Fenway Park's boozy birthday party this weekend brought out the hoi polloi in Red Sox history and even a confused-looking Bud Selig. The fortress of Yawkey Way wasn't the only big-league park that opened 100 years ago, though; Tiger Stadium, too, hosted big-league ball for the first time on April 20, 1912.
Of course, Tiger Stadium's fate has not been as fortunate as Fenway's. All that remains at the corner of Michigan & Trumbull is a field and the flagpole, the rest having been demolished in 2009 (in the process, co-starring in an Eminem video).
Tigers brass, of course, say this is for the best; the team's fortunes have improved since moving to Comerica Park, and Tiger Stadium was a dump. Maybe that's true, but it was no more of a dump than Fenway; perhaps it was even less so, having been built by hands that took pride in manufacturing ability, it had such structural integrity that debates over its preservation included the massive cost of demolition due to being so well-built.
Yet the field remains, as does the debate over what to do with the property. Since 2009, a group of unpaid volunteers has kept the field tidy and mostly free of weeds. General Motors offered to refurbish the site and make it a home for youth baseball leagues, as laid out in a statement last year:
Chevrolet is offering to provide financing and labor (in the form of employee volunteers) to put the field at the site of Tiger Stadium back into playable shape as part of our commitment to revitalizing Detroit and to help support the Tiger Stadium Conservancy's efforts to more fully develop the location. We have had informal discussions with both the Conservancy and the Detroit Tigers and both support our efforts to refurbish the field.
Once the field has been refurbished we'd anticipate the city and/or Conservancy would be responsible for on-going maintenance and any additional element on-site. What we'd provide, frankly, is a new ballpark for Detroit's youth on the site of the city's most hallowed baseball stadium.
The city, more interested in selling the property to developers (none of whom seem to be interested in it, but regardless) rejected GM's offer. Detroit leaders also used a loophole in a $3.8 million grant intended to preserve the property to instead redevelop various business properties. (Chevy ended up sponsoring the rehabilitation of a park on the city's east side, instead.)
The Tigers moved across town in 2000, leaving a property that hosted World Series and NFL champions (recall that the Lions' string of NFL championships in the 1950s came when they called Tiger Stadium home). In typical Detroit fashion, the city has blundered its way through the attempts of both citizens and corporations to preserve the memories and ensure baseball can be played at Michigan & Trumbull for another generation. But that didn't keep the truly dedicated from celebrating Tiger Stadium's birthday; the field, unofficially renamed "Ernie Harwell Park" after the late Tigers broadcaster, played host to a pickup game Friday.
h/t to Paul Kampe