It was so green

It was so green. Those are the first words that I use to describe my first memory of Tiger Stadium. The bright contrast of the green grass and blue seats as I emerged from a dark tunnel is the first and most enduring sensory experience I remember at a major league game. Listening to others describe their first experiences, many stick to the same theme. This isn’t just true of Tiger Stadium, but other parks as well. But if you were to attend your first game now, I have a hard time believing the reaction would be the same. New stadium construction and better TV have probably dimmed some of the vividness.

Back in 1982 when I attended my first game, all I’d known was the game on a TV screen. Watch ESPN Classic for any sporting event from the 80′s, and once you stop laughing at the clothes and the graphics, look at how washed out the colors were. The transmission was poor and the TV sets weren’t much better. Now with games being broadcast in HD, it is crystal clear and just as bright as being there in person.

I think the other thing that will impact this is the trends in all the newer stadia. ‘Back in the olden days’ many stadiums were closed in and concourses were tucked back underneath the seats. You didn’t see the field at all until you came up through the tunnels. And when you did get your first glimpse the grass was contrasted by the backdrop of the stadium itself. Now fans get to enjoy open-view concourses and outfields that open up to reveal rivers, bays, and cityscapes.

Now none of these innovations are bad things. I love the crisp clear picture on TV. With 2 little kids, being able to see the game while venturing out for more concessions is wonderful. I just wonder when today’s kids reminisce about their first game, what enduring memory will they have?

17 Comments

  1. Mike R

    January 11, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    I live in Southwest Michigan so I never got much of a chance to get to a Tigers game. only recently have my brother, Dad, and myself started going to at least 1 Tigers game a year. I, personally, never got to go to Tiger Stadium (i’m only 20) so my first memory is going to a game a few days after my birthday in April and thinking “What a crummy day for baseball” since it was about 40 degrees and rainy. But I was excited at the prospects of seeing my favorite team and getting a chance to watch Cal Ripken, Jr.

    My second thought was “Wow, that scoreboard is enormous.” I don’t remember if the Tigers won or lost, to be honest. I just remember it was bitterly cold and wet. And Ripken never set foot out of the dugout as it was his day off.

    Last August, we went to Miller Park in Milwaukee and my first thought was “Wow, this looks identical to Comerica” when walking through the concourse and by the consession stands. I would’ve loved to go to Tiger Stadium and I wish they would’ve just built a replica or that more teams in general had “vertical” type stadium structures. The wide-openness and backdrops are stunning, but there’s nothing like an overhang in the OF and seeing nothing but seats and people instead of buildings or bridges.

  2. Kyle J

    January 11, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Seeing the field as you came out of the tunnel is the most vivid image I have of going to Tigers Stadium as a kid, too. Funny that it’s the opposite of what I’d say I like most about Comerica: the open design of the stadium.

    It’s interesting to think about what my boys (6 and 3) will remember most about Comerica when they grow up. As of now, one likes the water fountain and the other likes the fireworks after weekend games. Of course, it’ll be a little different situation since they’ll likely still be going to games at Comerica when they’re my age three decades from now.

    As for TV, I think the difference between watching a game on TV and in person is still the greatest for baseball. TV can only capture a small piece of a baseball field at any given time, and you can’t get the same sense of details like the direction of the ball off the bat.

  3. Jeff K.

    January 11, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I grew up in Lansing, so I only got to go to a few Tigers games as a kid. The one thing I remember though, was how green the grass was.

  4. Kurt

    January 12, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Yeah, I remember never seeing anything so green in my life for my first Tigers game. They played the Brewers. I thought they had a chance to win, but they lost.

    Years later I caught a Tigers game at Milwaukee’s old County Stadium. My impression of that was “what a piece of junk.” The Tigers extracted some revenge and won, in case you were wondering.

    As a side note, I loved the outdoor areas and ramps at Tiger Stadium and how cool the downtown looked lit up at night from that distance. I saw the Tigers and Brewers during that initial memory too. The teams split I believe.

    What is it with me and the Brew Crew anyway?

  5. Lee Panas

    January 12, 2007 at 1:09 am

    The first thing I remember about my first trip to Fenway Park was the green grass. I still notice it when I go in there although it’s not quite the same. Of course at Fenway, the next thing you notice is the green monster.

    I went to Tiger Stadium just once – in 1984. The first thing I saw there was the upperdeck in right. It was a very impressive feature.

    Lee

  6. Nate A.

    January 12, 2007 at 4:51 am

    My first experiences at the various stadiums were mixed.

    I saw my first game at Tiger Stadium when I was about 8, I think it was ’89, might’ve been ’90. The size of the stadium is what got me. It was just an enormous enclosure. yet I remember seeing the patchy, discolored grass in the outfield and how that didn’t match with my ideal view of a beautiful baseball diamond. And then there was the column partially blocking my view of my childhood hero Alan Trammel at shortstop, even after trading seats with dad. Those two features didn’t impress me at all. However I did get an actual full size wooden bat with the old circle logo for the bat day promotion, and that was awesome. So between the bat and actually watching a game, I was still happy.

    My first visit to Comerica was in 2001 this time as a recruitment event for Lawrence Tech. We had a chartered bus drop us off at the CF gate, were given a small paper bag full of peanuts, and were left to find our way to the complimentary seats in the Bargain Skyline section. And despite the cheap treatment and the somewhat tacky tiger heads and baseballs and bats used everywhere, this fit my idea of that perfect ball diamond much better. The openness of this stadium is as impressive as the fortress walls of old Tiger. The grass was and still is a beautiful shade of carefully groomed green. Even just walking around the stadium I felt like a worthy fan and not part of a herd.

    Yeah, Tiger Stadium had history, but it was past it’s prime. You don’t keep something merely because it’s old. The new stadium is an improvement and I think it’ll be making plenty of good impressions on youngsters in years to come as it develops its own history. What I’m worried about is symptoms not unlike the Red Wings, where tickets are so hard to come by or so expensive, that going to a game becomes nearly impossible. I’ve been as big a hockey fan as baseball fan most of my life, and my first Wings game required a road trip to Columbus last spring. Kids shouldn’t have to wait for one chance at a game.

  7. Ken from Cincinnati

    January 12, 2007 at 8:11 am

    “It was so expensive”

  8. Bix

    January 12, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    I’m horribly biased here…so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    As someone that grew up going to the Corner with his father and grandfather, there’ll never be another ballpark that can hold a candle to Tiger Stadium. Sitting in the sun on a hot summer day, eating a ‘dog and chatting with some of the fan-favorites through the outfield fence as they warmed up between innings — I vividly remember a conversation with Chet Lemon when I was 10 years old through the centerfield fence that went on all day. Every top-half he’d come out to warm up and he’d have something funny to say to me. One of the nicest guys you could ever meet, and he gave this kid (now 33) a memory he’ll never forget — Thanks, Chester, hope you’re feeling good, and stay healthy. I wore my Lemon jersey to Game 1.

    I could go on…but my point is that, to me, was the pinnacle. When my wife, my pops and I flew back for Game 1 of the WS this year, we made a pilgrimage to the Corner, and just stood there, sad. Comerica seems like a nice park, but we thought it felt sterile, or plastic. It’s hard to explain — there just wasn’t history at every turn. This season gave it something to build on, but it has a long way to go to match Tiger Stadium.

    I remember how green it was, too, Billfer. For my birthday this year, my wife got me a huge framed aerial shot of the last game there…makes me think of my grandfather — who passed away a few years ago — everytime I look at it. When a ballpark can do that to you, it’s something special.

  9. Greg

    January 12, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    1987. Blue Jays at Tigers. I want to say Dan Petry pitched, but now I don’t even remember if he was on the 87 Tigers. Anyone?

    Detroit had a 2-1 lead for most of the game. Toronto rallied to take a 4-2 lead in one of the later innings. I cried, thinking the perfect day was ruined, and because that’s what 7 year-olds do.

    The Tigers then responded (I think in the 8th, because I don’t remember a walk-off) and wound up winning 6-4. It was awesome.

    I know this isn’t about the stadium, but I don’t have any vivid memories in that regard. That’s my first time.

  10. Greg

    January 12, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Bix, regarding Comerica seeming sterile. I totally agree. But I hope 2006 was the beginning of adding some history to that place. What a season.

  11. Bob S.

    January 12, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    I may be accused of blasphemy here,but for all my fond memories of baseball and football at Tiger Stadium,it was kind of a dump.While the idiosycratic physical dimensions of the baseball playing field contributed to it’s appeal,there was virtually no consideration given to the fan or their comfort.
    Too many obstructed view seats,too few concessions or restrooms(first place I ever saw guys pissing in sinks),dreary architecture,difficult parking and access-in the rush to romanticize the past,we tend to airbrush those blemishes in the pictures we carry in our minds.
    While Comerica represents a significant upgrade in fan comfort,it’s architecture is somewhat generic with too many gimmicks(like the tiger(animal variety) statues).Where it ultimately falls way short(by being too large)is in the most important measure-the playing field.And while the cityscape is breathtaking,I think acoustically it detracts from the stadium experience and removes some of whatever advantage a large crowd gives the home team.

  12. Pete G.

    January 13, 2007 at 12:46 am

    You all make me feel old. My first trip to Tiger (Brigg’s) Stadium was 1957. We beat the Yankees 7-4. I too recall the green grass. In fact the whole stadium was green, including the seats and walls. I remember the contrast of the warning track to the turf. They used a red crushed brick of some kind for the track. It was awesome.

    I do like Comerica but I wish they would have taken a bit of history from Tiger Stadium and blended it into the new park. Maybe the overhang in right field. I miss the upper deck home runs the most.

  13. Boston Fan in Michigan

    January 14, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Ah, Billfer, this makes me laugh.

    ‘Cause, a couple years back, I took my friend Nate to his very first baseball game at ever. It was, naturally, at Comerica.

    The first thing he said when we walked through the gate and glimpsed the field was, no word of a lie,

    “Wow, it’s all so… GREEN!”

    I think the next generation’ll be alright. :)

  14. Joey the K

    January 16, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    You don’t have to be a kid for that memory of walking out of the tunnel and seeing the field for the first time. I had been to many games before I ever made my pilgrimage to Detroit to see a Tigs home game. I walked out of the tunnel saw the field and got the willies, still do.

    Actually now that I think about the FIRST game was the night before and there was a huge storm/tornado warning passing thru as my plane landed. Huge downpour, flash floods as I made my way to my hotel. I thought no way we play tonight. Then bam, the sky was clearing and turned orange, (I have a surreal pic looking at the right field stands with a crazy orange sky) figured I’d drive down and check it out, got a parking spot on michigan ave right out front, and sure enough the game was gonna be played. So many people left or never showed, I ended up sitting in the front row right behind the Tigs on deck circle, not a bad veiw! (actually amazing that it was lower than the crown of the field.) Sorry for rambling, but you guys started it!

  15. Ed

    January 20, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I recall vividly the awe and excitement of the old park. I recall the green grass and the pride of the fans. I can’t recall the exact year–maybe about 79 or 80 (when I was 11 or 12)–my dad first took me to a game and we enjoyed popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, but that started my love for the game. And I miss that feeling now. My wife and I have been up to Comerica a couple times and we love it, but for me its just not quite the same as Tiger Stadium. I doubt any other stadiu ever will.

    Like Pat G. I wish parts of Tiger Stadium had been integrated into Comerica. Sometime in July or August I wrote Dave Dombrowski about that very thing. He wrote back…personally!…to say that they have been thinking about that very thing. His letter stated too that they would be considering what they might do and thanked me for my suggestions. I hope that next year or the year after, we will be able to squeeze into a Tiger Stadium seat or read the scores on the Tiger Stadium scoreboard or see a foul ball hit the Tiger Stadium foul poles.

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  17. Mark S.

    January 31, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    I am reletivly young, (17), but still remember the games i went to in Tiger Stadium. The one specific thing i remember is always having to walk across a bridge over I 75 to get into Tiger Stadium. I also, remember looking out and seeing the green grass and the very square like playing field of Tiger Stadium. I also remember, the first game i went to at Comerica, I caught a foul ball by Bobby Higgenson (cough cough… why am i still keeping that?) ….is that how u spell his name?