Mar 16, 2009

If you save it they will come

If you build it, they will come, or to modify the famous premise of the classic Kevin Costner baseball movie “Field of Dreams,” if you refurbish it they will come. It being historic Tiger Stadium. I know I will come.

Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy is working hard to preserve what’s left of historic Tiger Stadium at one of the most famous addresses in U.S. History, Michigan and Trumbull. Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy plans to use the preserved portion of the old ballpark as a magnet for economic development in a distressed area, and the ambitious $27 million redevelopment project includes a dugout-to-dugout section that would be converted to commercial space and a community center. The playing field would be renovated for youth and high school baseball and community events.

What a thrill it would be to play on the same field as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, George Kell, Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, not to mention Detroit Lions Lem Barney, Joe Schmidt, Bobby Layne and Charlie Sanders.

Renovated Tiger Stadium will include museum quality exhibits, a banquet hall and retail. Fans will be able to explore the clubhouses, dugouts and the broadcast booth. The most exciting feature that will bring visitors from all over the world to the Stadium and Detroit will be the Harwell Museum.

Hall of Fame Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell has been the voice of the Tigers from 1960 to 2002, and his collection of baseball memorabilia is second only to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I made a pilgrimage to Cooperstown a few years ago, and it is an experience I will never forget. I hesitate to put a price tag on Ernie’s collection, considering he is priceless, but it is easily in the millions of dollars. It would be great to be Cooperstown Midwest.

The good news is President Obama‘s recently approved $410-billion omnibus spending bill has a $3.8 million expenditure to help preserve Tiger Stadium and spur economic development. Some idiots, both at the national level and amazingly even here in our own state, oppose that as wasteful spending. Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn pushed an amendment to the legislation that would strip out 11 earmarks that he said “looked a little stinky to me.” Tiger Stadium was No. 2 on Coburn’s hit list. That ridiculous amendment failed.

Preservation of historic buildings is an important function, and is there anything more historic to more generations of Michiganders that Tiger Stadium and the Corner?

Professional baseball has been played at the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull since 1895, and from 1912 to 1999 generations of fathers and sons have enjoyed watching great baseball while making memories that last a lifetime, whether it was at Bennett Park, Navin Field, Briggs Stadium or Tiger Stadium.

Memories of the first time people ever set foot in Tiger Stadium are as numerous as mosquitoes on a July evening in Michigan. I was just 10-years-old when I made a group trip with the Monroe Midget Baseball League in 1968. We were all in our uniforms, and I will never forget when I stepped up the ramp to the left field bleachers and took in the field for the first time. The green of the outfield grass literally took my breath away, and it cemented my growing love affair with baseball and Tiger Stadium that has never ended; even when it was severely tested during the season when a strike wiped out the World Series.

To really get a feel for Tiger Stadium, read the book by Tom Stanton called “The Final Season.” The journalist attended all 81 homes in the final season, and it’s a touching and memorable book. His book was chosen as the book for Livingston Reads 2009, and he will be appearing at the Howell Carnegie District Library at 6:30 p.m. March 26. Registration is not required.

More importantly, to make a donation to save Tiger Stadium and preserve the most historic ball park in America, send a personal check to

The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy
PO Box 141193
Detroit, MI 48214

The Conservancy is a tax-exempt organization and your donation is tax-deductible.


ka_Dargo_Hussein said...

As a baseball fan since I was in short pants, I want Tiger Stadium saved.

However, sometimes I cannot allow my sentimentality to get the better of me and must think in practical terms.

This, at this moment in time, is a bad idea. We have too many other issues to address and funding a museum for the Olde English D is not a priority.

Communications guru said...

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one. To me, it would be like tearing down Hitsville USA in Detroit or the historic Livingston County Courthouse in Howell. Some of the most famous and legendary people have played at the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Like I said, I went to Cooperstown a few years ago, and that that place was bustling. Now, I know the area will never be like that, but when you consider Ernie Harwell wants to house his collection there – second only to Cooperstown – I’m going to say it will draw a few visitors.

What is a priority is economic development, and that’s exactly what this is.

kevins said...

I love Tiger Stadium. I started going there when it was Briggs Stadium. The large green outfield pasture always took my breath away.
And I think Ernie Harwell is a national treasure.

But times change. Just because you want something to be, doesn't make it so. The Field of Dreams was a fantasy...unless you believe dead baseball players truly emerged from an Iowa cornfield to play ball.

You compare Tiger Stadium to Hitsville. Got any idea how many people come to Hitsville in a year?

Communications guru said...

It’s nice to see we agree on something, brett. My experience was exactly like yours. I wonder how many generations of Michiganders share that experience? I’m going to say a lot. Wouldn’t it be great to try and pass that down to the next generation? This has always been a baseball town

Like I said, I went to Cooperstown, and if you have never been, it’s an experience. Not just at the Museum, but the memorabilia shops. I think the second largest baseball memorabilia collection, secondhand only to Cooperstown, will draw people from all over the country.

Hitsville USA may have been a bad example, but still, did you see the front page of the Detroit News and Freep today. It still draws people. Perhaps Greenfield Village may be a better example. Have you ever seen the baseball game there? Is that cool or what?

To me, it seems like a crime to destroy something as historic and loved as Tiger Stadium without an effort to save it and find a useful use for it. I think they have found that use.

And no, I don’t believe “dead baseball players truly emerged from an Iowa cornfield to play ball.” But what makes sense to me is the final, dramatic speech by James Earl Jones.