My Ford rental car makes its way north on Michigan Avenue toward downtown Detroit. It is a beautiful August day, with temperatures in the low 70’s. I am on my way to Comerica Park to finish a three game series between the Tigers and the Royals.
I slow down and stop briefly as I pass the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Amidst the overgrown weeds and crumbling buildings, you can just make out the faded letters “Plaza 3” across the top of the decaying steel gates that so many have passed through. This spot was declared a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1975 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, though you would hardly know it by its present condition.
It is the former sight of one of the most historic and revered cathedrals in baseball. It is still hallowed ground for generations of Michigan baseball fans. The voice of Ernie Harwell still echoes in the memories of this place. It has an uncluttered name from a bygone era before corporate entities like Comerica and Petco entered the lineup. The soft whisper of it signified more to those who graced its presence than just a plot of land or steel structure. This empty lot is all that remains of Tiger Stadium.
I suppose umpires are much like the players when it comes to ballparks that have come and gone. You always can recall the first or last game and take with you some memory that you will tell your children or grandchildren. This corner is familiar to me and I worked my only series here in July of 1999. A great burger, a cold beer and a friendly smile awaits fans (and umpires) at Nemo’s just a block away. Coincidentally, it was a series against the Kansas City Royals and a young player named Johnny Damon was in the lineup for the Royals. Today, these two teams play again, at the beautiful state of the art Comerica Park and that same Damon will be in a Tiger uniform instead.
Progress will always bring about change. The stadium was demolished in sections over a long period of time. The modern game left behind not just Tiger Stadium, but many others. I suppose for those who grew up with the Tigers and their historic ballpark, it must be difficult to see what became of it. I talk with the clubhouse attendant, Jim Schmakel who has been with the club for over 20 years, about Tiger Stadium, and what remains of it now. In the end, he says, “I have got a lot of memories there.”
Memories are all that seem to remain at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
Mike Di Muro has been a Major League Umpire since 1999. He is the author of the official blog of UMPS CARE Charities. Please leave any questions or comments below.