By: Kurt Snyder
First of all before you read this, I will start out with an apology. I am sorry to all those Comerica Park lovers out there, but you are not going to like what I have to say.
But there is one thing you have to take into consideration. My dad ran Tiger Stadium for over 2 decades, just about half of the 46 years he spent working for the Tigers. I was crazy about that stadium. It was woven within the fabric of my being! Pretty deep huh? Anyway, now at least you know what you’re dealin’ with.
So I have a question? When did Mike Illitch decide to forget Tiger Stadium? Now I don’t mean tear it down. My dad told us long before the wrecking ball came in, long before Illitch walked in, that the Tigers needed a new ballpark. The place was deteriorating. But it was an aging baseball mecca, one that needed to be built again, not replaced. But I would love to know the date, because it changed baseball forever in Detroit.
When Illitch started over, we got a new stadium never meant for Tiger baseball. He abandoned all the history and treated his new toy like it was an expansion team.
But Mike is no dummy. In building Comerica Park, he expanded his audience. And it has been a great success, because much of the new fan base is helping to fill Comerica Park every night. The new baseball fan wants a night out, wants to be entertained, they want more than a baseball game and they have a beautiful park to visit, it just doesn’t happen to be the right park.
And it’s sad, really. The game is not enough anymore for fans. Most dads used to teach their kids about the game while watching baseball.
But in 2000, the Circus came to town, as the club offered a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round to entertain kids at a baseball game. Wow.
But even with that, why we needed a completely different ballpark to do all of this, I never understood. And 15 years later, I still don’t. The new fan could have all the added fluff and the more serious baseball fan could still have had the same baseball experience.
New & Improved. Same classic design. Same field dimensions. Same soul. Same magic. Throw in some suites, a New Tiger Stadium.
But Illitch watered down the baseball experience for the fan that grew up watching baseball at The Corner. It was all stripped away in favor of an atmosphere devoid of baseball charm. It wasn’t dumb, just very unfortunate.
Now, surely there has been excitement at Comerica Park. There have been great moments that will be remembered forever. Justin Verlander’s no-hitter; Magglio’s home run to send the Tigers to the World Series, Armando Galarraga’s stolen perfect game, and countless memories from maybe the best Tiger ever, Miguel Cabrera.
But a classic ballpark can take a batted ball and create drama. Tiger Stadium had the facing of the third deck in right field. We watched in awe as Kirk Gibson and others slammed home runs against that third deck. We watched players launch home runs over the roof travelling across Trumbull Avenue and into Brook’s Lumber yard. Players would hit high fly balls to right, surely about to be caught, but instead catching the upper deck overhang for an unlikely home run.
Home runs hit into the centerfield upper deck bleachers and on the left field roof were talked about for weeks or even years or still are talked about today. Sure the player hit the ball but the design of the stadium made those moments more exciting.
Think about this for a moment:
No one will ever hit the ball completely out of Comerica Park. Home runs simply terminate themselves in the stands in left or right or bounce around in the bullpens.
Most seats are so far away at Comerica you lose the ball and ultimately maybe interest.
You couldn’t have been any closer to the field at Tiger Stadium. Sure you couldn’t provide that experience without posts that obstruct the views of some, but the trade-off was certainly worth it.
The New York Yankees moved out of maybe the most iconic stadium ever built. And when the day comes in Boston for a new stadium, it will still be Fenway. The Yankees made the obvious choice to build the best new Yankee Stadium they could. And Boston someday will surely follow suit with a brand new Green Monster. Red Sox fans would burn the town down if it didn’t.