Baseball Making a Comeback in Corktown

Tiger Stadium went by Briggs Stadium from 1935 to 1961.

Tiger Stadium went by Briggs Stadium from 1935 to 1961.

By Glen Sparks

They’re going to play baseball again at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit.

Construction is scheduled to begin in April on a youth sports center where Tiger Stadium once stood. The new headquarters of the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) will feature a baseball field, as well as a field for soccer and football.

The $12 million facility, located in the city’s historic Corktown neighborhood, will be 9 ½ acres. A mixed-use development, called The Corner (one of the nicknames for Tiger Stadium) also is part of the construction plan.

Tiger Stadium opened April 20, 1912, as Navin Field, named for then-owner Frank Navin. The steel-and-concrete park, which cost $300,000 to build, opened the same day as Fenway Park in Boston. Navin Field replaced Bennett Park, also located at Michigan and Trumbull avenues.

Following Navin’s death in 1935, Walter Briggs bought the team. He renamed the park Briggs Stadium, Seating capacity increased from 23,000 to 36,000. A few years later, 17,000 more seats were added.

Joe Fetzer, a radio and television executive, bought the team in 1961. He also re-christened the ballpark Tiger Stadium. (The Lions played on this site from 1938 through 1974.)

Through the years, the Tigers won nine pennants and four World Series (1935, ’45, ’68 and ’84) at Navin Field/Briggs Stadium/Tiger Stadium. Players proudly wore the Olde English “D” on their caps. This was the home of Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, Al Kaline, and so many other players. Rudy York, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Norm Cash …

Mike Ilitch, the head of Little Caesars Pizza, bought the Tigers in 1992. He made some cosmetic changes to Tiger Stadium and began working on plans for a new park. The Tigers played their last game at Michigan and Trumbull on Sept, 27, 1999. They beat the Kansas City Royals 8-2.

Comerica Park opened April 11, 2000, at 2100 Woodward Ave.

10 things you might not know about Tiger Stadium highlights:

  • Detroit first baseman Johnny Neun turned an unassisted triple play against the Cleveland Indians on May 31, 1927.
  • Detroit fans gave the St. Louis Cardinals’ Joe “Ducky” Medwick a fruit-filled shower in Game Seven of the 1934 World Series. The fans didn’t like the way Medwick slide into Tigers third baseman Marv Owen earlier in the game.
  • New York Yankees sluggers Babe Ruth notched home run No. 700 on July 13, 1934. The ball sailed over the right-field and supposedly traveled more than 500 feet on the fly.
  • Joe Louis defended his heavyweight title by knocking out contender Bob Pastor Sept. 20, 1939, in the 11th round.
  • The Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams belted a three-run homer to win the 1941 All-Star game 7-5.
  • The Tigers and Yankees slugged a combined 11 home runs on June 23, 1950. The Tigers won the game 10-9.
  • The Washington Senators’ Frank Howard, the Capital Punisher, cranked his 10th home run in a six-game span on May 18, 1968. Not surprisingly, the 6-foot-7 Howard belted the ball onto the roof.
  • Detroit ace Denny McClain beat the Oakland A’s on Sept. 14, 1968, to win his 30th game of the season, the first pitcher to reach that milestone since Dizzy Dean in 1934.
  • Reggie Jackson crushed a home run off Dock Ellis during the 1971 All-Star game. The ball plastered a light-standard transformer on the right-field roof.
  • Detroit phenom Mark Fidrych talked to the baseball at Tiger Stadium and everywhere else he pitched. Fidrych fashioned a 19-9 won-loss in his rookie season of 1976. Arm problems followed. He retired with a 29-19 career record.
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