7/10/98 at Tiger Stadium

Last week I blogged about a game that I attended at Shea Stadium in 1996. Now I’m taking you to Detroit in 1998 . . .

This was the 14th stadium that I’d ever been to, and I was only planning to be here for one game. I was on a mini-road trip that had started the previous day in Cleveland; after Tiger Stadium, I was planning to head to Chicago for two games at Comiskey Park, followed a game at County Stadium and another at Busch — so I had to make it count.

I began by wandering all around the stadium and taking a bunch of photos. Here’s what it looked like from across the street:



It wasn’t exactly the nicest neighborhood, but whatever. I was just glad to finally be there.

Some of the streets were named after Hall-of-Fame Tigers:


I got my picture taken next to a couple plaques . . .


. . . and that was pretty much the extent of the “action” until the gates opened at 5:30pm. I’d arrived way too early, and there wasn’t anything to do, so I wandered over to Gate 9 . . .


. . . and read the latest issue of “Baseball Weekly.”

By the time the stadium was set to open, there was a huge crowd waiting to get in. I’d stupidly planned to be here when the Blue Jays were in town; Toronto is only a four-hour drive from Detroit, so a whole bunch of Jays fans had made the trip.

I didn’t have a plan for BP, and it showed. I only snagged three balls — all in right field — but now that I think about it, I’d have to say that the stadium itself had a lot to do with my lack of success. Not only did the gates *not* open in time for me to see the Tigers take BP, but the layout of the upper deck made things tough. Here’s a photo that I took after BP, which will show you what I mean:


As you can see, the upper deck (which isn’t even that high in the first place) overhung the lower deck, so most of the home runs landed upstairs. In addition to that, when I stood in the front row on the lower level, the wall/chain-link fence was higher than eye level, so there was no way to reach forward/out of the stands for balls.

I snagged my first two baseballs in the upper deck. Dan Plesac threw me the first one, and I got the second with my glove trick . . . sort of. I was dangling it all the way down (probably 30 to 40 feet) to the warning track when a player on the Blue Jays — not sure who — gave me an assist by stuffing the ball into my glove. I was surprised that the ushers didn’t yell at me, although it wasn’t long before I got into it with one of them for a different reason.

Toward the end of BP, I went to the lower level and got my final ball tossed by Bill Risley — and that’s when I nearly lost my temper. At 6:25pm, some old, cranky usher started kicking everyone out of the section, insisting that batting practice was over. The thing is, though, that BP wasn’t over. There were still a few guys taking turns in the cage, so I refused to leave and nearly got into a shouting match with him. Amazing. Do teams *try* to hire rude people? Is it a requirement that in order to be an usher, you have to hate humanity? I really wonder.

Here’s another photo that I took after BP:


Soon after, I got Risley to sign my ticket stub:


Then I wandered behind home plate and had my picture taken near the protective screen:


With a bit more time to spare before the game, I headed to the third-base side and peeked into the dugout:


See how cramped it was? In the photo above, the player wearing No. 17 is Tony Clark, and okay, fine, so he’s 6-foot-7, but still, he shouldn’t have had to duck every time he went in or out. Tiger Stadium was cramped all over, and it was a total dump. I remember seeing lots of cobwebs in the seats toward the back of the lower level in right field, and look at the chipped paint in the photo above. At the time, I dissed the stadium in my journal — hell, I dissed everything back then — but now I miss it. Now we have all these new, wannabe-old-looking stadiums that try to be cozy and intimate, but they’re not. They’re cavernous monstrosities — sterile and expensive and generic. Tiger Stadium was a place where you could truly GET LOST. There were nooks and crannies and areas so dark with shadows that you could practically hide. For many people, baseball is an escape — and I can only imagine what a marvelous escape this place would’ve been on a regular basis.

Anyway, I headed through the cross-aisle on the third-base side . . .


. . . and took a photo of Tigers starter Seth Greisinger warming up:


Does anyone remember him? C’mon, be honest.

I took this photo during the national anthem . . .


. . . because of Deivi Cruz (No. 8), who had played in Boise three years earlier — not as a member of the Hawks, but on one of the visiting teams, namely the Bellingham Giants. One day that summer, when I was working in the ticket office, the Giants’ bus broke down in the parking lot, just outside my window. All the players were sitting around, so I found a baseball and a pen and stuck my head out. I waved the nearest player over — it happened to be Cruz — and got him to take the ball around and get it signed by all his teammates. Fast-forward three years to this game at Tiger Stadium. It was the first time I’d seen him since then, and I tried to talk to him, but he ignored me. That’s what success does to people. Of course, I’d never let it do that to me.

This was my view in the first inning . . .


. . . and here’s a similar photo that shows what it looked like on the right:


Tiger Stadium was gorgeous, but I was too young (20 years old) and dumb to realize it.

This was the view to my left:


Halfway through the game, I moved to the left field foul line:


Check out this shot of the left-field cross-aisle from above:


Do you see what I’m talking about? See the red “FLAGSTAR” ad and the yellow ad to the right of it? Look at the insanely wide aisle down below, just behind the left field wall. Goodness gracious. That was home-run heaven, and it didn’t even occur to me at the time. Instead, I’d spent half the game in the upper deck behind home plate, hoping for a foul ball.

Eventually I moved to the lower level in left field:


I’m not sure why I didn’t sit down in front. Were there empty seats? Did I try to sit there and get kicked out by the crabby ushers? Was it too hard to see? Did I simply have my head up my ass? (Yes, that’s probably it.) In any case, the Tigers beat the Jays, 3-2, on a 10th-inning double by Cruz.

On my way out, I collected a bunch of ticket stubs:


And now I have a special bonus for you. Just as I did with my old Shea Stadium blog entry, I’ve photographed the original handwritten pages from my journal (and bleeped out the curses and overly negative stuff — I was such an angry young man). That’s how I’ve been able to recreate these blog entries all these years later. This journal entry is long, but you really oughta read it. It starts with a funny story about my crappy hotel room and then goes from there. You’ll see more details about the mean usher in right field, and there are other things here that I didn’t include in the blog. Enjoy . . .


The journal entry continues here:


My GOD I used to write a lot:


Yup, there’s more . . .


. . . and here’s the end:


I love these old journals SO MUCH, not just from a baseball perspective, but because I’m re-discovering my old self. That said, I can’t help thinking about which game should I blog about next? So many options . . .


  1. Cook & Son Bats

    How didn’t you appreciate Tiger Stadium at the time!? That place looks absolutely beautiful to me. Watching games there on TV, I loved the overhanging OF upper deck. I really wanted to go there before they closed it. I couldn’t believe it when they closed it and ripped it down. Luckily, Comerica is amazing too…but in a different way.
    How’s this for a great moment in Tiger Stadium history:

  2. Philip Joens

    Hey Zack, thanks for posting these. It’s cool to see and hear about your experiences while you were my age. Maybe it’s because we’re friends, but your pictures really brought Tigers Stadium alive for me. I can’t remember Tiger Stadium. My earliest memory of the Detroit Tigers is seeing them play the Cubs on TV sometime in Comerica Park before they moved the fences in. I’ve seen pictures and videos of Tigers Stadium, somehow it never seemed real. It just seemed like a great memory other people got to experience, but I never could. I wish I could’ve seen Comiskey, Crosley, Sportsmans, and Tiger Stadium. The pictures I’ve seen always seemed so bland and generic. They are always from the ’71 All-Star Game, or the Final game, or when the place was packed. I’ve watched a couple games at Tiger Stadium on ESPN Classic. But I hadn’t seen photos like you took. Maybe it was that you put a story with it too. Somehow you made a Friday night game from a July in 1998 seem really cool.That right field roof seemed so imposing, so tall. It’s not in play, but it’s so large it seemingly hangs over the field. It’s hard to believe Reggie Jackson hit a ball up there! I hadn’t seen a shot like your one from left field. It’s cool to see how suites on top of the roof. (Were they offices or suites?) I’m with Cooks too. I’m 20, young, and stupid. But IT’S TIGER STADIUM!!!!!!!!!! YOU LOVED BASEBALL!!!!!! HOW COULD YOU HATE TIGER STADIUM AT THE TIME?????????

    On a side note, college ballhawking is fun. A, the season starts a month earlier so I start on March 1! B, I’ve got a chance to snag balls from I think it’s 8 conferences before the end of may. Plus I’m going home in May. The Royals and their Triple-A Omaha team in the PCL are home the weekend I go home. Plus the Explorers are playing a Can-Am team for some reason the week I get home. Lol, did I mention I also have 2 weddings to attend that week? Lol I could possibly snag 12 different types of balls by May 25. Yeah, I’m loving life :-)

    -Take Care Zack

  3. kslo69

    Sweet Clemente clip! Thanks Seattle! I just finished a great book, a little bit out of date, but excellent nonetheless, “Men at Work” by George Will. Highly recommended. One section focuses on Cal Ripken, which I’m sure you would appreciate, Zack, if you haven’t read it yet. The other sections mainly focus on Tony Gwynn, Orel Herschiser, and Tony LaRussa.

  4. joshuamcneil

    I wish I was able to go to Tiger Stadium, but I was born in 97. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a great ballpark. It’s too bad they tore it down. Do you have a commemorative ball from Tiger Stadium? I think that would be cool.
    -Joshua McNeil

  5. tc

    hey zack.tiger stad was there til 1999 i remember.u got there sweet…..did u steal any memoriabilia .like a bolt or piece of dirt?people were digging up the field.do you drink calistoga water ?perrier?.im off sodas too now.ice tea and cranbeery juice only

  6. Chad Sabo

    Thank you so much Zack for shaing your recap of Tiger Stadium with us. It brought back so many fond memories, as this was the stadium where I saw my first major league game back in 84, the last time that the Tigers won it all. I can still recall walking through the dimly lit tunnel to enter the lower deck of seats and seeing the field for the first time. It was amazing! Tiger Stadium was constructed in such a way that you weren’t able to see the field until the very last second. Once you got to the stands you were suddenly exposed to one of the greenest baseball fields ever laid out. In a way, it was like stepping back in time. You could just imagine Ty Cobb rounding third and heading for home. Often, the view was enhanced when the field was bathed by the glow of sunlight. Interesting, I also recall that the first couple row of seats on the field level were actually set lower than the playing field, which made the field seem even bigger. Tiger Stadium was the best as it had so much character and history wrapped up in its foundation. Long live the memories from the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and Go Tigers!

  7. Zack Hample

    Pretty sure that was Game 5 of the 1993 World Series at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. I have *very* few photos, unfortunately — just a shot or two of me outside the stadium — and I only snagged one ball. In other words, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to say. I hadn’t yet started keeping a journal either. What a shame.

    That’s quite an impressive home run. As for the Kingdome . . . could happen.

    You’re welcome! Glad you’re enjoying these old entries. Not sure if those were suites or offices, and I have no idea why I didn’t appreciate the stadium at the time. I enjoyed being there just because it was a new experience, but the place itself didn’t do it for me. (Stupid me.) Meanwhile, that’s nuts about how many different types of baseballs you’re going to snag.

    I own that book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Someday. There’s too much non-baseball stuff that I’m interested in right now.

    I believe you. You seem like the honest type.

    Nope, nothing commemorative from that stadium. Here’s my full collection of commemorative balls:

    Ha, no, I didn’t steal anything. I was there in ’99, but not at the end of the season. As for beverages, I only drink uncarbonated water. Juice is all sugar and calories — that’s no way to be trim and healthy.

    Good to hear from you, and you’re welcome. Reading your comment actually made me appreciate the stadium even more, all these years later, so thank YOU.

  8. Tim

    Not to get you stuck on the same trip but I vote for the comiskey park visit. I got to the south side a year late.

  9. Zack Hample

    Thanks, but no, unfortunately, I was only at Candlestick for one game in 1993, and I didn’t start journaling until 1995. I do have a few photos from that game, so I could throw together a very brief entry.

    Heh, glad you like that.

    Ahh. Well, I’ll get around to blogging about those old White Sox games at some point. Right now I’m more interested in blogging about stadiums that no longer exist.


  10. Rob Grootarz

    Keep it up Zack, love reading these stories. I’m pretty much photo blogging my trips to different parks. Wish I had taken photos of Wrigley in 97 :/.

  11. Brian

    Did you know that if you look on Google maps/Google Earth you can still see the actual field? Even the baselines are still there. They have a fence up around it, but there are some video on YouTUbe of people hopping the fence and running the bases/playing little ball. Pretty cool if you’re into that sort of thing, which I *really* am. Anything and everything that has to do w/ old stadiums and where they stood is fascinating.

  12. NBA

    Ever seen the movie “Hardball” with Keanu Reeves. He tells the kids they’re going to Wrigley Field but they actually filmed that portion of the movie at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Love these old photos. I drove by the old Tiger Stadium site last season when I went to Comerica Park and the field is still there and you can go play on the diamond.

  13. Vinny B

    I was at this game as well, in upper deck right field. I caught (or should I say crawled on the cement) for Luis Gonzales’s homerun ball in the 6th. I was 21 or so at the time. I’ve been trying to find the video of this game because I guess they actually called me out on sport center that evening and circled me on the screen. I guess because of the distance I spanned chasing, then diving for the ball as it bounced around the seats. Great story and thanks for sharing. If you know of any way to watch these old games, I’d love to know how.

  14. James Calderone

    Let’s hear about the Trop in 2000! C’mon Zack! I know you can do it!

  15. James

    I mean, I don’t have any of your photos, and doesn’t that technically count as plagiarism?

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