Checking in at Michigan and Trumbull
Well-kept, thanks to the efforts of the all-volunteer Navin Field Grounds Crew, but still just a ball diamond.
Tiger Stadium used to sit the intersection of Michigan and Trumbull. It always seemed so massive, didn’t it?
Especially when you were a kid. Stadium walls rising from the sidewalk higher than a swatted fungo. Light towers perched above the upper deck. You swear you could see them shining during a night game from Bellville and Belle Isle.
Tiger Stadium was almost intimidating from the outside.
But once inside, nothing was more enthralling. Walking through the concourse and making your way to the seats. Almost magically, urban became rural; the typical city palette of hard scrabble grays turned incredibly green.
Green is the way the field remains, even though the stadium is no longer there.
It was Father’s Day when my wife and I and our youngest daughter, Breanna, made our way to Corktown. We were going to grab something to eat at the Mercury Burger Bar that’s just a handful of blocks west of Trumbull on Michigan.
As we drove by the site where Tiger Stadium formerly resided, a vintage baseball game was being played. People in garb more befitting the 1860s than 21st century were batting the ball and running the bases.
We immediately stopped, yanked some folding chairs from the trunk, and made our way to the game. We joined the hundred or so other people who were watching the game.
Hot dogs were offered by the Navin Field Grounds Crew. So, too, was Faygo soda pop.
A man came by selling peanuts and I couldn’t resist. Old habits are hard to break, and I used to grab a brown bag full of salted peanuts from a vendor on Trumbull before every Tiger game I attended.
None of the vintage players wore gloves. None had an agent, either. There were a few bleachers. Not a single suite to be found.
Some kids were playing catch behind the backstop. A mom was feeding her infant along the first base line. Some very pleasant people from the Navin Field Grounds Crew were spooning baked beans and potato salad onto plates to accompany the Ballpark Franks. Donations were appreciated but not required.
While I am sure that food is not always served, there seems to be a lot of baseball on the menu at Michigan and Trumbull these days. Youth games are played on a regular basis. Vintage baseball seems to have found a home for obvious reasons.
While it is no longer the site of Tiger Stadium, it remains a baseball diamond and somehow that seems exactly right.
Isn’t it the essence of the game? Strip away all the garnishments and baseball is all about grass and dirt and if you're lucky, some actual bases and a fence for a backstop.
That's the way we all got started playing. Running to the playground. Sprinting to the park. Jumping over the fence into your neighbor’s yard. Grabbing a baseball and a bat and depending upon your age, that bat was either fashioned from wood or metal.
I’m an old guy. Our bats were always wood. They'd crack and we'd tape them up. The crack would get worse and we'd drive a nail or two to keep them intact.
Tiger Stadium is gone, but the baseball field remains. Say thanks to the Navin Field Grounds Crew. Not just for the hot dog. Not just for the Faygo.
But for preserving the baseball field. For keeping the memories of Tiger Stadium alive. For providing for future memories, too.