Monday, August 31, 2015

(Photos) Navin Field--on the site of Tiger Stadium

Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers played for nearly a century on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in the city's Corktown neighborhood. The first ballpark there was Bennett Park, which opened as a minor league park in 1895. Those old Tigers played in the Western League--which declared itself a major league. the American, in 1901. By the following year the Tigers were the only old minor league team still in its original city in the American League. In 1911 Bennett Park was razed and was replaced with Navin Field--which opened on April 20, 1912, the same day Fenway Park, America's oldest MLB stadium, opened.

The Tigers last game at what eventually became known as Tiger Stadium was in 1999. It sat vacant for ten years--that's nothing new in the troubled Motor City. Although the Billy Crystal-directed HBO movie, 61*, which was about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle's quest to top Babe Ruth's single season home run record, was filmed there as were a few other movies.

After it was razed in 2009 it became another ugly Detroit vacant lot. That is until volunteers, known as the Navin Field Grounds Crew, cleaned it up, although they were technically trespassing on city-owned land. So was I when I visited the site last month.

The mound is a bit low--but other than that this is a big league baseball diamond. Ball games with participants in vintage uniforms are played here occasionally during the summer.

The historical site is also known as the Corner and Ernie Harwell Park. Harwell, the longtime voice of the Tigers who died in 2010, was known for his laconic and folksy style. He was a member of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Board, which tried to preserve portions of the old park.

Navin Field is Detroit at its best--the Motor City's path out of its morass must include effective volunteer work.

The Tigers now call Comerica Park on the edge of downtown next to Midtown home.

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