Mar 30, 2009

Author talks about generational connection with Tiger Stadium

HOWELL -- “Old buildings bring life to stories. They put a foundation to memories.”

That’s a quote from the preface of Michigan author Tom Stanton’s book “The Final Season: Fathers, Sons, and One Last Season in a Classic American Ballpark.” Stanton decided to attend and document all 81 homes games in historic Tiger stadium during the final season of the stadium in 1999.

“Some people are put off by the fact that I went to all 81 games, and they think it’s a rehash of what happened about the games,” Stanton said. “It’s much more than that.”

The book is more about how four generations of his Michigan family are connected through Tiger Stadium. It’s a human story about his relationship with his teenage son, his father and his father’s brothers. It is also a look at Tiger Stadium’s final season through the eyes the fans who love the historic stadium, as well as through the eyes of the stadium ushers, concessionaires, parking lot attendants, broadcasters and ballplayers.

The former journalist has written three books since he published The Final Season nine years ago, but he has not received nearly the amount of feedback from the others.

“It’s still in print; which is really amazing,” Stanton said. “I still get letters every week through the web site on the book.
“So many generations have been touched through Tiger Stadium,” he said. “People see their own story in the book.”

Stanton’s book is one of the two books chosen as part of Livingston Reads 2009. The theme this year is "Play Ball.“ The six district libraries in the county choose a book for the entire community to read. The goal is to get people talking about the book, and they also hold a series of coordinated events at each library that includes author talks, movies and other events. Livingston Read runs through May 31.

Stanton spoke last week at the Howell Carnegie District Library before a room full of baseball and Tiger Stadium fans, and his stories and anecdotes entertained the crowd.

“This is nothing against basketball, football or hockey, but there is no body of literature like there is romanticizing baseball,” he said.

Stanton’s book bemoans the fact that there has never been a successful effort to save or preserve any baseball stadium. In the book, he talks to a woman who was part of a group dedicated to saving iconic Fenway Park in Boston; the oldest major league stadium that opened the same day as Tiger Stadium.

There is an effort to save what remains of Tiger Stadium at one of the most famous addresses in U.S. History, Michigan and Trumbull, where baseball has been played before the turn of the 20th Century. Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy plans to use the preserved portion of the old ballpark as a magnet for economic development.

The project includes a dugout-to-dugout section that would be converted to commercial space, a museum housing the second largest collection on baseball memorabilia in the country and a community center. The playing field would be renovated for youth and high school baseball and community events.

I can just imagine the outcry - which I agree with - if someone tried to tear down the historic Livingston County Courthouse. Then why is it OK to tear down something as historic, memory-filled and beloved as Tiger Stadium?

Stanton said he had to be there when Tiger Stadium underwent the initial demolition, much like you have to be at the bedside of a dying parent to tell them how you really feel about them and to say goodbye.

“Every time I went by the stadium, there were people there at all times of the day,” Stanton said. “You have to be a baseball fan to understand when you saw tears in their eyes.”

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