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Time to play at corner

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  • Time to play at corner

    BY BILL McGRAW

    FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

    In the old days, during the decades of baseball at Tiger Stadium, if you sat in Seat 1, Row 1, Section 119, you had one of the greatest views in the major leagues.

    It was a box seat, hard against the short wall that separates the stands from the field. The on-deck circle was nearby, and you could hear the wood-on-metal clink as players knocked dirt from their spikes with their bats. You could see the tension in their faces as they waited to face Bob Gibson or Goose Gossage or Dizzy Dean.

    Today, there is a tree growing behind Seat 1, Row 1, Section 119.

    It's a real tree. Its trunk is about an inch in diameter. It is about 5 feet tall. It is growing out of a crack in the concrete. And it is like other trees sprouting all over concrete areas of the stadium, which is also scarred by rusty girders, peeling paint, standing water, loose wires, missing panels and drafty corridors.

    Tiger Stadium has become just another abandoned building. It is subject to the same entropy that eventually envelops all throwaway property, be it a train station, department store, mansion or bungalow. Trees and lesser vegetation thrive in and on top of many of Detroit's architectural relics, so why should they not grow in the city's most hallowed abandoned structure?

    That's the harsh reality that hits you if you are visiting for the first time since Sept. 27, 1999, when the Tigers defeated Kansas City, 8-2, in the final game of their 6,854-game run at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Since then, the stadium, owned by the City of Detroit and managed by the Ilitch organization, largely has been off-limits to outsiders and media.

    It was open Wednesday to a reporter and photographer as workers prepared for the biggest event since the stadium closed.

    Over the next three nights, the stadium outfield will be the scene of the Anheuser-Busch Bud Bowl, an invitation-only extravaganza in a climate-controlled tent filled with holograms, high-tech videos and music. Visitors won't be able to leave the tent, except to smoke and watch extras in baseball uniforms playing catch on the artificially lit field.

    They won't be able to look into the Tigers dugout and see the players' dust-covered bench. Or the rotting bat rack that leans to the right. Or the spooky tunnel that leads to the home clubhouse. The tunnel is dark, and when you look into it, your face feels a gush of wind.

    A wind also blows along the inner corridor, where fans used to walk. An office door is open. A 6-year-old memo sits crumpled on the floor, a stern warning to employees from former Tiger President John McHale against selling team equipment, especially team equipment that is autographed by players.

    About a foot of brackish water sits in the tunnel that connects the visitors' dugout to their clubhouse. The infield grass, once one of the most carefully tended lawns in Michigan, is choked with weeds, but the dirt retains its reddish tinge, and the pitcher's mound rises out of the earth much like it did during ball games.

    The broadcast booth fastened to the upper deck is boarded shut, but one window remains open. It looks like it is ready for someone to sit inside and call a game. You realize it is the booth where Ernie Harwell used to sit, and all at once a gloomy Wednesday at the old park seems brighter after all.

    http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artic...=2006602020533
    There is also a photo gallery.
    Unlike most other team sports, in which teams usually have an equivalent number of players on the field at any given time, in baseball the hitting team is at a numerical disadvantage, with a maximum of 5 players and 2 base coaches on the field at any time, compared to the fielding team's 9 players. For this reason, leaving the dugout to join a fight is generally considered acceptable in that it results in numerical equivalence on the field, and a fairer fight.

  • #2
    Good piece of writing!

    Comment

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