Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers, is a beautiful facility that hosted its first game in 2000. Had the Tigers remained at Tiger Stadium through 2001, the park on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull would have had baseball games in three centuries.
No other baseball field would have been able to hold that honor and since Tigers made the move to Woodward Avenue at the start of the new century, the old stadium missed the chance. The other old stadiums, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, first hosted games in the 1900s.
Over the course of the Detroit Tigers’ long history, the team has made their homes in two locations. From 1896 to 1999, the team made its home on the grass at Michigan and Trumbull. The other location is the current one at 2100 Woodward Ave.
While history talks about the Detroit Tigers making their debut in 1901, the team actually existed well before the American League made the Tigers into a major league team. Between 1896 and 1999, the Tigers played on “The Corner” which has become the name that references all of the different titles the ballpark has held.
The first ballpark on The Corner was Bennett Park, which was the official name from 1896 to 1911. This original stadium was quite different than what fans remember Tiger Stadium looked like. The first version of the recognizable park was called Navin Field from 1912 to 1937. It was later called Briggs Stadium from 1938-1960. In 1961, the field became Tiger Stadium. The history of the appellations is worth knowing – especially the first park.
Bennett Park was named for a beloved player from the early days of the Tigers. For several years starting in 1878, a catcher named Charlie Bennett was a favorite of the fans in Detroit due to his intense toughness and true love of the game. He was one of the best catchers in the early days of baseball and he could hit. What is interesting about Bennett is that he was the first catcher to wear a chest protector – even though he hid it under his uniform.
Even though he secretly protected his chest, Bennett did not do the same with his hands. He caught without a mitt – which was commonplace at this time of the game. Bennett would occasionally miss games because of broken fingers. In the early days of the game, the baseball would usually be covered in blood, all from the catcher. Keep in mind that pitchers were not hurling 95 mph fastballs, but catching was still the most dangerous position.
This fan favorite suffered a horrible accident in 1894 when he tried to hop aboard a moving train. He slipped resulting in an immediate amputation of his left foot and a serious injury to his right leg. Doctors had to amputate his right leg at the knee. In 1896 when the first park at Michigan and Trumbull opened, the suggestion was made to name it after Bennett. For over 30 years, Bennett caught the first ceremonial pitch at his eponymous park during every home opener and he continued to catch the first pitch when the park was later rebuilt. He died in 1927, forgotten to fans of today.
The other two names given to the stadium at The Corner were based on the owners of the teams. After the 1911 season, the owner, Frank Navin, tore down Bennett Park to open a real big league park. This was when the park got its big white walls that made the stadium so recognizable. This was the field that Ty Cobb dominated.
In 1937, Mr. Navin died and the team changed hands. Walter Briggs was the next owner and he did some remodeling and renamed the stadium Briggs Stadium. This was the name of the stadium that hosted Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and other greats. Al Kaline made his debut at Briggs Stadium.
In 1960, the stadium was named for the team. Tiger Stadium was the final moniker given to the iconic park on Michigan and Trumbull. This stadium was the home to the 1968 World Series team as well as the 1984 Bless You Boys. It was also home to Detroit Lions for several years until the team opened the Silverdome in Pontiac in 1975.
For more information about the early days of Tiger Stadium, check out A Place for Summer by Richard Bak.
Read more about the Detroit Tigers at Motor City Bengals.