I shed a tear for an old friend yesterday.
On September 27, 1999, Tiger Stadium played host to her final major league game. There were ceremonies, speeches, cheers and tears, as politicians and baseball officials, including owner Mike Iillitch waxed poetic about the old ballpark, all the while looking downtown to his shiny new stadium.
That was almost nine years ago, and in the ensuing time Tiger Stadium has been left to rot.
She was a landmark that nobody knew what to do with. Until finally he city of Detroit decided she had to come down.
So with the ceremonies and speeches but a distant memory, the wrecking ball hit her broadside yesterday.
No words – no ceremony – no fanfare.
Once the crown jewel of the city, she now joins most of the rest of Detroit as a relic of times past.
She was never the prettiest, never the frendliest, never the belle of the ball (leave those designations to Wrigley and Fenway). But she had history and she had balls. When it comes to old ballparks, if Yankee Stadium was a princess, then Tiger Stadium was a broad. Big and bold and brassy.
She had more bleacher seats than any other ballpark – two decks of them, stretching from foul pole to foul pole.
I went to college in Detroit and she became the first non-NY ballpark I ever set foot in, kick-starting a hobby that has now led me to almost 50 other ballfields (major & minor).
I can still remember the thrill of being there, of feeling that history. Countless classes skipped or homework ignored to attend games – especially during the summer of 91. Bleacher seats were always available for $4 and it was easy to sneak into the main section if you wanted to.
She also provided the impetus for me to get involved in politics for the first time. I joined the Tiger Stadium Fan Club and we campaigned against a ballot proposal to tear down the old ballpark and use public funds to build a new one. I picketed, handed out flyers, attended rallies – even got on CNN during a protest outside the stadium (I was holding a sign that said “Monaghan is a Greedy Monster”). We did win that battle – but eventually we lost the war.
I go back to Detroit about once a year now to visit friends, see my god daughter, and attend functions. Whenever I go I always make time to stop by the corner of Michigan and Trumbull to say hi to the old girl. She hasn’t been looking well the last few years, but like a true broad she was still proudly there.
Yesterday when I saw the first pictures of the demolition I realized I would not be able to visit her anymore. I shed a tear for her.
Goodbye my old friend – you will be forever missed.
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