With MLB’s All-Star festivities set to begin at the newish Comerica Park, the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner looks at the condition of the Tigers’ abandoned former home.
Tiger Stadium, built in 1912, is a sensitive topic for the team and the city. The Tigers refer most questions to the city, and the city refers reporters to a prepared statement. When a Detroit television station, WXYZ, tried to interview a city official about Tiger Stadium last week, he turned his back and walked away.
The station reported that the city had given the Tigers’ owner, Mike Illitch, $2.5 million over the last five years to maintain Tiger Stadium and provide security. This year, the report said, Illitch reduced the annual maintenance fee to $200,000 from $400,000.
Michael J. Healy, the Tigers’ All-Star week liaison, said in an interview last week, “We’ve tried to clean up around the outside of Tiger Stadium, so that the purists who want to go over there and take their picture at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull will be able to do that.”
But baseball purists may be disheartened. Tiger Stadium is a ghost town. It had its last game on Sept. 27, 1999, and has been closed to the public since, except for three collegiate and semipro games in 2001. A nearby billboard advertises the All-Star Game, but there will be no events at Tiger Stadium.
“It would have been so cool if they could have the home run derby there,” said C. J. Nitkowski, a former Tigers pitcher who started the last night game at Tiger Stadium. “It would have been so much more fun. Guys would be launching balls out of the stadium. That would have been a great idea.”
Healy said Major League Baseball had expressed some interest in having an All-Star event at Tiger Stadium, but the team was worried about safety because “the ballpark’s interior is in disrepair.”
Last Saturday, at the entrance to the Tigers’ old offices, potato chip bags, candy wrappers and weeds clustered at the step. The numerals for the street address – 2121 – were barely visible over the glass door. Above it were Tigers logos, a newer one painted over an older version, chipping away so badly that they blended.
Inside, a ceiling tile rested in a hanging light fixture. A guard waved off a reporter and disappeared through a side door.
A plaque designating Tiger Stadium as a historical landmark was still there, though a Ty Cobb plaque was moved to Comerica last Friday. Faded orange Tigers paws still covered the park’s exterior and sidewalks, leading to nowhere.
“It’s like they played the last game, locked the door and walked away,” Tony DeLuca, a visitor from Philadelphia, said last week. “See ya.”