By: Kurt Snyder
As we await something, anything, to emerge noteworthy on the Tiger front this off-season, it appears to be a good time to tap into the Ralph Snyder Archives once again.
So, I got to thinking; back when Dad was in charge of the Old Girl, what was he normally doing this time of year? And then it hit me. This was the time of year when Dad, every season, had the huge task of patching Tiger Stadium back together again.
Yep, while people sat at home or at work wondering what the Tigers would do with their team in the off-season, (kind of what we are all doing right now), the work never stopped at Tiger Stadium.
It was an old ballpark. And even back in the 70’s and 80’s, lots of restoration work needed to be done to preserve the place and make it safe for when fans started showing up for games again the following April.
Tiger Stadium actually breathed a sigh of relief along with my dad on the day that the ball club mercifully ended one of the team’s great traditions and fan giveaways. Bat Day.
When I think back about it now, knowing the security gauntlet fans need to go through to get into Comerica Park today, it’s astonishing how the Tigers used to hand out bats to kids 14 and under when they walked in the stadium. Bat Day? Can you believe it? Times certainly have changed haven’t they?
Tiger Stadium took a beating every year on Bat Day. And as you can imagine, it was not one of Dad’s favorite events. During Tiger rallies, fans used to pound the bats on the concrete in unison to the point where you could feel the stadium shake. And it scared the heck out of my dad. He knew all the concrete work that needed to be done every off-season. And the last thing he ever wanted was for someone to get hurt in his house.
The process of repairing Tiger Stadium was ongoing. It started after the last game of the season, and continued all the way through April. A building restoration company would come in and inspect every inch of concrete in the place.
The company would use steel rerod, the rods used to reinforce concrete, to test the strength of the cement. They would tap the cement with the rerod and if it cracked or crumbled, it was patched with new concrete.
This went on for months, even during most of the winter. The areas that needed to be repaired would be sectioned off with plastic and heaters were brought in. If the outdoor temperature stayed at least in the 20’s, patching could still be done.
So Dad, who always worried about the weather during the season, also worried about it in the off-season. A mild winter meant more opportunities to get the sorely-needed stadium repairs completed prior to the next season.
But bitter cold and sub-zero temperatures were not concrete’s best friends and would shut things down until it got warm enough again to resume tuning the place up.
This was an annual process, because Tiger Stadium never stopped deteriorating.
This past season in August, chunks of concrete fell at Comerica Park. Yeah, that’s right, at 15-year-old Comerica Park. Thankfully no one was hurt and I am sure they are spending the off-season making sure nothing like that happens again.
I was immensely proud every time I walked into Tiger Stadium knowing how hard Dad worked to keep a stadium that spent over 100 years at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, in the best possible shape.
I don’t remember an incident of concrete falling during a game at Tiger Stadium, despite the annual celebration of Bat Day, something you can guarantee will not take place at Comerica Park, for all the obvious reasons. They more than likely will stick with bobble heads and schedule magnet giveaways.
However, the Tigers may want to consider Helmet Day though, come to think of it.