December 13, 2018
After another multi-day marathon effort, I finished updating the Tiger Stadium diagrams earlier today. Actually, I had to make a few minor corrections later in the afternoon, mainly to ensure that the original permanent bleacher section in right-center field (1912-1937) matched the lower-deck diagram, which represents 1938 but applies to all subsequent years except for the deeper center field area (it really was 440 feet until they built an inner fence in 1954) and the absence of warning tracks.
So, what changed compared to the previous diagram revision in June 2009? There are separate diagrams showing the uncovered upper and lower decks, with all the juicy details such as support beams and entry portals. I found out for sure that the bullpen to the left of center field (behind the big flag pole) was in fact used by both teams' relief pitchers. That seems very weird, and I wonder if such an arrangement had ever been done before or since then?
In the agonizing process of getting all the pieces to fit, I made two important discoveries. First, the wall in deep center field (1938-1953) was not a consistent curve but angled off slightly on the right side, where there was a wide access gate that was presumably used for landscaping vehicles and maintenance equipment. I had noticed such a minor anomaly in one of the seating charts published in the Kessler (whiskey that's "smooth as silk"!) annual baseball guides back in the 1960s, but disregarded it until I noticed exactly such a feature in a photo of Tiger Stadium. That section of center field was angled slightly so as to align properly with the lower-deck seats on the right field side, which were ten feet farther from home plate than the upper deck seats.
Second, the upper deck between first base and the right field corner was not only discontinuous with the adjoining portions of the upper deck on both ends, but it had a significally shallower "pitch" (i.e., steepness) -- about 27 degrees rather than about 33 degrees. I knew that there was a similar disjuncture in the pitch of the upper deck to the right of center field, and I knew that the upper deck portion in question did extend out about 12-15 feet in front of the adjoining upper deck portion, but when I noticed in a photo that the rear of those two portions coincided very closely (just a few feet difference), it dawned on me that the only way those two things could be true is if they were different in terms of vertical angle. Frankly, I don't see the point of building that portion of the upper deck that way.
Finally, there are a few new details in the diagrams, such as the elevator tower in back of the southwest corner of the grandstand. There are also multiple profiles in both the upper-deck and lower-deck diagrams, to facilitate comparison of the different sections of the grandstand. Tiger Stadium was awkwardly patched together in stages over the years, and it often seems that they didn't plan ahead very well.
The 1934 diagram shows the peculiar profile of the temporary bleachers that were built for the World Series (also for 1935), in which the rear three-quarters had a shallower pitch than the front one-quarter. Ordinarily, the farther back you go in a grandstand, the steeper it gets. Those bleachers covered Cherry Avenue, and when what was then called Navin Field was expanded in 1938 (and renamed "Briggs Stadium"), that street was moved about 150 feet, making room for the double-deck grandstand beyond left field.
The added bonus of three "new" photos taken while I was in Detroit in 2004 (five years before Tiger Stadium was demolished) stems from a discovery of a shoebox full of old photos (mostly baseball-related) a couple months ago. Last week I finally got around to scanning them, and two of them are pretty good, showing lots of detail. In addition to the previously-displayed photo I took from the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue, there are also exterior shots from the southwest corner, the northwest corner (up close), and the northeast corner. I really wish I had taken more photos when I was there. Other "new" photos that I took at Comerica Park and other stadiums will be posted in coming days...
Meanwhile, at the site of Tiger Stadium, a new ballfield opened this year. It is called "The Corner Ballpark presented by Adient," and last March they started holding youth baseball games there, a long-overdue community development initiative. See Detroit Free Press. The massive (125-foot) flag pole has been placed at its former location, but unfortunately, the field has artificial turf, even though the fans who maintained the old Tiger Stadium site volunteered to keep the green grass trimmed and healthy. See detroitnews.com.
One of the tragic aspects of the Washington Nationals this year is the suboptimal performance from Tanner Roark, who had been a solid, often excellent starting pitcher since 2013. (He had been acquired from the Texas Rangers in a trade for infielder Cristian Guzman and another player in 2010.) Today he was traded for another guy with the same first name: Tanner Rainey! This will save the Nats about $10 million in salary costs this year, giving them more flexibility to bargain with Bryce Harper and/or Anthony Rendon.
Roark always had a great attitude, smiling gregariously but very serious about winning. He proved his ability to perform in clutch situations when he helped the USA win the World Baseball Classic in 2017, winning the next-to-last game. But he wasn't given a chance to pitch in the National League Divisional Series last year, mainly because rain forced a one-day postponment of Game 4, and Dusty Baker went with Stephen Strasburg instead. (See October 11, 2017.) Not having thrown a single pitch in the NLDS, it's understandable that Tanner felt slighted, and perhaps that explains his evident lack of motivation this year. Maybe he just needed a change of scenery. He deserves great appreciation for his six fine years of pitching with the Nats, and I wish him all the very best in Cincinnati!
There is nothing solid to report about Bryce Harper, by the way. A few days ago, the Nationals' principle owner Mark Lerner said he thinks that Harper is going to "move on," but that was probably just a negotiating ploy. Now that the winter meetings of the MLB owners have wrapped up, there may not be much activity until the New Year.