The Tigers front office wanted nothing to do with it.
But that didn’t stop two members of the 1984 championship team from gathering with a handful of fans Monday at the former site of Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull on what happened to be the sixth anniversary of the start of the park’s demolition.
Former second baseman Lou Whitaker and pitcher Dave Rozema stopped by the site of their greatest triumph in Corktown.
Gone were the stands and bleachers that held more than 50,000 cheering fans when Kirk Gibson’s home run capped the 1984 World Series.
Technically off limits to trespassers by orders of the city of Detroit, the surviving field has been impeccably maintained by the Navin Field Grounds Crew, a group of devoted fans who refuse to quit on the dream of preserving the ballpark.
Whitaker was as respectful as ever, gingerly walking on the well-maintained field.
“I asked Lou if he wanted to walk toward second base,” recalled Tom Derry, heads groundkeeper and founder of the Navin Field Grounds Crew. “He started to walk toward first base, deliberately walking on the grass, to avoid messing up our freshly swept and chalked baseline.
“‘It’s OK,’ I told him. ‘You can walk down the base path.'”
The players, nostalgic and in good spirits, were in town for a formal commemoration of the ’84 team at Comerica Park at 6:30 p.m. Monday, with a Q&A session starting at 5 p.m.
The ’84 team, Detroit’s last baseball champions, got off to a historic 35-5 start under Sparky Anderson and never looked back. Hall of Fame-caliber players included Whitaker, shortstop Alan Trammell, and pitcher Jack Morris.
The future of the ballpark hangs in the air as the city considers proposals for the site.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.