One of the unique features of old Tiger Stadium was the double-decked bleachers that wrapped around from left to right/center field. An expansive sea of open seating that was (for a while) home to one of the zaniest and outrageous groups of fans in Detroit sports history – the Bleacher Creatures.
The Bleacher Creatures were a faceless, unorganized blend of Detroiters who paid $4-6 to sit in the bleacher section at Tiger Stadium and do just about anything they pleased. That included throwing things, bouncing beach balls, yelling insults, and drinking beer. Lots of beer.
At one point in 1985 the Creatures got so out of control in the bleachers that the team took the bold step of closing the entire section (more than 10,000 seats) for an eight-game home stand. The offense that caused the action was the Creatures favorite new vulgar cheer.
The rabid fans would scream back and forth at each other from section to section. It was done in the style of the popular “TASTE GREAT, LESS FILLING” beer commercials of the era. Except the Bleacher Creatures had a different take on it.
That family-unfriendly cheer led to the closing of the bleachers by GM Jim Campbell, and when they were re-opened Campbell incensed the Creatures even more by only offering lower-alcohol “near-beer” in the bleachers. Beach balls and insults continued to rain down from the blue bleachers for the remainder of the ’85 schedule but Campbell never closed the seats again.
There never was a formal Bleacher Creatures club – no membership cards or dues, per se. Instead, this was a loose-fit conglomeration of rowdy fans who loved to be seen and heard in the outer reaches of Tiger Stadium’s outfield. Opposing players – especially superstars – were favorite targets. Reggie Jackson and Ken Griffey Jr. both got their share of boos and creative insults while standing at their positions in the outfield. Jackson once flashed the bird (not Mark Fidrych – his middle digit) and frequently turned to holler back at fans who gave it to him from the right field stands. Griffey once spit in the direction of the center field Creatures after hearing insulting remarks over a three-game series between his Mariners and the Tigers in the early-1990s.
In 1984 the Bleacher Creatures gained notoriety when they introduced The Wave at The Corner. The Wave was a fan participation demonstration that involved one section standing up and raising their hands, followed by the adjacent section, and so on. No one knows for sure who or when The Wave first started to sweep across Tiger Stadium, but as the team roared to a 35-5 record and a stranglehold on the AL East division, the fans in the bleachers were emboldened. That’s when beach balls also seemed to make their largest presence in the bleachers too.
After the ugliness of the ’85 season, the Creatures never again suffered such a formal reprimand, but through 1999, when the final game was played at The Corner, there were still interesting times for fans in the lower and upper bleachers. One incident saw police chasing a fan up and down the rows of bleachers in the lower deck as fans cheered, ignoring the action on the field. Another time – on fan appreciation day when rubber baseballs were given to each ticket holder – fans in the upper deck bleachers tossed hundreds of the balls on the field after a call went against the Tigers.
When Tiger Stadium closed in 1999 the bleachers were no more, of course. Comerica Park has some bleachers in right/center and right field, but the mood there is less rowdy than it ever was at The Corner. The beer flows a little less and the fans pay a little more attention to the game on the field. We’ll never see anything like The Bleacher Creatures again in Detroit.