Playing with ghosts. When my family and I were still living in Wisconsin, we made our yearly pilgrimage back to our home state of Michigan. When we made those journeys, we would often venture into Detroit for a day. One of those visits was to Tiger Stadium, after it had been demolished.
But it was also after the Navin Field Grounds Crew had done its job of cleaning out the weeds and the remaining rubbish from the site of my fondest baseball memories to make it a park.
It became an unofficial park, with an unofficial name called Ernie Harwell Park, and games were played there. That one summer afternoon, with my son just starting his young playing career, that I took the field – the same field my childhood heroes played on like Tram, Sweet Lou, Cecil Fielder and Mickey Tettleton – to play quick game of slowpitch softball.
I got chills taking the field. The chills of maybe I don’t deserve to be in the batter’s box. I don’t deserve to be toeing the rubber where legends were, tossing to my son some batting practice, before playing in the game.
I’ve long had an affection for Tiger Stadium. That’s something that I’ve long maintained. And, I’ve read from afar what was going to happen to the site with great interest. The latest news, though, brings mixed emotions. I agree with the preservationists trying to keep a natural grass field intact along with the dimensions that have been at the site for roughly 100 years.
I do wish the Detroit PAL would enlist these volunteers to aid in the upkeep of the field while building up the surroundings of the stadium to something that everyone can enjoy, either at a park-side bar and grill or from the field itself for youths and adults, from the vintage clubs to the travel teams.
Instead, the Navin Field Ground Crew vowed they would help to keep Hamtramck Stadium’s field going. I’ve grown to enjoy reading about the history of Hamtramck Stadium and its impact on baseball history. The Negro Leagues didn’t get a shared site with the Tigers at The Corner as was the case in other cities. There was no integration when it came to the home park.
Last summer, I wanted to stop by Hamtramck Stadium to get a sense of the history of the site after my son was done with a baseball camp at Wayne State. Next summer, getting to the site of Hamtramck Stadium is a must-do on our list of things. It would be wonderful if the organization leading the preservation of Hamtramck Stadium can restore the grandstands with the aid of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, and others.
And perhaps one day, this vintage base ball player will get a chance to play at a historic ballpark in the heart of the Motor City. Maybe I’ll even get a chance to play with my son, too. It might not be The Corner, but given the amount of history that has been at Hamtramck Stadium – and what could be in the future in just dreaming of possibilities – it would be awesome to be on the field once more.
A side note: Given that the structure of Hamtramck Stadium is in place, and it would likely be outside of the influence of some of the more rich and powerful in town, could a collegiate woodbat team or an independent team be able to make a go of it at the field? To clarify the first part, I personally doubt the ownership of the Tigers wanted anything to be at old Tiger Stadium that would at all compete with the club and the new ballpark. I feel the same way about what’s about to happen when the Wings move from Joe Louis Arena to whatever company buys the naming rights to the new arena. The Joe is going to disappear, which makes sense because of Cobo blocking it from access to much of downtown. It’d be a fun setting for an unaffiliated game that can be seen at an affordable price.