"I don't see how it would be possible," Nabozny says. "There was a Rod Stewart concert here a couple of years ago, and it rained, and the field was torn apart. Everything had to be resodded."
Nabozny, 28, took over as groundskeeper this year, replacing Frank Feneck, who worked for the team for 35 seasons. She is a graduate of the Michigan State sports turf management program. Her major worry in Tiger Stadium's last season is a concert by the Three Tenors on July 17.
"I was sitting right here one night, maybe 15 years ago," Oakland Press sportswriter Jim Hawkins says in the workroom of the press box. "I was typing my story. There was a big commotion on the roof. This was when people were allowed on the roof. Some cops were chasing a guy. Thump. Thump. All of a sudden the guy stops, bends over and throws a big bag of dope through that window. I just let it sit there on the floor. I wasn't touching that dope. No, sir."
The words that have flowed from this press box have described the exploits of most players in the American League for 87 years. They have described the work of 11 hometown Hall of Famers, from the fierce Cobb to the hardworking catcher Mickey Cochrane to the graceful rightfielder Al Kaline. They have described six of the Tigers' nine World Series, the last in 1984. ("Even then the park couldn't handle all of the cameras, all of the electricity that was needed," Hawkins says. "I can't imagine what would happen if the Tigers were in the Series this year.") The words have also described some troubled teams and troubled times.
"Actually, this is not the original press box," says The Detroit News columnist Joe Falls. "The old press box burned down during the winter of '771 remember that Jim Campbell, the general manager, said he wished the fire had happened 'five months from now.' He was asked why. 'Because then all of 'em [the writers] would have been in there,' he said."
The park sits like a large, down-at-the-heels amusement ride at its famous corner. The games continue, but there is the overwhelming feeling that the show soon will pack up and move along. The tiled corridors are dark and narrow. The signs on the outfield walls, the logos changing from those of pizzas to those of health-care plans by the inning, seem an intrusion, a last stab at modernization that could never work. The famous sign on one door—VISITORS CLUBHOUSE. NO VISITORS—has disappeared.
The best seats in baseball are still at Tiger Stadium, maybe 10,000 of them that put the spectator closer to the game than he would be at any other stadium. The worst seats in baseball, too many to count and all with obstructed views, are also at Tiger Stadium. The front row of the upper deck in right over-hangs the field by about 10 feet, catching fly balls and turning them into home runs. The eye can still see the transformer on the light tower that Reggie Jackson hit with his monster home run in the 1971 All-Star Game. The ear can still hear the four-man list of players who hit homers over the roof in left: Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Cecil Fielder and Mark McGwire. The mind can still remember Mark (the Bird) Fidrych talking to the baseball on the mound in 1976.
The future awaits only a mile away, where the $290-million Comerica Park is being built. The Tigers' press guide details the wonders to come: the chair seats and suites; the dramatic view of the Detroit skyline; the beer garden on the third base side and the food court on the first base side, which will feature a carousel.
The old park simply sits there. One day closer to its fate.
"It's time," Parrish says. "You lose all of this history, but you gain a new ballpark. You know what I think it's going to be like? You know how you have that old reliable car that you've driven forever, really loved, and then it breaks down, and you have to get a new car? You know how you think you're going to hate the new car, and then you get behind the wheel and see all the features and say, 'Hey, wait a minute'? I think that's how it's going to be."