Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Tiger Stadium’ Category

What You Don’t See Won’t Hurt You

In Tiger Stadium on July 27, 2008 at 2:02 pm

The hospital room was bursting with folks – family members of all different ages. Some hugged, others held hands. The daughters were bedside, comforting the man who would, we all knew, soon be gone. Some quiet sobs. Some soft hymns sung.

It was just a matter of moments, and my wife knew when it would be official – her having gone through it with her own father, some 19 years earlier. My grandfather, 96 years old and finally about to fade, would be passing – with me right there, in the room. It was April 30, 2005.

Then, the final breath – that snore-like thing you hear people talk about. I heard it.

“He’s gone,” my wife said.

I nodded, knowingly.

I never looked up. Never looked at him, in those final moments. What you don’t see won’t hurt you – as much. I was a coward that way, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Why look at someone die if you have the option NOT to? Seems like an easy enough decision to me.

And I have just given you an admittedly heavy-handed analogy to what I feel about the destruction of Tiger Stadium – going on now, all sentiment be damned.

I won’t look. Why should I?

My grandfather pre-dates the stadium by three years, so they’re about the same age at their passing. And with the same inevitability of their fate as their demise approached. Grandpa’s lungs, thickly coated with pneumonia, finally would be his downfall, after some game efforts to the contrary. And Tiger Stadium ran out of chances, too – eventually landing on life support thanks to the stubbornness and cold calculations emanating from Mike Ilitch’s camp, for one. This was one time when Ilitch’s normal benevolence when it comes to all matters Detroit was nowhere to be found.

Well, that life support’s plug finally fell out of its socket, and here we are – Tiger Stadium being pounded into rubble by the unbiased wrecking ball.

Not that I’m watching, or paying much attention. That cowardice again.

So there won’t be any pilgrimages to Michigan and Trumbull, to watch the destruction. No wistful, long looks from across the street. I’m not that kind of a guy. My own father passed away in 1996, way up near Charlevoix, and I’ve still never even visited his gravesite. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. Certainly I would have done so, if he was interred closer to home. But why journey five hours to stand there, when I can talk to him and remember him wherever I’m at?

So you’ll pardon me if I don’t peel off I-75 at Rosa Parks Boulevard and pay my respects. I have my memories, and that’s enough. I don’t need to rehash them as I see the object of my affection destroyed. That just seems too…masochistic. And totally unnecessary.

We all have our views of what should be done with the old ballparks when they’re not servicing us anymore. When their turnstiles are stilled. When their grass turns to weeds.

I don’t know what side of the construction fence you stand on, but knock ‘em down, I say. I know others disagree. Perhaps you do, too. Some would keep the old lady standing, but nobody did much for the upkeep of Tiger Stadium after its final game in 1999, so whenever I drove by it during the past nine years, all I saw was a decaying building whose time had passed. Detroit has a few more of those lying around, you know. So it seemed kind of odd to me to want to keep such a structure standing, when nothing was being done to preserve it. The stadium earned a state historical marker years ago, but I wonder if any other such designated building was allowed to rot like Tiger Stadium.

No, if better use can be made of the parcel of land, then by all means, go for it. They turned the Polo Grounds into apartments. An armory ended up being built on the site of Olympia Stadium, at Grand River and McGraw.

I’m not with those folks who seem to think that a wrecking ball can simultaneously destroy memories while it pulverizes an old ballpark.

Yet I admit to flinching a bit as the first images hit the wire of Tiger Stadium’s normally enclosed walls showing a hole blown open in them the size of a crater. It wasn’t something I regaled in, just because I agree with its doing. I have no joy in knowing that Tiger Stadium is going down – absolutely not. But I refuse to look, which is my right.

Tiger Stadium will soon be no more. Yes, it’s on a much smaller scale, but this is similar to those final moments of grandpa’s life at U-M hospital. It was going to happen, whether I wanted it to or not. And I never expended so much energy NOT looking at something so hard in my life. It was bad enough I had to hear it.

So I won’t subject myself to the heavy machinery and construction – no, DEstruction equipment – carrying on with its brazenly uncaring efficiency as it obliterates Tiger Stadium. I won’t watch. And this time, I don’t even have to listen.

I have my memories of the old ballpark at The Corner. Like those I have of my dad, and grandpa. That’s good enough. No wrecking ball is going to take those away.

People still talk about the Polo Grounds, by the way. And Olympia Stadium. And countless others, who now rest in peace. Tearing those sports palaces down didn’t seem to cause memory erasure. And my watching Tiger Stadium perish isn’t going to amplify those memories one bit, so why bother?

I’ll just try to avoid the area for a while.

The Time For Tiger Stadium To Go Is Now

In Tiger Stadium on August 27, 2007 at 1:00 pm

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.