photo by Samara Pearlstein
Typical Michigan in January: the sky done up in various shades of gray, intermittently spitting freezing rain or snow on us, and filling the pauses with bitingly cold wind. I had gone to the Auto Show in the morning with a couple of friends, and we had somehow or other ended up in Corktown for lunch, mainlining Coke and grenadine like the 5-year-old college students we so clearly are in the shadow of old Tiger Stadium.
We were sitting near a window, and I was facing out. The grays and whites in the sky, as I watched them roll by (over some wickedly excellent mac and cheese) were the exact shade of Tiger Stadium’s walls. It was depressingly fitting in a way, the world and the ballpark both in winter.
The two friends I was with are not baseball fans in the least. One of them hardly even knows what FOOTBALL is, and we are all Michigan students, which should give you a good idea of her complete obliviousness to the world of sports. But she IS a photographer, in particular a Detroit photographer, which is a special breed of shooter. It’s someone who understands all about the impulse to find beauty in decay, and the desire to document it, to preserve it even in ruin as something preferable to nothingness.
As we walked out of the restaurant, I begged them to let us stop the car across the street from the ballpark so I could hop out and take a few shots. They wouldn’t be great, because I would just be shooting from across the street, I didn’t have my teleconversion lens or anything, and there was, what with the weather and all, no interesting light to speak of. But it was important for me to grab a few even cruddy shots, because I don’t get down to Corktown very often, and the next time I did, Tiger Stadium might be gone.
It is a little disgusting, the way the place is already being put up for bid, its vital bits and pieces the subject of furious competition among various memorabilia sale companies. Yeah, I know bloody well that it’s probably the only way the city can afford to tear it down, and it’s terrible to let it stand and moulder like it’s doing right now. I know that’s how the business works, and that it’s the demand from us, the fans, that makes something like this kind of vulturing profitable. But there’s something incredibly crass about the whole thing, at least to me, and I don’t feel particularly good about it.
Anyways. I snapped my few cruddy shots, surprised as ever by the immense whiteness of the place, and the way the decay has taken hold even from outside, across a busy(ish) street. The light towers are rusting, stark orange against the black and white tones that showed up otherwise. The letters of the Tiger Stadium sign are corroded, although still a beautiful shade of blue.
Actually, the blue was surprising, a touch of color all around a building where most of the color had long since been bleached out. I always remember how white Tiger Stadium is on the outside (that big, looming white presence it has when you pass it from the highway), and my prevailing memories of its interior are of how dark (dark green?) it was, but for whatever reason I didn’t remember the blue until I saw it in person.
Although the tiger logos are clinging to the walls, they too are weathering away, in an interesting fashion: orange paint first. It’s a sad thing to see the Detroit D and its attendant feline (always a much more dignified presence than some of its other incarnations, i.e. Paws) in this state, and in that way I fully understand the need to knock the whole thing down if no one is going to bother fully restoring it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Comerica and I think they’ve done a beautiful job with it, especially compared to a lot of other “new” ballparks. But as someone who spends as much time as possible each summer at Fenway Park, I do find it lamentable that soon enough there will be a whole lot of people out there who will have never so much as laid eyes on old Tiger Stadium. Not even in its winter.