Overhanging at Briggs Stadium


The playing field remains and is maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers. The stadium itself: Briggs, Nevin or Tiger, is long gone thanks to a wrecking ball.

Dead center field and the flagpole are what I remember most about Briggs Stadium: so reminiscent of Forbes Field and the Polo Grounds that also had quite a lawn in CF. The massive flagpole was supposed to be transplanted to the new playground, Comerica Park, but that never happened, and it remains stationed as a sentinel at the aforementioned playing field. A replica stands in for it at Comerica.

Old ballparks had that quirkiness that set each one apart from the other. What architects missed with the multi-purpose cookie cutters, the newer parks embrace with their retro style. For Briggs it was the right field overhang that had that quirkiness.

Right field was listed at 325’ and the second deck would overhang. A ball that could be an out would magically be transformed into a home run as it glided down to the fielder. That may not have been a common occurrence, but it would happen.

The right field roof also became noted for balls being hit over it. The attractive distance led to the occasional ball going up and over. I never saw one in a game, but once saw Norm Cash hit two in a row over in BP.

Left field was just the opposite. Set back to 340’ and the roof and grandstand were further back. Harmon Killebrew was reported to be the first to hit one over that roof.

The bane of older ballparks is structural beams. Get a cheap seat and get a beam. Even the bleachers had beams. The ballpark actually had a second deck to the bleachers.

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Briggs was located on Michigan Avenue and was, at least to me, a short distance from downtown and in an area the locals called “Corktown,” thanks to Irish immigration in the 19th century. I would stay downtown and take the bus, cab or chance it with a walk to the ballpark.

In later years I would stay outside the city, usually Dearborn, since by then a trip to the ballpark was issued by my wife for good behavior – meaning taking her to Dearborn Village and Henry Ford Museum for visits.

For Red Sox fans Ted Williams great 1941 season had his famous game winning home run at Briggs Stadium in the All Star Game. My most memorable experience was actually a game on TV as Fred Lynn, in 1975, hit three home runs and had 10 RBI in a game.

I was fortunate enough to see such great Tiger players as Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, donut shop entrepreneur Mickey Lolich, Natick’s own Joe Coleman, home run hero Kirk Gibson, the great DP combo of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, and many more.

The last game I saw at Briggs Stadium was memorable since it was against Boston with Roger Clemens pitching. Clemens was efficient, but not dominating, and came out a winner. Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Ellis Burks, Jody Reed and a few other Red Sox names from that day surface.

Briggs is gone and Detroit is in shambles. I remember a Detroit that was once one of the most, if not the most, industrious cities in the country. A fun place to visit with a legendary ballpark – long a favorite among players. Hopefully Detroit will come all the way back. The new park certainly has.

Look for Sean Sylver’s piece on Comerica Park.