While cleaning out some files the other day, I came across an old issue of Baseball Magazine. And when I say old, I mean torn, crumbling, and missing its covers. It was the March 1912 issue, and the moldy, water-stained pages were chock full of baseball news – including the upcoming opening of Navin Field in Detroit. Although the article carried no byline, it undoubtedly was written by one of the local newspaper reporters serving as the monthly publication’s Detroit correspondent.
As most Detroit fans know, Navin Field underwent various stages of expansion and name changes (to Briggs Stadium in 1938, then Tiger Stadium in 1961). It’s somewhat stunning – and more than a little sad – to think that if the Tigers had never left Michigan and Trumbull for Comerica, the upcoming 2014 season would be the club’s 103rd straight at the ballpark. It would put Tiger Stadium in an exclusive circle of century-old classic ballparks whose only other members would be Fenway Park (which opened the same day as Navin Field, on April 20, 1912) and Wrigley Field (which opened in 1914 and is celebrating its centennial this season).
Beyond that, if one counted the 16 seasons the Tigers played on the site at Bennett Park prior to Navin Field’s opening, the team would be spending its 119th consecutive summer at The Corner – a tenure so ridiculously long as to be deemed unapproachable by any other sports venue, not only in our lifetime, but in our children’s. As it was, the 104 summers the Tigers actually did spend at Michigan and Trumbull (from 1896 through 1999) remains a record for a franchise at a single address.
I’m not here to reprise the debate over the Tigers’ move out of Tiger Stadium. Personally, I wish the team had never left The Corner, but it did. Afterwards, I would’ve liked to have seen the old park used for minor-league, amateur, and scholastic sports, with some parts of the structure repurposed as commercial space. At the very worst, at least a portion of structure – certainly the original 1912 “horseshoe” from first to third base, if nothing else – should have been preserved and the rest of the site developed in some appropriate fashion.
None of that happened. What we’re left with are our personal memories and an occasional blast from the past, such as this contemporaneously written article from a disintegrating copy of Baseball Magazine. I’ve reproduced the article in its entirety below. Enjoy your brief trip back to the spring of 1912, when both the magazine and “The New Home of the Tigers” (as the piece is titled) were brand spanking new:
“The magnificent new stadium which is being built for the future home of the Detroit Tigers is one of the greatest amphitheaters yet dedicated to the national game. It is fitting that the city which boasts of the greatest player in the game, Ty Cobb, and the livest, most spirited of managers, Hugh Jennings, should have a ball park to compare with the best in the land. And through the persevering efforts of Frank Navin, the far-sighted president of the local ball club, this dream of her leading fans has become a reality.
“The new park is located on the same site as the old, a mile and a quarter from the Campus Martius, in the heart of the city. Detroit may well be proud of this beautiful structure. It is a triumph of architectural skill, combining in its ample walls the newest of those modern improvements designed for the comfort of its patrons.
“The seating capacity of the new park is approximately 23,000. The whole structure is on one deck, although provision has been made for the erection of an additional story to the grandstand whenever the increased crowds of the future shall require such an addition.
“The stadium has been constructed so as to permit easy access to the enormous crowds which patronize the national game in the automobile city. All entrances and exits are inclined ways, thus doing away entirely with stairways. In this manner the whole grandstand and pavilion may be emptied in a very short time compared to that required under the old system of stairways.
“Every class of seat has its own special entrances. The boxes, of which there are 112, accommodating from six to eight persons each, may be entered from the grand level. The seventy-five cent seats have their own special runway and are reached from the top of the structure.
“The spectators are not the only ones whose comfort is considered in this new stadium. Ample provision is made for the players as well. The home players’ bench is heated by steam in the cold days of spring and autumn. The rooms of the visiting players are located n the club house and are as well appointed and comfortable as modern ingenuity can make them. Here also are located a special room for the umpires and a room for the club trainer. The club house is easy of access at all times, as it is reached through a tunnel leading direct from the field.
“The grandstand is provided with seven exits. Four of these are exits from the boxes and the reserved seat section, while the remaining three lead from the upper portion of the building. There are in all seventeen exit gates situated at various advantageous points on the grounds.
“The ample playing field is nearly square. No pains have been spared to make this field as nearly perfect as possible; the field is graded to allow natural drainage from all points. In addition, the diamond itself is built with a special system of tile drains to keep it dry and in good condition at all times.
“Every seat in both grandstand and pavilion is always in the shade. This is a special feature designed for the comfort of patrons.
“The refreshment stand is thoroughly modern in every particular. It includes specially provided concrete tanks for cooling purposes. The club offices are located in an office building also included in the spacious park. The stadium is constructed entirely of steel and reinforced concrete. The roof is of asbestos. All danger from fire is eliminated completely.”