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Detroit bids goodbye to Tiger Stadium

Tiger Stadium
Tiger Stadium  

World's oldest baseball field to see one last game

September 26, 1999
Web posted at: 2:41 p.m. EDT (1841 GMT)

DETROIT (CNN) -- For 103 years, professional baseball has been a way of life at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit -- longer than at any other corner in the world.

The Tigers beat the Columbus Senators 17-2 on April 28, 1896 at Bennett Park, an 8,000-seat stadium named after a Detroit catcher from the 1880s. Bennett Park hosted the Tigers American League debut on April 25, 1901, when the Tigers topped Milwaukee 14-13 before an overflow crowd.

The little park was too small, and in 1911 team owner Frank Navin tore down the old stands to erect a $300,000 23,000-seat stadium on the same site.

VideoCNN's Ed Garsten reports on what Tiger Stadium's closing means to baseball fans
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On April 20, 1912 -- the same day Boston's Fenway Park opened for business -- Navin Field saw the Tigers rally past Cleveland 6-5 in 11 innings.

Through 87 years of renovations, name changes -- to Briggs Stadium in 1938 and finally to Tiger Stadium in 1961 -- and nearly three decades (1938-1974) as home to football's Detroit Lions, the intersection was synonymous with Tiger baseball.

But the era ends on Monday, when the Tigers close out their home season with one last game at the venerable stadium.

Next spring, the Tigers open play at the brand new Comerica Park a mile away.

Field of memories

Tiger President John McHale says the new stadium will have "an intimacy that can't be reproduced."

But it's Tiger Stadium's history and memories that can't be reproduced, say fans who want to hold onto the past despite the park's decaying condition and its support posts that block the view.

"Back when my father brought the five of us kids here, we had a great time," says former Detroiter Tom Prusinowski, who now lives in Jacksonville, Florida. "I remember going to bat days and autograph days."

Prusinowski is joining other Tiger Stadium fans for the park's final days. Frank Rashid, who waged a doomed 10-year campaign to save the stadium, is on hand too -- 40 years after his first trip to the ballpark.

"Against the Washington Senators," Rashid remembers. "Ray Arlinsky came in and won it in relief. The Tigers won 6-4, and Eddie Yost hit two home runs."

Memories will soon be all that's left of baseball at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, where Ty Cobb won 12 American League batting titles and Detroit started a come-from-behind World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the memorable 1968 championship.

Tiger Stadium's closing leaves Fenway Park as major league baseball's oldest park in use, but even the Green Monster may soon be history. The Red Sox have said they want a replacement in the next few years.

Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten contributed to this report.

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