12B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - September 27, 1999
Waning days at The Corner
_ Tiger legends return to field
catcher, and cur-
rent coach Lance
first pitch thrown
by current hitting
and Parrish were
both members of
the 1984 world
Time Team was
yesterday in a
ceremony at The
left to right are
George Kell, Al
They'll take the
field at their old
positions during a
evening, after the
last game-ever at
IN Melancholy fans rema
By Jacob Wheeler
Daily Sports Writer
DETROIT - Baseball immortal
Kirk Gibson stood in the red dirt
behind home plate at Tiger Stadium
yesterday, toeing the ground where
he's walked many times before slug-
ging a ball into the seats.
Yet the retired outfielder, whose
gritty style of play epitomized the city
in which he began and finished his
career, wore tan, shiny loafers and a
sports coat - looking more like he
was attending a funeral than a base-
There was talk of death in the fam-
ily over the weekend at the corner of
Michigan and Trumbull, and the
mourners showed up in the thousands
to say goodbye to a staple figure in
their lives. The Tigers will abandon
their beloved park after the season's
last home game this afternoon.
"Sparky used to tell us, 'The Babe
is buried, but baseball lives on," said
Gibson, referring to longtime manag-
er Sparky Anderson - the last skip-
per to guide Detroit to a World Series
Nostalgia was in the air as some of
the greatest Tigers in history were
named to the All-Time Team before
the game. There was Gibson, Jack
Morris and Alan Trammell: house-
hold names on the 1984 champi-
There was Al Kaline, Bill Freehan
and Mickey Lolich from the 1968
championship team. Relatives of
Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehrtinger,
Hal Newhouser and even the infa-
mous Ty Cobb - the man who once
screamed racial slurs at baby-faced
Babe Ruth from an opposing dugout
- showed up to honor their names on
Or worse, loyal fans could set off
rockets or burn something in a pagan
ritual to commemorate the last days at
Tiger Stadium. Somebody could be
After all, this is the city that held a
mini riot after its ball team won its last
World Series in 1984 - and the Tigers
haven't smelled the sweetness of late
October since then.
That's why the Detroit police force
has added a plethora of officers to
patrol Tiger Stadium during the last
series, which ends today. The ritual
which has been practiced every day
since Friday includes officers running
out to the foul lines between innings
and scanning the seats for conniving
The security efforts turn chivalric
immediately after the game however.
Ten mounted police ride out on giant
horses and stand in the outfield grass
only five feet away from the bleacher
seats, staring down any rowdy fans with
ill-intentions. Over on the infield,
grounds crew workers retrieve home
plate and the three bases as quickly as
possible after the last pitch is thrown.
But Detroit police haven't had any-
thing to worry about yet. Young fans in
the bleachers showed no intentions of
charging the field over the weekend. A
few merely tried to reach over the rail-
ing and pet the horses, and a few sitting
by the foul lines reached over the wall
with plastic cups to scrape up some pre-
cious Tiger Stadium dirt. Nothing more.
the all-century lineup card.
Tiger players in today's ballpark
finale will wear the All-Time Team's
jersey numbers, according to their
positions in the field.
Today's game, scheduled for 4:05
p.m., will hinge upon strikes, balls
and outs. Like any other summer day,
managers will call for stolen bases
and sacrifice bunts to push runners
into scoring position. But in the
course of roughly three hours, those
players, executives and fans who pay
homage to this ancient ballpark will
reflect on entire lifetimes of compos-
ite summer afternoons. It will
inevitably bring some to tears.
"We have nostalgic feelings," said
Hall of Fame announcer Ernie
Harwell, who's described nearly every
play to many devoted Tigers fans with
his soothing, grandfather-like voice.
"I've spent more time at this park
than I have at home. But you have to
go on with your job.
"As fans, we're going to miss the
feeling of being right down by the
players. The number one characteris-
tic at Tiger Stadium is the double
decks all the way around the park."
But Harwell, who has been in the
broadcasting business since 1948, is
excited about the move to Comerica
Park next year.
"I like these new stadiums," he
said, referring to similar new models
in Texas, Baltimore and Cleveland.
"They're throwbacks to the old era
with limited seating capacity, not
'cookie-cutters' like the stadiums in
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis."
The current Tigers team also is
enthusiastic about moving to the new
ballpark, and it has played like it the
past two days.
With a 6-1 victory yesterday and a
11-3 shelling of Kansas City on
Saturday, the Tigers have looked like
an inspired team playing in the heart
of the pennant race - not the dismal
team that lost 91 games and has nar-
rowly avoided the American League
Central Division's cellar this year.
"The atmosphere is (like 1984),"
said manager Larry Parrish. "It means
a lot to play well here this week with
all the fans."
The approaching demise of Tige@.
Stadium has drawn more than 41,000
fans in each of the last two games -
an incredible contrast to earlier in the
season when the team played poorly
and fans saw little reason to visit the
"The biggest thing for us is having
people in the stands and consequently
we've been playing some pretty
decent baseball," said Tony Clark, the
team's power-hitting first baseman*
"That's something we don't have a lot
because of how the ball's been bounc-
ing for us."
The Tigers outslugged and out-
pitched the Royals the past two days,
behind home runs from Brad Ausmus
and Juan Encarnacion and a quality
start by C.J. Nitkowski on Saturday;
and three homers to go with Dave
Borkowski's gem on Sunday.
But they also hustled on every play
even when the games were all but pu0
away. When Dean Palmer climbed
onto the Tigers dugout and dived into
the stands after a foul ball, in the
eighth inning on Saturday, he wasn't
trying to catapult the Tigers into the
He was paying homage to the kind
of baseball that blue-collar Detroit
has relished for decades.
41,000 fans per.
this weekend as
the Tigers beat
Kansas City 11-3
on Satuday and
6-1 on Sunday.
The Detroit police
added plenty of
extra security for
the last series
here. Yet the
have been very
above a murmur.
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THE LAST GAME
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By Jacob Wheeler An occasional Tigers home run -
Daily Sports Writer the fan candy of baseball -jump-start-
DETROIT -Though their mascot is ed the crowd twice on Saturday and
known for its roar, Tiger baseball fans three times on Sunday. But other sup-
were rarely audible in more than a port of the hometown team was spo-
whimper this weekend at Tiger radic. Many rally-killing double plays
Stadium, though these are precious last and strikeouts induced by Tigers pitch-
days to root for ing went unnoticed in the blue seats.
the team in the BASEBALL Only the awkward waves moving
old ballpark. around the stadium seemed to generate
It seemed Commentary total fan interest, even though waves are
only fitting that"------------------usually reserved for football or basket-
1 the public address system played ball games - not baseball.
Motown's "Goodnight sweet heart, well Case in point was the atmosphere in
it's time to go" as people filed quietly the bleachers - a hostile place to take
out of the stadium after this weekend's small children in some ballparks (see
games - the second- and third-to-last Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field). Yet
1 baseball games ever at the Corner. in Tiger Stadium the bleachers resem-
Attendance has soared above 41,000 bled a family picnic, where parents
1 per game for this weekend's series brought their tykes to see the 88-year
1 against the Royals - a number large old ballpark for one last time.
1 enough to make noise in most baseball And for some, the day at the ballpark
1 towns. But it's been so long since was less like witnessing a sporting
Detroit has seen a good baseball team event and more like a "chill" concert, as
that fans have forgotten how to influ- the scent of marijuana drifted through
ence the game with their noise. the right-centerfield bleachers on
Yet Detroit police chief Benny
Napoleon has good reason to be afraid
of Tiger Stadium's last stand turning
ugly. There are plenty of fans in the
Metro-Detroit area who wouldn't mind
stealing the last home plate ever used
here, and hanging it on their wall. All it
would take would be a few drinks for
courage, a hop over the outfield fence,
e a 100 yard sprint to the infield and
dodging a few security guards.
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