Chronological Tour: Stop 11

Down on the Corner

Exterior of Tiger Stadium, Jul-1999.

The view from center field, near the flag pole.

Managers and umpires exchange lineup cards prior to a 1992 game.

Quick Facts: Rating: 4 baseballs
On Monday 27-Sep-1999, the Detroit Tigers hosted the Kansas City Royals in a 4:05 start. The Tigers won, 8-2, with then virtually unknown Robert Fick hitting a grand slam to put the game away in the eighth inning.

It was a game between two teams treading water well under .500 at the bottom of a division dominated by the Cleveland Indians. Yet it was a special day, one saturated in nostalgia for baseball at “The Corner”.

Since 1896, they’ve been playing baseball on the same site in the Corktown section of Detroit. First, it was Bennett Park. Home plate there was back on Cherry Street. Later, in 1912, they opened Navin Field, moving the plate to the opposite corner, along Michigan Avenue closer to Trumbull Avenue, where it has remained. The park expanded several times, becoming known as Briggs Stadium in 1935 and Tiger Stadium in 1961.

Its final configuration, in which I watched five games during the 1990s, featured an upper deck that even in its top rows put the fan closer to the action than in any other upper deck in baseball. In right field, the upper deck actually extended beyond the lower deck, turning otherwise catchable pop-ups into home runs. The flagpole, just left of center field, was in play, and balls occasionally bounced off it or ricocheted behind it, nearly 440 feet from the plate.

But for all its charm, the park was showing its age. In 1979, part of the jerry-built press box collapsed; in 1999, sections of the grandstand were closed after a similar incident following a thunderstorm. Perhaps the fans didn’t demand better, but the players did. As a result, despite fan-based efforts to preserve it, the Tigers management went ahead with plans for a new downtown park to open in April 2000. Team owner Mike Ilitch originally announced that the new facility would be called “Tiger Stadium”, to loud applause; however, the corporate bug bit and it’s now called “Comerica Park” after a local bank.

As a result, professional baseball at “The Corner” came to an end. However, film producer Billy Crystal used the stadium to shoot a film called “61*” for HBO during the summer of 2000, depicting the 1961 home-run race between New York Yankees Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. According to Crystal, the park was one of the few places left where he could get an old-time major-league field feeling.

This fan hopes that, even as the stadium was demolished in the early summer of 2009, the field can be left intact, so neighborhood kids can still come down and preserve the tradition. As of 2014, the field remains, and mixed-use development is proposed that will leave the field untouched. May they play baseball at “The Corner” for many years to come.

Game # Date League Level Result
34 Wed 15-Aug-1990 American MLB Milwaukee 7, DETROIT 3
56 Mon 10-Aug-1992 American MLB DETROIT 10, NY Yankees 5
250 Fri 4-Jul-1997 American MLB Baltimore 4, DETROIT 3, 1st
251 Fri 4-Jul-1997 American MLB DETROIT 11, Baltimore 8, 2d
366 Sat 24-Jul-1999 American MLB Boston 11, DETROIT 4
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This page updated 12-Feb-2016