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Tiger Stadium

By Patrick Mondout

The address for baseball in Detroit for over 100 years was Michigan and Trumbell. This is where Bennett Park was built in 1895 - a full five seasons before the Tigers or even the American League even existed!

At a glance...
Facility statistics
Location 2121 Trumbull Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48216
Broke ground 1911
Opened April 20, 1912
Closed September 27, 1999
Demolished (Unthinkable)
Replaced Bennett Park
Replaced by Comerica Park (Tigers, 2000)
Silverdome (Lions, 1975)
Owner Detroit Tigers (1912-1977)
City of Detroit (1977-present)
Surface Bluegrass
Construction cost $300,000 (1911)
Architect Osborn Engineering
Former names
Navin Field (1912-1937)
Briggs Stadium (1938-1960)
Detroit Tigers (MLB, 1912-1999)
Detroit Lions (NFL, 1938-1974)
Seating capacity
23,000 (1912)
30,000 (1923)
52,416 (1937)
Left Field - 340 ft
Left-Center - 365 ft
Center Field - 440 ft (actual 425)
Right-Center - 370 ft
Right Field - 325 ft
Backstop - 66 ft

Navin Field, named after Tigers owner Frank Navin, was built in 1911-12 on the same site to replace Bennett Park. The field opened on April 20, 1912, the same date as Fenway Park opened. Navin Field was renamed Briggs Stadium in 1938 after Walter Briggs bought the team.

Briggs Stadium was also the second-to-last of the classic parks to install lights. That was in 1948. It would be 40 years before Wrigley Field followed. The stadium was finally called Tiger Stadium starting in 1961.

Any stadium that was home to Hank Greenberg, Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, and Mickey Cochrane - and the Detroit Lions until 1975 - would be home to countless memories. Among the 11,111 home runs hit here was Babe Ruth's 700th home run on July 13, 1934 and Lou Gehrig voluntarily ended his consecutive game playing streak at 2,130 here on May 2, 1939.

Fly to Tiger Stadium!
If you have Google Earth installed, click here to be "flown" to the site of Tiger Stadium. (If you do not have it installed, get it from Google. It allows you to view virtually anywhere on Earth in 3D using satellite imagery.)

Memories from the Super70s include the mammoth shot by Reggie Jackson in the 1971 All-Star Game. The Awesome80s brought the 24-4 and 35-5 starts (including a Jack Morris no-hitter in which he loaded the bases twice) and Kirk Gibson hitting a homer in the first inning and then another off San Diego's Goose Gossage late to win the deciding game 5 of the 1984 World Series.

Tiger Stadium has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989 and was declared a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1975.

Billy Crystal to the Rescue!

Tiger Stadium might already have been demolished but for the efforts of local citizens and it's resemblance to Yankee Stadium. The latter proved useful to the HBO film crew (led by director Billy Crystal) looking for a Yankee Stadium look-alike to film 61*. A little green paint for the seats and some digital post production and Tiger Stadium was transformed into the House That Ruth Built.

A book was written about the final season at Tiger Stadium in 1999. It was called The Final Season and was written by Tom Stanton. Tigers fans should check it out.

With the short shelf life of modern stadiums (the Kingdome lasted just 25 years), it is just possible that Tiger Stadium could be transformed back into a major league venue again once the owners of the Tigers grow unsatisfied with Comerica.

Tiger Stadium!

Top: Briggs Stadium
Bottom:Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. Picture taken January 21, 2005.

Photo by MrMiscellanious

04/20/1912 Naps (Indians) 5, Tigers 6 (11 innings)
Umpires Fred Perrine, Bill Dineen
Managers Hughie Jennings, Tigers
  Harry Davis, Naps
Starting Pitchers George Mullin, Tigers
  Vean Gregg, Naps
Ceremonial Pitch Detroit Mayor Thompson
Attendance 24,384
Batter Jack Graney (pop out)
Hit Ossie Vitt (single)
Run Joe Jackson
RBI Ty Cobb
Single Ossie Vitt
Double Ivy Olson
Triple Bruno Block (04/28/1912)
Home Run Del Pratt (05/05/1912)
Grand Slam Roger Peckinpaugh (08/22/1913)
IPHR Donie Bush (06/10/1912)
Stolen Base Joe Jackson
Sacrifice Hit Baldy Louden
Sacrifice Fly Hank Butcher (04/21/1912)
Cycle Bobby Veach (09/17/1920)
Win George Mullin
Loss Vean Gregg
Shutout George Kahler (04/21/1912)
Save N/A
Hit by Pitch George Mullin hit Buddy Ryan
Wild Pitch Tex Covington (04/27/1912)
Balk Bill Burns (04/28/1912)
No-Hitter George Mullin (07/04/1912)
Perfect Game Charlie Robertson (04/30/1922)
Primary research by Jim Herdman & David Vincent
Courtesy of Retrosheet

My Own Tiger Stadium Experience

I've only made one trip to Detroit and it was a business trip to Ford in Dearborn shortly before the 1996 Olympics. Living my entire life on the west coast, where Candlestick is considered historic, I made it a point to make it to a Tigers game during my stay. Three impressions have stayed with me from that daytime Red Sox/Tigers matchup:

  • This is a very old stadium with hardly any modern conveniences - like stepping back in a time machine.
  • The Tigers sure have fallen a long way since the glory days of Morris, Parrish, Gibson, Trammell and Whitaker.
  • What an intimate and grand place to watch a baseball game! I hope they never tear it down.

I was about twenty rows back behind first base on the lower deck, but I could see that even from first row of the upper deck, you'd still only be about 30 feet from first base (or so I remember). The upper deck was directly above the lower all the way around the park and there wasn't much foul territory. Even from my position, I was close enough to the players to hear what they were saying, though perhaps that had more to do with the sparse crowd. (In case you are wondering, Jamie Moyer beat Felipe Lira and the Tigers 6-4 with Heathcliff Slocumb picking up the save.)

As I say, I was just a visitor and have no idea how the average Detroit fan feels about old Tiger Stadium (share your thoughts below), but for me the simple pleasure of just watching the timeless game itself without exploding DiamondVision scoreboards and blaring speakers ended when the Tigers left following the 1999 season.

Related Books on Tiger Stadiums:
Corner to Copa: The last Game at Tiger Stadium and the First at Comerica Park by the Detroit Free Press.
The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark by Tom Stanton.
Home Sweet Home: Memories of Tiger Stadium by the Detroit News.
A Place for Summer: A Narrative History of Tiger Stadium by Richard Bak
Queen of Diamonds: The Tiger Stadium Story by Michael Betzold and Ethan Casey.
Tiger Stadium by Irwin J. Cohen.

Related Books on Ballparks
The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic by Ron Smith and Kevin Belford.
Ballpark: The Story of America's Baseball Fields by Lynn Curlee
Ballparks: A Panoramic History by Marc Sandalow and Jim Sutton.
Ballparks by Robert Von Goeben and Red Howard.
Ballparks: Then & Now by Eric Enders.
Baseball Vacations: Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Ballbarks Across America by Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel.
Blue Skies, Green Fields: A Celebration of 50 Major League Baseball Stadiums by Ira Rosen.
Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark by Michael Gershman.
Fields of Dreams: A Guide to Visiting and Enjoying All 30 Major League Ballparks by Jay Ahuja
Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All Major League and Negro League Ballparks by Philip J. Lowry.
Joe Mock's Ballpark Guide by Joe Mock.
Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball's Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter.
Roadside Baseball: A Guide to Baseball Shrines Across America by Chris Epting.
Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present by Josh Leventhal and Jessica Macmurray.
The Ultimate Baseball Road-Trip: A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums by Joshua Pahigian and Kevin O'Connell.
Video: Story of America's Classic Ballparks
Video: Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns

Economics of Stadiums
City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks by Philip Bess.
Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause.
Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums by Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein.
Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist.

General Stadium Reference:
Sports Staff of USA Today. The Complete 4 Sport Stadium Guide. Fodor's, 1996.

Stadium Design and Financing References:
Philip Bess. City Baseball Magic: Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks. Knothole Press, 1999.
Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause. Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. Common Courage Press, 1998.
Mark S. Rosentraub. Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who's Paying for It. HarperCollins, 1997.
Kevin J. Delaney, Rick Eckstein. Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle over Building Sports Stadiums. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist. Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. Brookings Institution, 1997.
Dean V. Baim. The Sports Stadium as a Municipal Investment. Greenwood Publishing, 1994.
Stadia: A Design and Development Guide by Geraint John and Rod Sheard. Architectural Press, 2000.
Michelle Provoost, Matthjis Bouw and Camiel Van Winkel. The Stadium: Architecture of Mass Sport. NAI Publishers, 2000.

Share Your Memories!

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--Patrick Mondout



Tiger Stadium from space!

USGS Photo

Year by Year statistics: for Tiger Stadium

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