Ballpark Roadtrip: Tiger Stadium
A view from Cochrane St. where left field side once stood at Tiger Stadium. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Tiger Stadium, previously known as Navin Field and Briggs Stadium, was a baseball park located in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. It hosted the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball from 1912 to 1999, as well as the Detroit Lions of the National Football League from 1938 to 1974.
On April 20, 1912 the Detroit Tigers played their first game at their new ballpark, named Navin Field after the club’s owner, Frank Navin.
In 1935, following Navin's death, new owner Walter Briggs oversaw the expansion of Navin Field to a capacity of 36,000 by extending the upper deck to the foul poles and across right field
By 1938, the city had agreed to move Cherry Street, allowing left field to be double-decked and the now-renamed Briggs Stadium had a capacity of 53,000. In 1961, new owner John Fetzer took control of the stadium and gave it its final and longest-lasting name: Tiger Stadium.
It was declared a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1975 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989. The stadium was nicknamed "The Corner" for its location on Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue.
The last Tigers game at the stadium was held on September 27, 1999. In the decade after the Tigers vacated the stadium, several rejected redevelopment and preservation efforts finally gave way to demolition.
The stadium's demolition was completed on September 21, 2009, though the stadium's actual playing field remains at the corner where the stadium stood.
Ballpark Facts and History
When Ty Cobb played at Navin Field, the area of dirt in front of home plate was kept wet by the ground staff to slow down Cobb's bunts and cause opposing infielders to slip as they fielded them. The area was nicknamed "Cobb's Lake".
On July 18, 1921, Babe Ruth hit what is believed to be the longest verified home run in Major League Baseball history. The home run went to straight away center field, clearing the stadium and landing into the street. The distance of the home run has been estimated at up to 575 feet (175 m). On July 13, 1934 at the stadium, Ruth hit his 700th career home run off Tigers' pitcher Tommy Bridges.
On May 2, 1939, ailing New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig voluntarily benched himself at Briggs Stadium, ending his streak of consecutive games at 2,130. Due to the progression of the disease named after him, it was the final game of his career.
The stadium hosted the 1941, 1951 and 1971 MLB All-Star Games. All three games featured home runs. Ted Williams won the 1941 game with a walk-off three-run home run. The ball was also carrying well in the 1951 and 1971 games. Of the many homers in those games, the most often replayed is Reggie Jackson's drive to right field that hit so high up in the light tower that the TV camera lost sight of it, until it dropped to the field below. Jackson dropped his bat and watched it sail, seemingly astonished of his own power.
On September 27, 1999, the final Tigers game was held at Tiger Stadium; an 8–2 victory over the Kansas City Royals, capped by a late grand slam by Robert Fick, which hit the right field roof. Fick's blast was the final hit, home run and RBI in Tiger Stadium's history. Following the game, an emotional ceremony with past and present Tigers greats was held to mark the occasion. The Tigers moved to the newly constructed Comerica Park for their 2000 season, leaving Tiger Stadium unused.
There were over 30 home runs hit onto the right field roof over the years. It was a relatively soft touch compared to left field, with a 325-foot (99 m) foul line and with a roof that was in line with the front of the lower deck. In left field, it was 15 feet (4.6 m) farther down the line, and the roof was set back some distance. Only four of the game's most powerful right-handed sluggers (Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Cecil Fielder and Mark McGwire) reached the left field rooftop. In his career, Norm Cash hit four home runs over the Tiger Stadium roof in right field and is the all-time leader.
Photos taken June 30, 2011 using a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Digital SLR with a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.