Sunday, June 14, 2009

Funeral for a Friend: Tiger Stadium (1901-2009)



God help us.

This is Tiger Stadium, or what's left of it. This is a view from across Trumbull Street. The open gaping hole to your right is the edge of the last section of the stadium left still standing.

And even this last section they have begun to demolish at last.

For five generations, the words "Michigan and Trumbull" meant joy. Now it's a symbol of the death of this city.

In a city of two million now shrunk to a third or less of that number--where GM now means Government Mandate, Chrysler is Fiat by fiat, where rotting corpses of homes by the thousands blight the city, where a hundred auto suppliers are now bankrupt--where our new mayor, a basketball star, has no resources to achieve any improvement at all--where white and black stare at one another balefully across a foul trench called Eight Mile, and both stare, equally balefully, at the Arab community in Dearborn--we desperately needed some hope that the city was not doomed.

Instead: this.



They were supposed to save this last section and turn the field area into a park. It took them ten years to determine they couldn't even do that. Now it's just another rubble pile, soon to be just another empty lot where the pheasants will nest.

I know, we all know and have always known, that the tired old lady had to go.

Columnist Ron Dzwonkowski of the Detroit FreepNews put it pretty well: the rotting corpse of Tiger Stadium was a monument to a city run by The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight--the bureaucratic equivalent of Keystone Kops.

This is about what Tiger Stadium was allowed to become in its final decade: a big, ugly symbol of a community that can't get things done. Couldn't save it, couldn't remove it. And so it stood, rotting, and sending a horrible message....When such an obvious eyesore as Tiger Stadium is allowed to languish for a decade, what hope is there for getting a vacant building torn down in a neighborhood? Or resolving the fate of the Michigan Central Station, the city's signature symbol of blight? The sprawling old Packard factory that catches fire once a week?


Indeed. It had to go, and I guess now as as good a time as any.

But.

Still.

We cannot deny that this was the last thing that unified our home city, the last place left where our people, elsewhere so infected with mutual ethnic hostility and rage, could come together and be as one, at least for a couple of hours a day.

In Virginia, they obsess about 1865. Here, it's all about 1967.

Except at Tiger Stadium.

Back in the day, that is.

Yes, I know that we have a nice new stadum, just two miles thataway. It's called Comerica Park--named after a bank, formerly "The Detroit Bank and Trust", that, last year, moved its headquarters to Dallas, and taking all of its jobs with it.

And lovely as it is, the audience is now as white as the Tigers' home-field uniforms. The old unifying aspect of the park is gone, along with everything else that made this city great.

This is no mere building demolition.

It is clear that the death and destruction of Tiger Stadium is our Waterloo, our Surrender on the USS Missouri, our Churchill's funeral. An undeniable symbol of our collapse and fall.

Let us remember:

We were a world class city once.

We were the "Arsenal of Democracy," the "Motor City."

We built the tanks and the ships and the planes that crushed Hitler's empire and shamed the Soviets into surrender without a shot fired.

We were the home of Norm Cash and Al Kaline, of Stevie Wonder and Mo-Town Records, of the Big Four... makers of the best cars (and the most cars!) on the planet.

A city where an ordinary man with a high school education could live the American Dream--a house, a car (or three), kids in school and a vacation up north.

We were the fourth largest city in the nation.

We even tried to compete for hosting the Olympics.

No longer.

The war between black and white, between union and management, between the greed of the haves and the greed of the wanna-haves, has finally caught up with us.

Not only has the world passed this city by, it has, in the end, left us in the dust.

I am Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!







ADDENDUM:

Detroit's city motto is "Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus"
Latin for, "We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes"

To which I can only reply:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, audi vocem meam!
Fiant aures tuae intentae
Ad vocem obsecrationis meae.
Si delictorum memoriam servaveris,
Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?


From the depths I cried to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears attend the voice of my supplication.
If you, O Lord, remember only our iniquities,
Lord, Lord, who can survive it?


- Leonard Bernstein, "The Mass", 1969

We must trust in Him now. We have no other choice.

God help us.

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Keep it clean for gene.