I admit it - I'm a sucker for old stadiums.
When I was very young, I used to play a game with my dad called Big League Manager. The game was similar to APBA in that each player had a card, you set the lineup, and managed your team. One year as a gift my dad bought a number of the great teams... or at least the great teams in HIS estimation as a Pirates fan so both the '27 and '60 Pirates accompanied the '27 and '60 Yankees. In order to block out my dad's sound effects that accompanied every strikeout (gee, I wonder why I'm competitive), I used to imagine the teams playing in their old ballparks. So, when I started working in Cleveland in the mid-90's, I couldn't help but pause in the hallway outside of the press box that had big pictures of old stadiums all along the walls. It was a gallery into baseball's past.
Ever since I've had the opportunity to work in this game, I've tried to make it a point to experience some of these great yards, and Tiger Stadium was one of them. I have some great memories of that stadium and only one regret. My one regret was that on my last trip in there as a member of the Oakland A's, I spent one afternoon with a disposable camera taking pictures from all over the ballpark: coming up out the concourse into the lower seating bowl right by the dugout which made you feel like you were on deck, sitting in the overhanging press box, standing in deep centerfield with the flag pole in the way, sitting in the first row of the upper deck in right field than hung out over the outfield, and even crouching in the bunker for the bullpen pitchers. The intimacy was really remarkable. My regret? I lost the stinkin' camera.
Nevertheless, I still have those memories, and they are very clear. I have other memories, too. The visiting clubhouse was about the size of a shower room in any of the new clubhouses. It was about as private as Mardi Gras. In fact, the first time I ever had to tell a player that he was going to AAA was in Tiger Stadium. I had to do it while literally sitting in the player's locker.
The runway from the clubhouse to the dugout was small and dark. Near the dugout entrance but attached to the runway wall was a porcelain trough. Again, privacy must not have been a central concern of Detroit in 1912. Our clubhouse manager in Oakland, Steve Vucinich, came around the corner, saw me paused next to the trough, and quickly said, "Babe Ruth probably p#%%ed there". That's still one of my all-time favorite lines since I've worked in this game.
I'm sad to see Tiger Stadium go, and I was there just a few times and near the end of its days. Don't get me wrong, the new ballparks are tremendous for both the fans and the players, and we're all busy creating these special moments in the new venues. That said, I'm glad I'll always have those images of Tiger Stadium in my mind.