The Last Night At Tiger Stadium

Cody Stavenhagen has written the definitive look back at the final night at Tiger Stadium as the 20th anniversary approaches this week. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall at The Athletic. Here are some highlights:

  • Now, looking out at this modern field that replaced the battleship, Kaline is searching through the memories of that final day. He pauses, then begins.“It really was,” he says, “one of the best nights of my life.”

  • They played 6,873 games there. There were 35 postseason contests, three All-Star games, six World Series. There were also two pre-Super Bowl NFL championships, Joe Louis, Billy Graham and Nelson Mandela. Navin Field, as it was first called, opened on April 20, 1912 — the same opening date as Fenway Park, five days after the Titanic sank into the North Atlantic. The ballpark sat on a plot of less than 9 acres, sprung up out of nowhere. It was the only fully enclosed, double-deck stadium in baseball. It had horrid sight lines, bad bathrooms, subpar clubhouses and a dugout with a ceiling so low countless players hit their heads over and over. But it was an experience unlike any other in baseball.“The fans were right on top of you. If they were stomping their feet, it felt like the stadium was going to fall down,” said Alan Trammell, the Hall of Fame shortstop.

  • “The more stories you got, the more you realize this is a much bigger deal than just playing the final game at Tiger Stadium,” said Todd Jones, the team’s closer. “It represents everything.”

  • Entering the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers held a 4-2 lead, but the game was still hanging in the balance. Before the inning, Tigers manager Larry Parrish had told Fick: If your spot comes up in the order, Catalanotto is going to hit.

  • Willie Horton moved to Detroit when he was 5 years old and grew up in the Jefferson Projects, Briggs Stadium casting a shadow over his adolescence. At Northwestern High School, they called him “Willie the Wonder,” and in a city championship game, he hit a home run that banged off the light tower high on the right-field roof.“Tiger Stadium, that’s me,” Horton says, seated inside the present-day Tigers clubhouse. “Detroit, that’s me.”

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Photo by Steve Jessmore


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