Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goodbye to an old friend -- Tiger Stadium

Some of the best memories of my life were made in Tiger Stadium. I saw game 3 of the 1984 World Series. I'll never forget sitting on my uncle's shoulders after Mark Fidrych pitched a gem of a game in 1976, and came out of the dugout to a standing ovation. So many hours were spent there watching exciting baseball, bonding with loving friends and family (and sometimes even complete strangers.) Win or lose, I never had a bad day in that park.

In 2000, Comerica Park -- what a sterile, boring name -- replaced old Tiger Stadium as the home for the Detroit Tigers. Comerica Park is a beautiful modern building that has little charm and none of the intimacy of the old stadium. It has good sight lines and plenty of room for people's bigger butts. It's a great place to see the game but not necessarily feel or experience it. At Tiger Stadium, you felt like you were right there, almost part of the action. The crowd noise could be deafening. Comerica Park is an aesthetic experience, Tiger Stadium a visceral one.

The old girl has sat empty for the better part of a decade. Plans to convert Tiger Stadium to other uses have all fallen through. She stands on "the corner" rusting and decaying. Like a kind master does with an old sick dog, the City of Detroit is finally putting her down. Demolition started yesterday. What will take her place -- probably just another vacant lot in the city -- is still unknown.

As sad as that is, I will not miss her. I said goodbye to the old stadium a few weeks before she closed for good in 1999. As I walked down the ramp from the upper deck for the last time, I ran my hands along her walls and rails. A lump in my throat nearly choked me. A tear or two welled in my eyes. I'm a sentimental fool and that old building meant a lot to me.

But she's gone. There's no life in her anymore; she's like an ailing old friend kept alive by tubes and machines. It's time to pull the plug. It's time to let her go. I would rather remember her as she was than watch her slowly collapse into a pile of rubble at Michigan and Trumbull.

It looks as if demolition might be halted; she may be granted a brief reprieve. But, I've already let go. Those of you that loved her should let her go, too. Tiger Stadium will never again be what it was, regardless of whether she is spared the wrecking ball. So, I will move on with fond memories.

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