Time for a mercy killing

I had a great uncle named Harry Dorfman who had season tickets for the Detroit Tigers going back to the 1940s, so when I was a kid we were always right behind home plate. My parents tell me that I went to my first game in Tiger Stadium on the Fourth of July, 1978, but I don’t remember a thing about it. The first one I do remember was June 17, 1979 against the Angels, when I was almost six years old. Alan Trammell hit a home run and from that moment on was my hero. Between then and when we moved away in 1985 I saw scores of games at Tiger Stadium. I remain convinced that it was the best ballpark in the history of the game. The fans were close to the field, it smelled of beer and cigars, and that’s just how a ballpark should smell. While it’s not fashionable now, the fact that the field was fully enclosed made the place truly special. It made it easy to shut out the outside world and focus only on baseball. It helped you to suspend disbelief.

So if anyone should be pining for the preservation of Tiger Stadium, it should be me, right? Wrong, and I wish these people would cut it out:

A key deadline for the group trying to save Tiger Stadium has been extended.

The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy now has until Friday to submit plans and budgets to Detroit’s Economic Development Corp. for approval. The original deadline was Monday. The group wants to renovate the historic ballpark as a recreational and educational complex. The group says some plans were discussed at a meeting last week but others won’t be ready until the end of the week.

Tiger Stadium opened in 1912 and the last major-league game was played there in 1999. Most of the ballpark was demolished earlier this year. A wedge extending from dugout to dugout has been left standing while the conservancy tries to raise an estimated $15 million needed for the project.

The Conservancy has now blown through approximately 1,384 deadlines. Each time they claim to be just about there, only to fall short and thus requiring a new deadline. If it weren’t for the massive amounts of Ernie Harwell-inspired goodwill, its efforts would have long ago failed and ceased. Good for Ernie, who is a bigger hero to me than Alan Trammell ever was, but I believe that the failure of the Conservancy would have been for the best.

Part of this stems from a practical consideration, and that’s that no interpretive center or rec center of educational complex will ever do justice to the majesty that was Tiger Stadium, and no shell of a nearly 100 year-old ballpark is going to be suitable as an interpretive center, a rec center, or an educational complex. They are entirely different beasts, and no amount of Nostalgia Brand Spackle will seamlessly connect such disparate concepts together without a massive infusion of the kind of dollars that no one in their right mind will spend in Detroit. Absent those dollars and the high rent architects and designers such a project would require to pull off successfully, any project at The Corner would be a sadly half-assed affair. I remember Autoworld, baby, and it wasn’t pretty. You want to help Detroit? Look forward, not backwards for inspiration. You wanna revel in history? Go to the Henry Ford Museum.

Look, if I ran the world the Tigers would still be playing in a lovingly restored cathedral to baseball on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. That ship sailed long ago, however, and what has happened to Tiger Stadium in the past nine years has been nothing short of an atrocity. If any of the the Conservancy’s members had a loved one who was so abused, they would have called the cops. If my Uncle Harry had required the level of life support the Conservancy has demanded, we would have pulled the plug long before we did. I loved Tiger Stadium like I have loved no other building, but it’s time to lop off the final bit that remains standing and begin remembering it for what it was rather than gawk at it with pity as we speed by on I-75.

In other words, it’s time for a mercy killing.

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Comments

  1. MooseinOhio said...

    Craig – Remember all those folks upset with tearing down the Old State Pen in Columbus?  In fact I believe the stones from the front facade are still in storage someplace. 

    Well I think the Neil Avenue corridor with Nationwide Arena, the soon to be Huntington Park, the new condos and businesses as well as restaurant have made a blighted park of the city a center for entertainment.  Maybe these well meaning folks need to put some energy into trying to move forward as with the right urban planning the area could become an asset to the city not a monument to its past.

  2. Ron said...

    I’ve said this before, somewhere. Why doesn’t Hollywood buy one of the old parks before they get torn down. Then they have a ready-made place to film baseball movies (of which we don’t have enough good ones) in which they could actually film in the summer, instead trying to film baseball scences in Wrigley in January?

    Seems guys like Kevin Costner and Tom Selleck and Tom Hanks could finance something like that.

    They could also turn it into a museum of baseball movies. If people will go to Dyersville, Iowa, they would go to a place like this. 

    Someone has to know someone who could get this going?

  3. The Common Man said...

    I am starting to agree with you, Craig.  To see a beautiful old building carried along for years to be awkwardly wedged into some parks project would be sad.  Better to die a beautiful death than to linger on, a shell of its former self.  Perhaps we could handcuff Mike Illich to the infrastructure before it gets demolished?

  4. Mark Armour said...

    Exactly right.  The first choice is to keep playing in the stadium.  With that gone, the next choice is the wrecking ball.  My memories of Tiger Stadium are not enhanced by having its rotting hulk sit there staring at me.

  5. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    I’m leaving the office and running home to begin the packaging for my new venture: Nostalgia Brand Spackle

      When the preliminary sales stuff is in Shyster, we can discuss your cut.

  6. Rory said...

    While I think the idea of Hollywood buying a stadium has merit, they don’t make enough baseball movies for it to make sense I would think.

    Time to tear it down.  No reason for a rotting corpse to sit there.  I have my pair of seats ($275, well worth it).  Goodnight and good luck.

  7. Ben Hassenger said...

    I guess I don’t see what another vacant lot in Detroit will accomplish, let’s do something with this historical site that means so much to many of us.

    The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy has done a pretty good job of presenting a workable plan, raising local money, and lining up federal historical funds with the help of Sen. Levin. Go to http://www.savetigerstadium.org to find out more about their efforts and plans and what you can do to help. In addtion – if you’d like to see a video and listen to my song about Tiger Stadium called “The Corner”, go to http://www.myspace.com/bquietmusic or the Major League Baseball site at: http://tinyurl.com/the-corner-MLB, you can also listen to a song about Ernie Harwell I wrote that you might enjoy.

    Ben Hassenger
    Haslett, MI

  8. WEB said...

    The information you are putting out here is not correct at all. Mr Harwell is no longer involved in the project and you present no proof of that many deadlines missed.

    I know Mr Illich wants Tigers Stadium gone because he hates competition but given all the empty lots and buildings in Detroit why is anyone in a rush to hurt efforts to do something positive where a part of history can be saved by a non-profit group.

    There is nothing more corrupt in Detroit than Illitch who let Tiger Stadium detoriate while he was paid to maintain it then when it finally started coming down the grass was mowed when people could finally see inside.

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