Where am I?

So the family and I decided to head down for tonight’s game. The plan was to have dinner at Cheli’s Chili before heading into the park. We parked at Grand Circus just before 5:00pm and were quite surprised to see a line of 20 people waiting to get into Cheli’s. This is 2 hours before game time, on a Thursday, against the Royals.

Seemingly thwarted at Cheli’s, we turn the corner to head to Hockeytown, only to see another line.

What’s going on here? They weren’t playing the Yankees and it wasn’t a weekend. Roger Clemens wasn’t even in town. This is the Royals and it isn’t opening day.

We reversed course and decided to wait it out at Cheli’s, and really the wait wasn’t bad. Within 15 minutes we were sitting in the patio area outside. As we enjoyed our drinks (beers and lemonades) and waited for our food I was looking toward Comerica Park and the surrounding area. People were all over. They were laughing and smiling and enjoying a very warm summer night. It didn’t feel like Detroit.

I’m not sure what it felt like. Maybe like an evening in St. Louis where the ball game is the centerpiece of the evening? Some place where a first place team is the only story of interest in July. I’m not sure, but just as my mind started to reflect more I heard the signature saxophone of Alto Reed with the opening of Bob Seger’s Turn the Page come on the stereo. And I was reminded I was in fact sitting in the Motor City and it was my team that was creating this buzz.

Gone are the days of 14,000 announced attendance and 8,000 people showing up. Gone are the days of just deciding to head down to the game on a whim and walking up to the box office. You still might get tickets, but you probably won’t get seats. The Tigers had 32,000 show up tonight, and it will probably be the smallest number for the entire 10 game homestand.

Also gone are the days of walking past 2 closed concession stands to find one that is open. Every stand is open, and every one has lines. In fact, the Tigers have even opened up kiosks where you place your order, pay with credit card, and then go pick up the food that has been assembled for you. (my wife tried and said it was much faster than the traditional method).

The Metro Detroit area has taken to the Tigers, and they’ve done it Joel Zumaya-fast. This wasn’t a long arcing buid up. Here we are 3 and a half months into the season and people have made Comerica Park the place to be. Fans aren’t unanimous in expecting the Tigers to win the division or a playoff spot, or the World Series. But the fact of the matter is there hasn’t been winning baseball here since the early 90’s and who in their right mind would want to miss out on this – whatever this is. Detroit isn’t just fielding a good team, they are fielding a team who’s accomplishments over the first 89 games are remarkable to say the least.

As my wife and I were weaving through a bustling concourse with the kids on our shoulders for safe-keeping, I kind of lamented that things just aren’t as easy at the balllpark as they used to be. She asked me if I would trade the winning to go back to the old ways. The answer of course is absolutely not. I’ll take the crowds and the lines. But still, I look around and think “Where Am I?”


  1. IdahoBert

    July 13, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks Bill. Living so far away as I do it’s great to get a taste of a night in Detroit before the ballgame.

  2. Kyle J

    July 13, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    Great post. Can’t wait to go down to the park next Saturday.

    Interesting that Dombrowski and Leyland may do more to revive downtown Detroit than any elected official has.

  3. Steve

    July 13, 2006 at 11:05 pm

    Good Post, no very good post, Although I Live 6 hours away, we can not drive to Detroit visit our friends and go to the box office and get “our” seats. I am coming to a game in August bought tickest last week and I am upstairs for the fist time in three years. Its different and exciting. Who doesnt want to be in a crowd of 40Plus thousand cheering on the the Tigers. The answer is all of us, but we are just not used to it. This is all new, We have to rethink our Tiger consumption to allow for people, time and space. Its not a bad thing to sit in the upper deck with lots of other sreaming manics…………… Im just not used to it. Do in need to buy s pack of tickets now??????????

    Have a great night…..


  4. Cameron

    July 13, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    Wow…I wish I could check out the atmosphere myself. Currently living in Singapore makes that a bit of a problem…But keep up the great work, and go Tigers!

  5. walewander

    July 13, 2006 at 11:33 pm

    Great post… sounds like such a different atmosphere from my first visits to Comerica last June (2 1-run losses to the Sox – I’m sure some of you remember). On the ballpark tip, I did indeed jinx the Tigers with my presence at Turn Back the Clock day in Seattle. How that wasn’t an error I’ll never know. Anyway, it was a fun day, the retro stuff was well done (esp the Wurlitzer), and its a nice park, but certainly no Comerica, probably because the Ms don’t have that kind of history. When you sit at Comerica and see the statues of Cobb. Greenberg, Newhouser, etc… wow. Glad to hear the city’s coming alive. I hope the team can keep up their end.

  6. Jeff M

    July 14, 2006 at 6:40 am

    I was there too; Everything he said is dead-on. I didn’t get there until a few minutes after 7, so I didn’t sample the local establishments, there were 15,000 in their seats for the first pitch, so people are definitely getting there early.

    I’d really only add two things:
    1) There are a lot of incredibly good-looking young ladies showing up at the park
    2) The crowd seemed very complacent for the last few innings. It seemed as if the crowd simply expected nothing less than an easy win.

  7. Ian C.

    July 14, 2006 at 7:17 am

    Billfer, I’m glad you made the comparison to St. Louis because when I was there a couple of summers ago, I couldn’t believe the pre-game atmosphere. Granted, it was a Saturday night, so maybe things were a bit livelier than they would be during the week, but it reminded me of a college football game, with everyone in red, hanging out in anticipation of the game.

    If the area around Comerica Park is anything like that, with people filling up the surrounding bars and restaurants before Tigers games, that’s the kind of development that could make me cry. What a great thing.

  8. Anne

    July 14, 2006 at 7:47 am

    One of the first clues I had that this season would be different was when I decided to pack up my kids and a couple of their friends and head to Comerica the day after Easter. I figured “It’s a Monday afternoon game, there’ll be maybe 10-12 thousand there, tops.” WRONG!! We waited in line 40 minutes for tix (missing a Chris Shelton homer), took our seats in the top of the 3rd just in time to see Nate Robertson give up 6 runs to the Indians, then later missed the only other Tiger run (a homer by Guillen) while standing in a mile-long line for pizza. While it may sound like I’m complaining, I’m not–I wouldn’t trade this team, this season, or these crowds for anything. Every game I’ve attended is like a party, inside the park and out.

    BTW, for what it’s worth, that game against the Indians is the one that inspired Leyland’s now-famous tirade and post-game comment of “We stunk”. As little as I enjoyed the game at the time, I now feel like I witnessed a turning point for the Tigs.

  9. Marshall in DC

    July 14, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Damn – I need to get back to Detroit. Great post. I miss just walking up to the stadium on a random day and hanging out for a few hours.

  10. Kurt

    July 14, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for the report, Bilfer. Nicely done. Now I really wish I was back in Detroit.

  11. Pingback: Mack Avenue Tigers » Blog Archive » Game 89: Hey Tigers, this time it counts

  12. Peanut

    July 14, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve often pondered the same question regarding sacraficing convenience and easy access at Comerica for the burdens of a winning team. I’ve lived within walking distance of Comerica the past four seasons and quickly grew accustomed to buying a $5 ticket then sitting with my legs propped on the dugout by the 6th inning. I was often able to buy a cold one, use the restroom and make it back to my seat without missing a single pitch. Now drinking beer and emptying one’s bladder involves at least an inning’s worth of time.

    I point to these facts as mere burdens, but certainly not complaints. As a die hard fan, who regularly witnessed the worst that this franchise produced, I’ll gladly sacrafice my personal convenience for the improved performance on the field. That is why I go to Tigers games. This is the reason 35,000 others are now joining me. Quality baseball is back, and I couldn’t be happier. I know the feeling is shared by yourself and your readers. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your daily updates on the progress of the farm system and I continue to appreciate your well-thought analysis of this team.

  13. ripi$money

    July 15, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Indeed, the atmosphere of the city around the CoPa area is quite something this year. Detroit loves the Tigers, and the Tigers seem to be a great thing for Detroit.