In early 2019 good BB friends Jackie and Walter Timm and I decided to make our annual ML trip to Detroit for some Tiger baseball. Jackie and Walter had not been to Comerica Park so another MLB park could be checked off their ballpark bucket list. A 4-day window of August 28th through the 31st provided us with an opportunity to see 4 games featuring the Indians and Twins and still leave some time for sightseeing.
We all arrived at the Detroit Airport within minutes of each other with the Timms leaving from St. Louis and myself from Chicago. Since most of our activity would be near downtown, we decided to take a Lyft to and from the airport rather than renting a car.
We stayed at an Airbnb near the ball park. I find homestay lodging can vary greatly in quality. Out of curiosity, I looked up the full wording of the acronym. The original full name was Air Mattress Bed & Breakfast. Our accommodations were in the true spirit of the original name except they lacked breakfast. The weather was cool (highs in the low 70’s) with some clouds and light rain near the end of our stay.
Comerica Park – Home of the Detroit Tigers
My quick review of MLB Stadium rankings shows that the Comerica Park, usually sits in the middle around 15th or 16th out of 30 parks This retro stadium built in 2000 and with a capacity of 41,000 has the typical asymmetrical features both in the stands and field. The park is steeped in tradition with statues of Tiger greats and a concourse museum of great Tiger teams by decade.
Public areas to eat, drink, and lounge include a beer hall beyond the home plate concourse and a newly renovated picnic deck above the right field stands. Comerica has basic ballpark food with a good selection of local beers.
Kids have plenty to do as the park features a carousel and Ferris wheel. The left field scoreboard was enlarged and redesigned in 2012 to include a good amount of game information and a large screen for fans obsessed with a larger than life view of themselves.
2019 – A Tiger Season to Forget
To call the Tigers 2019 performance woeful is an understatement. With just a handful of games remaining they are firmly entrenched in the AL Central Division cellar and will finish with over a 110 losses. With such a lousy record, the stadium was less than half full for each game we saw. So good seats at reasonable prices were available.
Fan reaction to the team is somewhere between apathy and shock with a dose of pity. You can’t get upset and boo a team full of what I call placeholders (players holding down positions until the prospects arrive as part of a rebuild next year). An unexpected good play or better yet that rare victory is met with wild excitement bordering on delirium.
The Games and Sightseeing
Although the Tigers were in last place, their opponents, the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, were battling it out for the AL Central Division crown. So plenty of fans from both visiting teams were at the games to cheer their teams to victory.
My below commentary includes observations on the games and other items of interest each of the following days.
Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers on August 28, 2019
As we walked to the games each day we went by St. John’s Episcopal Church. The signage in front of this gothic structure built in 1859 reminded the fans to pray for the Tigers. Perhaps this explained the subdued nature of the fans.
The Indians pushed across runs in the 8th and 9th inning to edge the Tigers 4-2. Tribe rookie right-hander Aaron Civale held Detroit to 2 runs over 7 innings while issuing no walks and striking out 6. Francisco Lindor (HR, Double and 2 runs) and Jason Kipnis (2 HR’s) supplied the offense. Veteran Tiger hurler Jordan Zimmerman give up 2 runs over 6 innings.
I was somewhat shocked to see ex-White Sox 2nd baseman Gordon Beckham playing regularly for the Tigers. Gordon had been struggling in the minors over the past 3 years with limited call ups to the Majors. This shows what a rescue home the Tigers provide for 4A players.
The game was completed in a brisk 2 ½ hours. So we had plenty of time to visit Hockeytown Café near the park for pizza and beer. For beer, I had a M-43 IPA from Old Nation Brewery which is located near Lansing. This brew is considered a hazy NE IPA but that classification does not do it justice. The Citra and Simcoe hops mellow the bitterness and create a carbonated juicy mouth feel. This beverage was voted Michigan Beer of the Year in 2018 and got 98 rating on Beer Advocate. For the rest of the trip M-43 became my drink of choice.
Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers on August 29, 2019
The Tribe edged the Tigers again 2-0 behind the masterful performance of Cleveland ace Mike Clevenger. Mike threw shutout ball over 8 innings surrendering 4 hits and striking out 10. Tribe SS Francisco Lindor provided all the offense with a 2 run HR. During this afternoon game I struck up an acquaintance with the Tiger Mascot Paws (the one on the right)
We then went to the Detroit Beer Company near the park for a post-game refreshment. Next was a ride on the Detroit People Mover. This 3-mile monorail system encircles the downtown area and gives one a chance to stop off at Greek Town, Cobo Hall Convention Center or the Riverfront for further sightseeing. We stopped off to walk through Greek Town and then carried in a pizza before calling it an early night.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation on August 30, 2019
Prior to my Detroit trip, I was told that the Henry Ford Museum was a must see. So early the next morning at 10AM we took a 9 mile ride by way of Lyft to Dearborn to see what all the buzz was about. I was immediately impressed with the ease of entry on a Saturday. I quickly became swallowed up by the 523,000 square feet museum hall with no particular way to go. An attentive tour guide saw my confused state and provided me with a map and advice on how to proceed.
Although the exhibit hall emphasizes transportation (cars, airplanes, and rail cars), The Museum is a trip through American History by way of innovation. Add to that Ford’s personal collection of historic objects which continues to grow and you easily have 5-6 hours of viewing at a quick pace. My 2 favorite items were the prototype Rosa Park bus and the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion House (below). Adjacent to the museum is the Greenfield Village, an outdoor history museum, and the Ford Rouge Factory available for touring.
Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers on August 30, 2019
The offensive-minded Twins scored 10 runs in 1st 4 innings to coast to a 13-5 win over the Tigers. Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz lead the charge with 3 hits and 2 RBI’s apiece. Twin starter Kyle Gibson toiled through 5 innings giving up 10 hits for the win. The much traveled (14 clubs) Tiger starter Edwin Jackson gave up 8 of the runs over 2 1/3 innings. For the second year we got to see Sergio Romo relieve. Sergio seems to hypnotize hitters with an assortment of pitches hovering in the mid-80’s. We settled for a quick drink at Harry’s on our way back after a very productive day.
The Corner Park at the Old Tiger Stadium Site on August 31, 2019
Before our last game we visited the site of the old Tiger Stadium in Corktown, a very old neighborhood located southwest of downtown Detroit. After the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000, numerous efforts were made to save a part of the stadium. Finally, the old stadium was torn down in 2008.
In 2016, redevelopment plans on the site materialized into the headquarters and field (The Corner Park) of the Detroit Police Athletic League which serves over 14,000 youth a year. The new field which maintains the dimensions of the old field, has served as a catalyst for residential construction around the outfield.
We had a pregame meal in Corktown at Bobcat Bonnie’s, a sports-minded gastro pub with a great selection of beer (M-43 IPA) and some serious bar food. However, the highlight of our meal was the ostentatious service we received from our wait staff Denise. Her Broadway background as a CHARACTER actress gave a theatrical flair to the over the top service.
Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers on August 31, 2019
Behind the robust hitting (2 HR’s and 5 RBI’s) of Ronnie Rodriquez, the Tigers outslugged the Twins 10-7. Southpaw starter Matt Boyd held on for 6 innings while giving up 5 runs to secure the victory. The highlight of the game was the prolific HR hitting of the Twins. Despite losing, Minnesota hit 6 HR’s to break the ML HR season record with their 268th circuit clout. The last time the Tigers gave up 6 HR’s and won was1950 against the NY Yankees.
Breakfast on September 1, 2019
For the 4th consecutive day, we went to nearby Detroit One Coney Island for breakfast. I would have to characterize this dining establishment as a breakfast dive. Once home I tried to get an idea where Detroit One Coney ranked as a breakfast spot. Trip Advisor did not rank Detroit One in the best 200 breakfast restaurants. The Yelp reviews were not flattering. The convenience, friendly service and solid breakfast grub must have more than made up for the perceived flaws in this greasy spoon. Rain was forecast for the rest of the day; so we decided to take an early flight and forgo another game. Our early escape of Detroit should not be taken as a negative as I would gladly come back to the Motor City for more Tiger baseball.