Video of Briggs Stadium, Circa 1948, Reveals Features of Iconic Ballpark

Fewer and fewer people are still drawing breath who watched a baseball game at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull when the ballpark was known as “Briggs Stadium.”

A recently uncovered video shows footage of the former ballpark, which was later renamed Tiger Stadium.

From 1938 to 1960, the Detroit Tigers played home games at 2221 Trumbull Avenue in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. That address was often referred to simply as “The Corner,” for the junction of famed thoroughfare Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue. For decades, that location attracted millions of fans to see the greatest ballplayers in the world.

Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run at the ballpark. Ty Cobb played in the first major league game ever played at the diamond. It was host to four World Series while it was called Briggs Stadium, and two more after the name change.

While Comerica Park is a lovely place to watch a baseball game: comfortable and serene; the old ballpark, the one known first as Navin Field, then Briggs, and finally Tiger Stadium, was a rugged, utilitarian venue. Once, a writer compared her to a battleship. No, Briggs Stadium was not warm and fuzzy. There were no VIP seating sections, no Ferris wheels.

In this video we see footage of Briggs Stadium from 1948, 1949, and possibly 1950. The Tigers are hosting the Boston Red Sox on a sunny afternoon. The crowd is good as evidenced by the thicket of people in the center field bleachers. At that time, Briggs Stadium had the only two-deck bleachers in baseball.

In this rare 16 mmm color film from that era, we can see the beautiful blue sky beyond center field. We also see the iconic scoreboard, which featured a famous Gruen clock atop the scoring detailed section. That clock and scoreboard was in the ballpark for more than four decades, until replaced by an electronic version in the 1970s.

That appears to be Ted Williams, the “Splendid Splinter,” swinging a bat in one sequence. Williams loved hitting in Detroit, because he said, “You see the baseball better there.” Williams batted .330 at Briggs Stadium, with 55 home runs in just 169 games. That’s by far the most homers he hit in a visiting stadium.

You’ll also see George Kell at third base in the video, in more than one play caught on camera. Kell won the 1949 batting title on the last day of the season. He later spent more than four decades as a broadcaster for the Tigers.

Gem Razor Ads in Ballparks

You can see a Gem Razors advertisement on the far right of the scoreboard at Briggs Stadium in the video embedded above. Gem was a very popular brand that purchased large advertisements in many ballparks in Major League Baseball. Here are a few examples:

Scoreboard at Briggs Stadium in Detroit

Gem ad on the scoreboard at Tiger Stadium (formerly Briggs Stadium), circa 1970

A Gem Blades advertisement is featured on the left field scoreboard at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, circa 1944.

Did you know Fenway Park’s famous left field wall was often covered in signage? In this photo from the 1950s, Gem Blades has an advertisement that nearly blankets the “Green Monster” in that Boston ballpark.

One reply on “Video of Briggs Stadium, Circa 1948, Reveals Features of Iconic Ballpark

  • Martin Grossberg

    You are quite wrong about Ty Cobb. He certainly did not play “in the first major league game played” at the Corner. Far from it. The first American League game played there was in April of 1901. Cobb didn’t come to Detroit until August (I believe) of 1905.
    What Cobb did do was save the franchise. Ban Johnson (founder and power within the American League) wanted to move the Tigers out of Detroit. It was the smallest city in the American League at the time and they weren’t drawing a lot of spectators to games at Bennett Park. After Cobb became a Tiger his brand of baseball (along with Sam Crawford and others) brought fans out in droves, so much so that by 1912, they needed a bigger stadium. Thus, Navin/Briggs/Tiger Stadium.

Comments are closed.