Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium celebrate birthdays, one from beyond the grave

One hundred years ago today, two ballparks opened that would survive to be among the longest-lived in baseball history. One of them today gets wall-to-wall coverage, though the Boston Globe will only let you read it if you pay them. (Here’s a sampling of another paper’s commemoration of the anniversary, with a nice nod to the “stadium diehards” who helped convince the Red Sox to retain Fenway Park instead of demolishing it.)

The other stadium is remembered today by a photo gallery of what you’ll never see again. No mention of Detroit’s own stadium diehards who kept Tiger Stadium alive for a decade past when ownership wanted it gone, but then, history belongs to the victors.

As a personal note: The two are among my absolutely favorite ballparks that I’ve visited, for very different reasons: Fenway has its bizarre dimensions, the fascination of the Green Monster, and its unique (even for when I was growing up in the 1970s) single-decked structure, though its roof deck has slowly grown to make it more of a 1.5-decked building in recent years. Tiger, meanwhile, had a history even longer than Fenway’s (the site known simply as The Corner had been home to pro baseball since the 19th century), the famous overhang in right field that allowed fans to catch home run balls that otherwise would have landed in outfielders’ gloves, and most of all, an upper deck that was so close to the action that spending one inning there put the lie to claims that “intimacy” is solely the province of new stadiums with high-priced seats right next to the batter’s box.

Here’s what I wrote in 2009 as a judge considered a last-ditch effort to save part of Tiger Stadium from the wrecking ball. The effort failed, and the city of Detroit went ahead and completed demolition (though a band of baseball diehards still cuts the grass and plays pickup games on the old field, against city orders to leave it overgrown and unused). But I’d say the same today: Though Fenway Park (and Wrigley Field) remain historic baseball treasures, something of the baseball experience was lost with Tiger Stadium that will never be regained.

7 comments on “Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium celebrate birthdays, one from beyond the grave

  1. I got a MLB tour* of Fenway Park once and have seen maybe 5 or 6 games there (each time from completely different vantage points). It was fun to see all the nooks and crannies (like the press canteen) although I did not see anything “behind the scene” really. I like the park put I hate the “over” signage.

    I think I would have like Tiger Stadium but I have to say I like Wrigley better. It just fells more “park like” on a sunny day (most of the time). Also, it may not be a fair comparison because I have been lucky in the dozen or so Cub games I have been at).

    *Something I learned on the tour by the MLB rep is that there is at least one (usually two he said) MLB rep at every game. The have a lot of small tasks/roles (the MLB rep I met knew nearly all the workers at Fenway well) but they also have to certify any “game souvenirs” if the need arises (like the ball for some milestone or if someone wants to donate/sell some “gameworn” souvenir).

  2. Right now if I was planning a summer baseball trip my cities of choice would be Boston and Chicago to see Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Any other MLB city I’d go to because I was going for other reasons (ie. Disneyland so why not check out the Angels).

    I can’t imagine the Detroit economy bustles today with tourist dollars. Would a renovated Tiger Stadium change any of that? Maybe and it would have been a fraction of the cost of the new park.

  3. I think only hardcore baseball fans cared about Tiger Stadium & its history, so I would guess “not much” to lure tourists. It wasn’t exactly the most pretty eye-pleasing stadium nor anything truly unique. But it’s still a shame they tore it down. The new ballpark was too much about luxury suites & generating more dollars.

    Slowly but surely, they’re changing Wrigley. That huge LED scoreboard in right field is a caustic eyesore and there’s already way too much signage & electronics going on in that ballpark.

  4. “so I would guess “not much” to lure tourists”

    That’s in the eye of the marketer. If the Tigers and the city of Detroit and the State of Michigan had positioned Tiger Stadium as a tourist destination and not as a liability, people would have responded, although frankly, Detroit itself is not a tourist destination (sorry Detroiters).

    But the lack of investment combined with the concurrent reports of its demise are always a self-fulfilling prophesy. If the Tigers had said, “we have the best ballpark in baseball…here’s why!” their fans would have taken up the mantle and all of the out of town TV crews would have reported on how “quirky” the ballpark was and how the fans loved it.

    It’s all a matter of perception and presentation.

    Having been to Wrigley, Fenway, Comiskey and Tiger Stadium, I would have to say that Tiger Stadium was my favorite. Wrigley and Fenway are adorable, but Tiger Stadium was yeomanlike and an appropriate ballpark for a city with Detroit’s baseball history.

  5. “I think only hardcore baseball fans cared about Tiger Stadium & its history, so I would guess “not much” to lure tourists. It wasn’t exactly the most pretty eye-pleasing stadium nor anything truly unique.”

    Oh, dear…in such a short time is respect for history lost by those I can only presume to be young-ish? Those of us who love Fenway, Tiger, Wrigley et al. are not a hundred years old ourselves. A baseball stadium is for baseball. You want ‘pretty’ to ‘lure tourists’ ? Then build an amusement park. For some that may be all it takes but we are not children needing to be entertained. We want to watch the game in a building with character and yes, history. David is correct, it’s all a matter of perception and presentation. Happy birthday Tiger and Fenway…and we’re waiting for you, Wrigley, beauties all.

  6. Erika got it right. Not only that I’m shocked someone would actually say that Tiger Stadium was not unique? It was a very unique venue. It was one of the first with the flag in play, it was the only stadium with second deck bleachers, the only deck with an overhang of the upper deck that extensive (and not contrived like at the Rangers Park). The field was the last of the “non pristine” grass fields with the extensive grounds keeping we see today. Not to mention the history that had taken place there. It really was a sad day when the Tigers moved out and an even more sad day when the city finally had the old girl demolished. Was and is Fenway a prettier park, sure, but it was no more or less historic. Fenway just got lucky and ended up being saved by the luck of the ownership draw when John Henry’s group bought the team and park. If that hadn’t happened it was very likely that today we’d be watching the Sox play at Fenway Park II, not the original. The Tigers owners obviously didn’t have that vision which is unfortunate. But to their credit they’re not alone as the Steinbrenners made the same “mistake”.

  7. Also don’t forget Crosley Field. The Reds old stadium would have celebrated its centennial this month as well had it not been demolished in 1972.