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Finally, good news from Motown/Paul Peterson

May 31, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

In a town that has seen more than its share of bad news over the past couple of decades, it's difficult to imagine much of anything positive coming out of Detroit.

First - and most importantly - the slide of the auto industry has crippled the Motown I remember from my days as a member of the labor gang at McLouth Steel in the middle 1960s.

McLouth Steel provided most of the metal in cars made at several General Motors plants, and even managed to make a profit.

Then, there was the disastrous regime of Matt Millen as the general manager of the Detroit Lions. Millen is generally considered to be the most inept front office person EVER in the history of professional football.

No, make that in the history of professional sports. Millen was truly that incompetent, take my word for it.

By the time he was done drafting some of the most dubious talent (Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, etc.) ever seen on a draft board, the team was in a total disarray it is just starting to come out of.

But the biggest blow came when the Detroit Tigers decided to abandon their ballpark of the past century. Old Tiger Stadium was being replaced by a glitzy amusement park called Comerica Park.

Anyone who ever attended a game at Tiger Stadium was immediately struck by its atmosphere.

Walking into the old stadium at the corner of Michigan and Trumball avenues was almost a religious experience.

Your senses were immediately assailed by the smell of freshly cut grass and the aroma of cigars as well as the history of the park itself.

Never mind that Tigers' baseball legends like Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane and Hank Greenberg once roamed the field.

There were ghosts of some of the greatest players ever to play the game still roaming around. Babe Ruth, Cy Young and Walter Johnson all played at the historic field. Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak ended in Detroit.

My late father often told me of a 1940 game he attended at the stadium. Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox entertained the crowd by hitting one long-distance home run after another into the right field seats in batting practice.

Williams then proceeded to hit two mammoth homers in the game that followed - and laughed at the unfortunate Detroit pitcher while circling the bases.

By the time I got to see a Tigers game at the stadium in 1958, their only big star was Al Kaline. Kaline cracked a homer and Charlie "Paw Paw' Maxwell socked two more in a doubleheader (they used to schedule them once upon a time) sweep over the Kansas City A's. I was hooked for life.

When I worked in Detroit a few years later, I had the chance to take in several more games at Tiger Stadium, and saw the pieces of the 1968 World Championship team fall into place.

Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash, Denny McLain, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton and others all made their debuts in that era.

The magic summer of 1968 was followed by some disappointing years, and it wasn't until 1984 that another championship banner was flying on the flagpole in center field.

That all changed when the old park was abandoned in 1999. It was eventually torn down in 2009, leaving just the flag pole in an otherwise abandoned lot ... in a town full of abandoned lots.

To me, it was like reading the obituary of an old friend.

But now, a group of Detroit fans has cut down the long weeds growing at the site. After the field was cleared of debris, they put down a miniature ball diamond and began playing this spring.

Once again, a game of ball is being played at "The Corner," as legendary Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell often called it.

And somewhere, the immortals of Detroit baseball are smiling.



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