Apr 21, 2011
Here are some looks at Detroit's Comerica Park. I hate to admit it, but Comerica beats the hell out of the sentimental favorite, Tiger Stadium, which the team abandoned in 1999.
I've put the pics up small for fast, easy opening. Did it work? Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge it. Maybe a few today and a few later?
In case you haven't been to a baseball game for a while, let me recommend it. No, it's not cost-effective, but neither is that watch you're wearing, or those shoes, which no one considers a great thing about America. Baseball is. Just ask Ken Burns, who gave us American History via the ball field a few years ago.
I only get to a couple of games a year, but each time I'm aware of the great American mix at the stadium, along with the vastness of the rustbelt city where I now live--suburbs to the north, west and south (which we call Downriver), and Canada just a healthy bird flight eastward across the Detroit river. From any point in Detroit, it is at least 30 miles to open country, farm country, rural America. A full house at the ball park is about 40,000; that's twenty of the town and four of the entire county where I grew up.
During my first 22 years in Opey-ville, I used to look around and realize there was not one spot in town where you could not see beyond the city limits into the hills and farms. The town was so small you could always see past it. Surely I would die of hickdom.
Now, after more than 30 years in Detroit's burbs, the vastness of the urban sprawl and the melting pot still create astonishment for me. At the stadium, the guy in front of me might work in the factories downriver while the lady to my left is a home maker from one of the Bloomfields or Grosse Pointes. I also see some folks from the little bergs north and west, in for the day from West Branch, Romeo, Fowlerville, and college kids from Ann Arbor, and maybe even some sensible folks from the former KKK haven of Howell, Michigan.
Last I heard, greater Detroit still had the world's largest Arabic population outside the Middle East. Detroit has a Mexican Town, a Greektown, Polish Hamtramck, Corktown and probably every other ethnicity in our nation. A sports stadium is a huge bowl of socioeconomic and ethnic snap, crackle, and pop. And except for an occasional drunken dumbass, everyone behaves; there's a genuine sense of community among strangers from very different walks of life.
But what about Detroiters themselves, people within the actual city that supports all that growth and sprawl, while shrinking from over two million in the 1950s to about 750,00 at present? Honest answer: I have no idea. Shall I assume that every African American fan at the stadium lives in the city proper, which is about three-quarters black? That would be quite an assumption, and, if true, it would still account for maybe 1% of the crowd on a typical day.
So whose Tigers are these? What exactly defines an American city in the year 2011, anyway? And what defines the decay or death of an American city in 2011? Where is the tipping point, and how do we prevent complete collapse? What would complete collapse even look like? The rest of the country jokes that it looks like today, outside the stadium . . . .
I get so distracted by all those questions that I retreat into innocence and feel I'm nine again. It's Little League Day in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, where Ted Williams and some other Red Sox had come to visit my Indians, like Al Rosen, Luke Easter, Larry Doby, George Strickland, Early Wynn, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Ray Narleski. (I didn't have to look up any of those guys, yet I was not at all the most rabid fan among my buddies, my peeps).
I got lost looking for a hot dog in the dark caverns. Oh, there's my mom waving at me. Maybe I'm not lost anymore. (I have no idea how I found my way back to my team and mom; it was a miracle, more proof of a deity than I ever found in church).
But this is a poetry blog! Sort of. I looked for a poem about baseball, but could not be satisfied. Then I remembered the late William Matthews' impressive poem about hoops, "Cheap Seats, the Cincinnati Gardens, Professional Basketball, 1959." I offer it as one of the very finest sports poems:
Cheap Seats - 94.12