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 . . .