Monday, November 03, 2008

Comerica Park About To Head Into 10th Year, So Where Are All The Memories?

I'm not sure what memories the Tigers fans had of Navin Field in 1921, upon the ballpark's tenth season as a major league stadium. Doubtless they would have included the exploits of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann and the like. Right there, that's a treasure trove. Not bad for the first ten years of any ballpark.

Don't look now, but next season will be the tenth for the Tigers in Comerica Park. It's true. Year No. 1 was in 2000, with its christening coming on a snowy April 11.

So what do we have to show for it? What special memories have we gathered?

Answer: nothing much before 2006. And nothing much in 2008. So it was just the seasons of 2006 and 2007 that have provided anything that you'd care to remember.

I suppose Opening Day, 2000 should be thrown in there, though. Any ballpark's first game is something that should be marked indelibly in the brain. The fact that the Tigers beat the Seattle Mariners in a mini-snowstorm makes it even more memorable. It reminded me of the Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Chicago White Sox and the snow in their first-ever game in 1977. Whoever decided that Toronto would be a dandy place for a season-opening game ought to have his head examined. Or has never been to Toronto, or anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line in early April.

The Tigers didn't win too many ballgames in CoPa's early existence, which contributes to the lack of decent memories. Remember, until '06, the Tigers posted losing records in every season after 1993. A shiny new stadium did nothing to change that.

For a brand new stadium, CoPa was shockingly devoid of early, memorable moments. After Opening Day, there wasn't much else to recall about 2000. We talked a lot about the cruel dimensions of left center, but that was about it. Juan Gonzalez sulked his way through his only season as a Tiger. I remember that, too. But no signature moments, per se.

Ordonez's pennant-winning homer is one of a precious few memorable moments in Comerica Park's nine-year existence

There were a couple of walk-off wins in the final days of the 2003 season, when the Tigers managed to avoid losing more than the 120 games dropped by the 1962 Mets. So that's something, I guess.

Even the visitors didn't do much of note in the years from 2000-05, other than just beat the pants off the home team. No amazing, individual performances, like when Boston's Freddie Lynn struck for three home runs, a triple, and 10 RBI in a game at Tiger Stadium in 1975. Of course, with CoPa's initial dimensions, a visiting player would have needed an entire season, at least, to manage three homers in Detroit.

2006, of course, made up for the park's first six seasons. The pennant-winning Tigers piled memory on top of memory, culminating with Magglio Ordonez's walk-off homer to vault the Tigers into the World Series.

2007 saw Justin Verlander's no-hitter -- the first by a Tigers pitcher in Detroit since 1952 -- and Ordonez's drive to the AL batting title.

2008? I think we just as soon forget.

Maybe down the line, some 20-30 years from now, we'll be able to compile an impressive array of memorable moments that occurred in Comerica Park. But we have a paltry list as we head into Year No. 10. Let's hope it picks up.


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