a baseball-watching venue, nor will the area surrounding the park be matched in romance by Montcalm, and Woodward, and Brush Street – the roads paved around Comerica Park. I know all this. And I know that it IS an official Michigan Historical Landmark.
But enough. Enough of the multitude of plans for its restoration, and renovation, and preservation – and any other “ation” you can come up with. Enough with the talk. Enough with trotting out Ernie Harwell and the visions of boxing matches and museums and amateur baseball and Lord knows what else. Please.
Let it go. Implode Tiger Stadium, forthwith, and let them use the land wisely, we hope. I’ll bet Corktown could use some new shops, or a bank or two, or maybe a grocery store, for goodness sakes. Keep the Historical Marker and maybe even a portion of a wall or maybe erect a statue or two. That’s fine. But please, PLEASE, knock the stadium down and remove the source of all the uncertainty and the visual eyesore that is a daily reminder of what used to be and what will never be again.