Object Lesson: The Tiger Stadium Site

Time-travel to the defunct Tigers den and explore the new diamond that’s taken its place.
Photograph courtesy of Detroit PAL

The corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit is an iconic symbol of Detroit sports history.

The site of the historic Tiger Stadium, affectionately known by Detroiters as “The Corner,” is now the Willie Horton Field of Dreams at The Corner Ballpark, home to Detroit PAL, an organization in partnership with the Detroit Police Department and community volunteers that aims to foster a sense of community and safety for youth through its athletic programs.

Tell us about the pro baseball history at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull

Professional baseball was first played at the site, then called Bennett Park, in 1896. Bennett Park was demolished after the 1911 season and replaced with a stadium designed by father-son duo Frank and Kenneth Osborn of Osborn Engineering. In 1912, The Corner that Detroiters know today opened as Navin Field. After an expansion in 1935, the name was changed to Briggs Stadium, and in 1961, it finally became Tiger Stadium.

Tiger Stadium bore witness to almost 7,000 regular-season games, three All-Star Games, and two of the Tigers’ four World Series wins. The stadium closed after its final game on Sept. 27, 1999. Despite efforts to preserve the structure, demolition began in 2008. The site remained vacant until Detroit PAL stepped in.

Did anything else go on there?

The Detroit Lions played home games on the field from 1938 to 1974, except for 1940. Countless musical stars have performed at the stadium, including Rod Stewart and Kiss. It was even visited by former South African President Nelson Mandela in 1990.

What’s happening at The Corner now?

In 2014, Detroit PAL came up with an idea to preserve the field and was given approval to develop the site. Four years later, Detroit PAL opened The Corner Ballpark, including the Willie Horton Field of Dreams. The site has since served as the organization’s headquarters, a place for PAL events, offices, and athletic programs.

Does any part of Tiger Stadium remain?

Though The Corner Ballpark is a new structure, the original flagpole
from Tiger Stadium was preserved. The dimensions of the new field were also designed to model the original. In addition, there are plenty of photos of Tigers greats in the Hank Greenberg Walk of Heroes exhibit in the structure.

Is it open to the public?

The Corner Ballpark has open events throughout the year. These are listed on the Detroit PAL website under “The Corner Ballpark.” Detroit PAL will be open for the 2024 St. Patrick’s Parade and will offer refreshments, access to the Walk of Heroes, and opportunities
to run the bases.

Why name the field after Willie Horton?

Former Tiger Willie Horton is the field’s namesake due to his legacy as both a player and a Detroit PAL leader. Horton first played at Tiger Stadium as a high schooler and remained a respected member of The Detroit community throughout his career. Upon retiring from professional baseball, Horton served as the executive director of Detroit PAL in the mid-’90s.

What has Detroit PAL’s use of the site done for Detroiters

Though The Corner Ballpark attracts visitors from across Michigan, Detroit PAL CEO Frederick Hunter says the organization is all about lifting up local kids. The organization’s mission is “teaching life lessons through sports, and through youth enrichment programs, to really help shape young people in terms of who they can be,” Hunter says. “Our belief is that in every single child, there’s greatness,” Hunter says. “We are looking to serve about 9,000 youth in 2024.”

This story is from the March 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.