Sunday, August 19, 2007
Game #18: And the Prize for Best Integration of Team Name into Ballpark Design Goes To...
While the old Tiger Stadium was apparently a great venue, with classic features and styling, when it came time to retire it and replace it with Comerica Park, they really did a fantastic job. The new home of the Tigers has a great feel and style, and above all, they’ve gone far further than any other team in the majors at integrating their team name into the design of the park. Surrounding the park are dozens of tigers such as the one at right, each of which was significantly larger than I’d realized from seeing pictures, and at each of the entrances are quite spectacular displays of tigers guarding the team’s lair. The most impressive, at the main park entrance, is below:
Once inside, the stadium continues to impress. Sight lines are great throughout, and there are a multitude of standing-room-dedicated areas that were thronged with people on the night I went, despite it being only a Monday night. These standing room areas, when combined with the cheapest ticket price point of $5, and the availability of on-street parking, can make this one of the most economical experiences in the majors, despite the quality of both the environment and the team.
In right field, in what is perhaps a nod to Kansas City’s great fountains, is a fountain display, which, while commercialized and not as pure as the one at Kauffman Field, was a nice touch nonetheless.
The field of play itself is huge, with a big expansive outfield that creates plenty of opportunities for doubles and triples, in a style similar to Coors field. This is true despite their having pulled the fences in a few years after opening the park, due to the dearth of home runs being hit.
The crowd was engaged and vocal, with fans not shy to express their emotions. They booed passionately when long reliever Jason Grilli came in, and booed him again an inning later when his performance proved to deserve their wrath. But on the flip side, there was definitely impressive crowd support when deserved. Even somewhat into the mid-west, this remains an east coast city in some ways.
Scattered around the concourse are a series of displays like the one below, each commemorating a decade in Tiger baseball with memorabilia, stories of players, and tales of the team during those seasons. These were quite nice to have around, and a definite upgrade over the insert-team-name-here paid admission museum approach. Note the motor city nod in the construction of each display.
While on the topic of history, in recognition of several legendary Tigers, they’ve built 5 statues in left field. Here’s Ty Cobb's.
Also in left field was this guy. He’s not the mascot, he’s just a very, um, dedicated fan.
I was also getting close to Canada, as I could tell from Labatts Blue on the taps and plenty of Canadian t-shirts and hats, including even a few Argos shirts, believe it or not.
Meanwhile, the evening proved to be a beautiful night, 77 degrees and clear, with a slight breeze. The heat wave that was running through the country had definitely passed, but it was also been nice to work my way further north.
For the second straight game, saw a record. This time, Placido Polanco played in his 144th strait game without an error, tying a record for second basemen. That said, I was frustrated throughout the game at how many of the A’s hits went through the gap between the second basemen and shortstop. Coincidence? The shortstop’s fault? Or a reflection of a lack of range by both guys? It’s tough to say. But I’ve never liked errors as a primary measure of fielding performance, since they fail to capture the positives, and only reflect the avoidance of obviously negative situations.
The game itself was rather disappointing for the home team, as the Tigers really didn’t play like a first place team, and, as manager Jim Leyland pointed out on the radio after the game, really didn’t put forth the sort of effort needed to get into the playoffs. Managing to muster only 4 hits and 2 runs (all in the 1st) off of A’s starter Chad Gaudin, it was, all-in-all, a flaccid performance.
From a food standpoint, despite warning to the contrary, I felt I needed to give a nod to Detroit pizza king and Red Wings & Tigers owner Mike Ilitch by trying his Little Caesar’s pizza. They were selling full-size pies at the park, or, as I tried, selling individual slices. Unfortunately, this was a mistake. The pizza was really quite unimpressive, and definitely didn’t hit the spot.
That had already been partly made up for by a quick pre-game beer at Cheli’s Chilli Bar, which was a great place with a fantastic location. With several floors and a roof deck immediately across the street from Comerica Park, Detroit Red Wing Chris Chelios definitely did well for himself.