Gone are the days of rowdy fans running on the field at Tiger games

A fan runs past Norm Cash during Game Four of the 1972 American League Playoffs at Tiger Stadium.

A fan runs past Norm Cash during Game Four of the 1972 American League Playoffs at Tiger Stadium.

When Detroit baseball fans left the 20th century behind along with the grittiness, charm, and history of Tiger Stadium for Comerica Park, it kind of reminded me of the closing of a community based, fourth generation family owned hardware store on Main Street that gave way for the grand opening of a Home Depot.

(For me it was much worse.)

Certainly the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have greatly benefited by preserving their revered venues. Since the Tigers moved into Comerica Park, Boston has won three World Championships at Fenway Park which opened the same day as Navin Field, the 1912 ballpark that evolved into Tiger Stadium.

Yes, Comerica Park is cleaner, has wide concourses, a Merry Go Round, a Ferris wheel, and a scoreboard that Will Horvath, in a Detroit Free Press guest editorial noted “overwhelms everything like a 62 inch Hitachi in a 10 foot room bombarding your senses with 400 images a minute.”

Yes, Comercia Park does not have posts to obstruct your view, unlike Tiger Stadium whose seats were closer to the field than any other ballpark when it closed in 1999.

But the grade of the lower deck at Comerica is such that, God forbid, you are short or a kid, the heads in the row in front of you often obstruct your view. And if you are in the upper deck you are nearly twice as far from the field as you were in Tiger Stadium’s upper deck. (Tiger Stadium also offered quite a bit a shade during a hot summer day unlike Comerica Park)

That being said, since the Tigers moved to Comerica Park they have won two American League pennants, three division titles, and drawn 3 million fans four times (’07,’08,’12,’13) even though Tiger Stadium had nearly 10,000 more seats.

The highest attendance at Tiger Stadium occurred in the 1984 World Championship season when the team drew 2,704,794 fans despite the fact that Tiger President Jim Campbell shut down the bleachers because of rowdiness at the height of the most magical year in a generation.

I am certainly not saying it is a bad thing, but something you will rarely see at Comerica Park that you would occasionally see at Tiger Stadium were some fairly rowdy fans.

At Tiger Stadium there were times when a fan (likely drunk) would run onto the field to interrupt the game drawing boos but also sometimes laughs when watching overweight stadium employees looking like keystone cops would try and scramble to corner the nut darting about like a deer on the run.

I will never forget a visit to Tiger Stadium where I witnessed two younger men sitting directly in front of me in the lower deck near first base suddenly jump the railing and sprint directly across the field where they climbed over the left center field fence.

Now I thought for sure they would be taken down in the paddy wagon to the jail for an arraignment the next morning in 36th District Court.

But an inning later these guys returned to their seats wearing smiles.

Go figure.

I have yet to see or hear of a fan running out onto the Comerica Park field. Correct me if I am wrong.

It’s probably due to the fact that the Tigers have placed security personnel down by the railings who often sit with their back to the field looking into the stands. Between innings they walk out onto the field and stare into the stands with a presence that certainly discourages someone who could care less about receiving a conviction for Disorderly Conduct.

Just like watching the Tigers take batting and fielding practice, seeing an idiot running onto the field at a Tiger game left with the 20th Century.



About Bill Dow

Bill Dow has written numerous articles on Detroit sports history as a regular freelance contributor to the Detroit Free Press sports page, and some of his work has been published in Baseball Digest magazine. He also wrote the Afterword to the latest editions of George Plimpton’s book Paper Lion.