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Local News / Sports

Sunday, 3 August, 2008 11:34 PM

Fans Watch as Historic Tiger Stadium is Demolished Before Their Very Own Eyes


The north side of Tiger Stadium is being torn down.

by Jason Rzucidlo

WATCH: Fans Watch as Historic Tiger Stadium is Torn Down Before Their Very Own Eyes (7/19/08) MPEG Video

DETROIT -- The corner. The grand lady. Navin Field. Briggs Stadium. Tiger Stadium has had many nicknames over the years and has been home to many memories for Detroit Tigers fans. Now, the ballpark is being demolished and fans are watching their memories be erased forever.

The historic ballpark opened on April 20, 1912 at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Boulevard. It was home to the Detroit Tigers for 87 years, Detroit Lions for 36 years, Detroit Cougars soccer team for two years, little league baseball for one year and a concert when the Super Bowl came to the Motor City.

"I want them to save the part they can," said Tim Noder, a Tigers fan from Royal Oak. "It's sad to see it deteriorate. I remember the first time my dad brought me. A ball hit the beam and came down toward us. I came quite a few years with buddies up until the last season."

Many baseball fans have lots of memories from this old ballpark. Some of them caught a ball, met a player or saw the Tigers won a World Series pennant here. The Tigers won the World Series four times and they all happened at Tiger Stadium.

As I watched the stadium being torn down, fans kept showing up by the dozens. They came with their cameras and camcorders to get one final glimpse of the ballpark. One family came with a ladder they brought from home to see over the fence and get a better look at the remains. One man has a cart set up with peanuts for sale for those who want to enjoy the moment with their old friend.

"It's unfortunate that it couldn't be preserved with everything else going on in the city," said David Schleussel, a Tigers fan from Walled Lake. Schleussel came with his family to see the old ballpark. "Memories. Memories of good times when you were little. It's sad. I've probably been here about 20-30 times. Came to the last game. My dad caught a ball once along the left field line third row. I was sitting where the seats aren't left anymore. Many memories."

The demolition of Tiger Stadium began on June 30 when crews punched a small hole along the north side of the facility. The discussion to demolish the building went on for years as several plans were considered for the site. The city of Detroit rejected all those proposals and chose to tear it down.

Some items such as the lettering on the offices at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, the tiles above the entrance, and seat backs have been given to the Detroit Historical Museum. Those items are currently being displayed at the Detroit Historical Museum on Woodward Avenue just a few miles from the ballpark.

The entire stadium will not be demolished. Some sections were designated significant and will be saved. Those areas include the field, the four poles, the lower deck from first base to third base, the elevator tower at Michigan and Cochran, the broadcast booth behind home plate and the flagpole in the outfield. The rest of the stadium is set to be dismantled.

"I have lots of memories," said Bill Rayburn, a Tigers fan from Ferndale who came out to take pictures. "Seeing this memories start flooding back. A lot of childhood memories. Unfortunately, they've taken this long to decide what to do with it. You know if it has to be done, it has to be done. I look forward to the Tigers playing at Comerica Park now.

"It's very sad actually. It's an old friend and I'm sorry to see it go. Onward and upward. It was a real family-oriented place. Except for maybe Friday nights. I hope they can figure out what to do with this spot cause it's a good spot in the city. My favorite memory was the '71 All-Star Game. My father was able to get tickets for that and I saw Reggie Jackson hit probably the longest home run I ever saw at Tiger Stadium. There will be many more at Comerica Park. Can't forget about this guy either or this grand lady as they say."

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gave the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy until Aug. 1 to secure enough money to save and redevelop the baseball stadium. The goal was to raise $369,000. Funds would be used for maintenance and security over the portion of the ballpark that will remain. The ultimate goal is to raise between $12 million and $15 million to save the baseball diamond, 3,000 seats and an area that would house legendary Tiger's broadcaster Ernie Harwell's vast collection of sports memorabilia.

As of July 18, a U.S. Senate subcommittee has approved $4 million to towards that goal to revive the ballpark and turn it into a youth baseball stadium. Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow asked for the funds. It will still need to go to the full Senate for consideration as part of the Transportation, Treasury, House and Urban Development budget bill.

Tiger Stadium hosted many of baseball's historic moments. Babe Ruth hit his 700th career home run there on July 13, 1934. That ball was estimated to travel over 500 feet. On May 2, 1939, Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig voluntarily benched himself ending a streak of 2,130 consecutive games. Due to the progression of the disease that was named after him, it proved to be his final game of his career. The stadium hosted the All-Star Game in 1941, 1951 and 1971.

"I experienced the '84 World Series season here in Detroit," said Samuel Daher, a sales account manager who came to catch a final glimpse of Tiger Stadium on a business trip to the Motor City from Cleveland. "I've been a Cleveland fan my whole life. We haven't had a lot of success in Cleveland. I became a Tiger fan in '84 and went to a number of games in Tiger Stadium and really enjoyed the experience and became very fond of the old ballpark.

"I happen to be on business in Detroit today and thought I'd stop by and pay my last respects. It's a sad moment. I was hoping they would have found a way to preserve the old ballpark. My fondest memories is that World Series team in '84. I came here quite a bit. The beer was terrible. A lot of history here you just hate to see the wrecking ball take its course."

For more information, visit the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy or visit the Detroit Historical Museum to purchase seat backs and official programs from historic Tiger Stadium. Click here to make a donation and help save Tiger Stadium.


A large section of Tiger Stadium has already been demolished.



A side view of the old Tiger Stadium. The ballpark is almost 100 years old.


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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.