In the last couple of days I have learned that the HBO series “Hung” starring Tom Jane will be filming at the Tiger Stadium site sometime in the very near future. Although the story line is unknown, I have heard that the field to some extent will be refurbished.
In 2000, for nearly a month, HBO filmed the movie *61 about the famous 1961 home run race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Billy Crystal directed the film that starred Tom Jane as Mantle with Barry Pepper playing Maris.
I was fortunate to have been on the set for a week as an extra playing a reporter.
It was a surreal experience walking onto the field and seeing Yankee Stadium played by Tiger Stadium.
Every single seat at Tiger Stadium was spray painted to look like the color of Yankee Stadium. The set included a dead replica of the Yankee Stadium centerfield scoreboard and the famous monuments. When filming was concluded, the seats were power washed and the Tiger Stadium seat colors came back to life. However if you look at the only remnant left of Tiger Stadium, the flagpole, it still has the Yankee Stadium paint color.
While on the set I met and briefly spoke with Tom Jane during a filming break. As a method actor, Jane stayed in character with Mantle’s Texas drawl and mannerisms.
To help Pepper and Jane with their hitting, Crystal hired former Red Sox and Dodger star Reggie Smith. In between takes, Smith would take them out into the outfield and throw whiffle golf balls to them as they swung with a heavily taped broomstick. (When they took real swings at the plate using real Louisville Sluggers, I am sure the ball looked like a beach ball.)
Tiger Stadium was absolutely beautiful (even as Yankee Stadium) during the filming and HBO was blessed with wonderful weather. I have to believe Tom Jane has many wonderful memories of the ballpark and for him to see what is left must break his heart. (Like everyone else except for the few idiots from the city (and elsewhere) who insisted that this baseball shrine be torn down.
Here’s a pipe dream: HBO refurbishes the field, builds some stands between first and third, and community leaders step up to the plate to ensure that this historic field is preserved so that it can become a beautiful park with trees surrounding one of the premier amateur baseball diamonds in the city.