Closing Ceremony Brought a Lineup of Stars Back to Tiger Stadium

Photo: Mark Fidrych and Bill Freehan lead the queue of former Tigers preparing to take the field for the final game ceremony at Tiger Stadium, on September 27, 1999. Photo via Vintage Detroit

Two years ago a wrote a nearly comprehensive rundown of the more than 60 Tigers who appeared on the field at Tiger Stadium in the closing ceremonies on September 27, 1999, for Vintage Detroit:

After a dismal decade in which the Tigers piled up losing seasons and made plans to abandon their historic ballpark, the franchise absolutely stuck the landing with the closing ceremony after the final game at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999.

That ceremony was 18 years ago and it served as a template for subsequent closing ceremonies at other ballparks. The Tigers may not have handled their exit from the ballpark gracefully, but they nailed the final game and ceremony. The memories from that night will live on forever.

The highlight was a procession of 66 Tiger greats, spanning the 1935 world champions to the current team. Each player emerged from under the bleachers and behind the flag pole in center field and took their position on the diamond. I remember watching from my dorm room couch; it felt like the series finale to my childhood. It was a fitting curtain call for some of the greatest players ever to call Michigan and Trumbull home.

Leading off was the inimitable Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, who assumed his familiar pose at the pitcher’s mound, crouching down and massaging the dirt with his hands. But this time he pulled out a baggie from his pocket and filled it with dirt as a souvenir. The tall, gangly mop-topped Fidrych still looked like the tall, gangly mop-topped pitcher who had captivated baseball back in 1976. The immensely popular Bird was a perfect leadoff man for the closing ceremonies.

Next out of the tunnel was Bill Freehan, sporting a nifty goatee. A Michigan native, Freehan was the Tigers’ field general behind the plate for 15 seasons and the heart and soul of the 1968 championship team.

Dave Bergman emerged, looking like he could still come in for a clutch pinch hit, maybe a heroic game-winner like the legendary walkoff home run against the Blue Jays in 1984 on Monday Night Baseball.

Dick McAuliffe was next …

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