Before witnessing Justin Verlander strike out 14 Yankees on Monday night, I made a trip that millions and past generations of Detroit Tigers fans did be for me: Down to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
The stadium as it sits today is just an empty field. The only remnants of a stadium being there is the gates of Tiger Plaza and the center field flag pole.
But the diamond is still there. Yes, the hallowed grounds that saw the ferocious play of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth hitting his 700th home run, Reggie Jackson hitting the light standard, four World Series titles, and decades and decades of Hall of Fame players and baseball played there still stands.
A group of volunteers, who call themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew, come out and take care of the park since the city of Detroit neglects it. They have pick up games every Sunday at Tiger Stadium, and you can sometimes find members there through the week. They keep the grass cut, pull the weeds, and pick up garbage all to help preserve the historic landmark. They do a great job at it, too. (Check them out on Facebook here, to see all the work that goes into maintaining the field).
But why should you go there? Here are four reasons why every Tigers fan should make the trip back down to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
The History: Al Kaline, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, the list goes on and on of all the players that graced the field of Tiger Stadium. When you first step on to the field you get a sudden rush in your mind that you are standing on the same grounds as all of those players. The very first time I visited there was in 2009 after the stadium was knocked over.
I stood at the plate like Kirk Gibson did in 1984 against Goose Gossage and ran the bases like it was me who hit the clinching home run on the night of October 14, 1984. I stood in the same place as Hal Newhouser, where Denny Mclain won 31 games, and where Mark Fidrych won the hearts over of Tigers and fans all over the MLB in the summer 1976.
If you can gather a group of friends up to play even a pick up game, or even play catch in the infield, it’s an amazing experience to play where so many greats had played before.
Or if you just want to walk around the field and just take in the park and remember everything you can. Either way, the history alone is worth the drive.
It’s educational: When I was there Monday evening, I met a young man that was 11-years-old that was about to go to his very first Tigers game at Comerica Park. His father and a few friends wanted to take him down to Tiger Stadium to teach him of the Tigers past and show him the place they grew up as a child.
The young man understood the history and the significance of the grounds that he was trying to catch fly balls on. He was running everything down like it was game seven of the World Series, and that ball that was hit was going to score the go ahead run in the ninth inning.
It’s an experience any Tigers fan can learn from.
Memories: So many people grew up watching Kaline snagging fly balls, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell turning two better than anyone in the history of baseball, Cecil Fielder hitting monster home runs. Lots of summers were spent with peoples Grandfathers and Fathers alike. It’s a perfect chance for people to walk around and play on the field they watched their summer time heroes play on for decades.
Whether it’s remembering when the Tigers won the 1968 World Series, seeing Nolan Ryan throw a no-hitter there in 1973, Roger Clemens striking out 20 Tigers in 1995, or just remembering a base hit by your favorite player, it’s a great time to get nostalgic.
Who knows how long it will be there?: Who knows before the city of Detroit sells the land where Tiger Stadium sits on today. It could become a parking lot, a strip mall, stores, anything. There has already been talks that the city maybe selling the grounds to a company that wants to save some of the field, but put parade equipment on some of the land.
Who knows if this will happen, considering GM tried to buy the land and turn into little league fields. But one day, the corner of Michigan and Trumbull will exist no more and all traces of baseball on the corner will be gone forever.
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