Comerica Park in Detroit is a beautiful ballpark, one of the more underrated in the new retro-park boom. There is a great view of the city and the gargantuan scoreboard from just about any seat and the front gate with its tiger statues is stunning and is not done justice with photos. The concourses are large and there aren’t any obstructed views, which is more than can even be said about PNC Park. There is a cool Walk of Fame in the outfield and water fountains in center field. The nearby scene has improved and becoming a fun place to be, in a city where there aren’t many attractions.
But researching Comerica for an upcoming guide, I ran across quite a few diatribes from Tigers fans who hate it. And for no other reason than because of what it replaced.
If Tiger Stadium were still standing today, it would be, along with Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in baseball, older than Wrigley Field even. That isn’t something any baseball fan dismisses lightly. The new Comiskey Park was not warmly received by White Sox fans. Baseball’s history is among its most appealing attributes, and fans will always choose to preserve it.
The venerable venue at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull initially defied efforts to take it down. In the late 1960s, the initial plan for the Lions’ Pontiac Silverdome was for it to be a multipurpose facility; thankfully, the Tigers ultimately balked. (Although, if they had gone through with it, the building of Comerica might not have been so hard on Tigers fans’ hearts.)
In the 1990s Tigers fans openly opposed the idea of replacing Tiger Stadium, but with Camden Yards and Jacobs Field bringing in hundreds of millions in revenue, Detroit and the Tigers passed on saving the old girl, even though Tigers owner Mike Ilitch had poured some money into improving the place.
So understandably, Comerica Park is a sticking thorn in the side of Tigers fans. Most Red Sox fans will tell you that they don’t care if there are poles in their view or that their seat is uncomfortable when they’re sitting in the ballpark where Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski played. Tigers fans felt the same way about the ballpark where Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Al Kaline resided.
I love Comerica Park, but I understand Tigers fans’ feelings on the whole thing. As great as Camden Yards is, as an Orioles fan I would have been happy to attend games at Memorial Stadium for the rest of my life, and sit in the ballpark where Jim Palmer, Brooks and Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, and Eddie Murray made their marks. I still would.
Like Memorial, the Tiger Stadium building managed to survive a few years, before it finally was decided that the land is too valuable to simply preserve a landmark and the crumbling building was demolished. This is as it probably should be–it’s worse to have the ballpark still standing without a purpose. And so today in both cities, only a baseball field remains where a majestic and historic ballpark once stood.
Time marches on relentlessly and the feeling of the world passing you by is painful. Rarely is that represented in the mind of a fan than in seeing their home ballpark demolished. Ten years later, some Tigers fans are still vocal about that. It wouldn’t have mattered if Comerica was the greatest ballpark ever built, just as it didn’t matter how good New Coke could have tasted. NASCAR’s popularity is plummeting right now precisely because everything people loved about the sport was altered or changed in some way.
As much as I love Camden Yards and Comerica Park, I understand the feeling. Even 20 years later in my case.
Of all of the ballparks built since the Camden Yards-inspired boom, Comerica Park in Detroit may be the most underrated. The accolades are deservedly frequent for AT&T Park in San Francisco, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and Safeco Field in Seattle, but not often does Comerica Park near the top of the list of favorites of the ballpark nut.
Except in my case. My first game at Comerica was possibly my favorite part of the first extended ballpark trip I took in August of 2001.
Part of the reason I had such a great time, in addition to being in a gorgeous new ballpark, was the amusement being offered by a hot dog vendor on the third base side of the infield. Every so often, this fellow would bellow in an operatic tone, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGS!”
What made it funny, to this observer anyway, was the idea of an aspiring operatic tenor who had yet to make the big time, and was hoping to gain exposure selling hot dogs at a ballpark.
Well, not quite. The Singing Hot Dog Guy is Charley Marcuse, and he’s been doing it since his days at Tiger Stadium in 1999. He first attempted his throaty sales pitch at a concert at Tiger Stadium, and when it got a positive response, he started singing at Tigers games.
Not everyone appreciates Marcuse’s act. Aramark, the food vendor at Comerica Park, even attempted to silence him, in response to angry e-mails from folks who didn’t appreciate the volume. However, after public outcry, the company relented and allowed Charley to sing while the visiting team is at bat. Yes, he’s that loud. You can hear him at Tigers games on TV.
Marcuse won’t put ketchup on your dog either…as he rightly states, “there’s no ketchup in baseball”. (A point that I have thus far unsuccessfully tried to impress upon my spouse.) To drive the point home, Marcuse even has his own brand of mustard… “Charley’s Ballpark Mustard”, advertised with the slogan “It’ll make you sing!”
There’s even a website dedicated to keeping Charley singing– www.singinghotdogman.com . On the front page is a great picture of the Singing Hot Dog Guy in action.
If you are headed to Comerica Park, get lower level seats on the third base side if you can. (I’m assuming that the Tigers do not rotate vendors to different sections; it’s the only place I’ve seen him.) The Singing Hot Dog Guy is a plus for Comerica Park that no baseball fan should miss.