Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Unlike Tiger Stadium, Shea will go quickly

If you think the Mets are doing a lousy job with the final days of Shea, let me tell you about what's happening to Tiger Stadium.

The corner of Michigan and Trumbull was my baseball home-away-from home for nine years before in 2000 the Tigers moved downtown to Comerica Park, which is, well, lacking.

Rather than tear down Tiger Stadium, the city spent years debating what to do with it, as assorted schemes were thrown about, like turning it into condos or a shopping area.

The stadium was an urban park, but unlike Wrigley, it's surrounded by dirt parking lots and a neighborhood that was even less safe to park in than the parking lots. Oh, and there was one glorious old souvenir store that had things on the shelves since the 1970s.

So the idea that people would want to live or shop there was pretty much a fantasy.

As these ideas were kicked back and forth, the city did nothing to maintain the stadium, allowing it to tumble into disrepair.

Finally, demolition crews moved in late this season, preserving three things -- the stands from first base to third, the field and the flagpole that was in-play in centerfield.

This week the Detroit City Council discussed last-ditch efforts to save even those things.

So when my daughter and I went to see the Tigers in the next-to-last game of the season, I made sure we swung past the old stadium for one last peek while there was still something there.

What I saw was even more heartbreaking than seeing it in decline.

We parked next to a remaining souvenir store -- not the old glorious one, which closed -- and walked past an old store front that became a mini-souvenir stand on game days. It looked like the building was about to collapse. It might have looked that bad back in the day, too. But I was distracted by the souvenirs.

The first part of the park we saw looked pretty much same, except that the Tigers logo was even more faded and peeling.

Like when I went to Shea this summer, the memories came rushing back.

But we walked up the block a bit and saw the building just abruptly stop. Like an open wound, you could see the steel skeleton. The seats in the lower level were gone, but there were still many in the upper deck.

There's a pedestrian bridge over I-75 that lfted us high enough to see above the construction fences and look into the stadium. The field was there, though the grass was not manicured. And there was the flagpole, standing alone.

We were soon joined by other fans taking photos from the perch, all of us snapping photos.

I have no idea what the city could possibly do with that remaining part of the stadium. Saving the field might be fun, so kids can play ball on the same spot where Ty Cobb spiked, Dirty Kirk jumped and Kaline and Greenberg roamed.

Seems a little better than a parking lot, but at least it won't take the Mets eight years to bring Shea down.

Here's the famous Tiger Stadium in-play flag pole that was about 440 feet from home plate.


JLC 1863 said...

Very sad to see. I saw it in 2003 when I was in Detroit. We passed it while we were heading into Detroit on I-75. Very sad.


Mets Guy in Michigan said...

It is sad, Mike. It used to shine like a big jewel in that area, and now it's just another abandoned building in Detroit -- and there are many.

G-Fafif said...


It pains me that Shea will be a parking lot, but I'd rather the Band-Aid brand bandage be pulled off quickly over the winter then have it linger in pieces a la Tiger Stadium or Comiskey in 1991. It will be tough enough knowing it was there. It would be tougher knowing it is there but isn't really.

Thanks for sharing this journey with us.

Confluence City said...

Good account.

Here in St Louis we still have a hole in the ground where the old stadium used to be. It was supposed to be corporate gimcrack by now.

I will miss Shea and wish I had got back to see it before its demise. Definitely heard the best fan chatter in baseball there.