He wasn’t an overly popular man — but he is unquestionably one of the Founding Fathers of Detroit baseball.
Frank Navin’s affiliation with the Detroit Tigers dates back to 1902. He started out as a bookkeeper for then-owner Samuel Angus. The very next year, Navin bought stock in the Tigers and became a minority owner. Prior to the 1907 season, he purchased 50% of the team from the new owner, William Yawkey.
From 1902 to 1935, Navin was involved in the direct management and oversight of the team. It was Navin who signed the still unknown Ty Cobb and Hughie Jennings and built the teams that would win three consecutive American League pennants in 1907, 1908 and 1909.
Navin became president of the Tigers in 1908 and remained in that position throughout the remainder of his life. Gambling problems forced Navin to sell part of the team to Walter O. Briggs Sr. in the early 1930s, but he remained active in the management of the team.
Perhaps Navin’s most lasting influence came in 1911-1912 when he tore down Bennett Park and built a steel and concrete structure that would bear his name. Navin Field opened in April of 1912 and propelled Detroit baseball into a whole new level of play.
Navin Field served as the stadium (with multiple expansions) housing the Detroit Tigers for the next 88 years. From 1912 through 1999, the Detroit Tigers played in Frank Navin’s home away from home.
Recently, my father-in-law stumbled upon the burial site of Frank Navin at a Southfield cemetery. Navin remains above ground in a mausoleum guarded by — what else? — giant tigers. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery is located at 25800 W. 10 Mile Road near Beech Daly. Below are photos of Navin’s final resting place.
It should be noted that Navin worked his entire adult life trying to bring a World Series championship to Detroit. He did so in October of 1935 — and died just a few weeks later.