1984 World Series Street Portraits by Photographer Carlos Diaz on Display at the Detroit Historical Museum

The exhibit will be on display until Nov. 17.
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Detroit Tigers Cap, Button, & Bumper Sticker Vendor at Tiger Stadium, 1984 World Series Portrait by Carlos Diaz, courtesy of the Detroit Historical Museum

Forty years ago, in the summer of 1984, Detroit was electrified by the Tigers as they went wire-to-wire in first place and won the American League pennant before capturing the World Championship at Tiger Stadium in October.

That same year, photographer Carlos Diaz moved to Hamtramck and began teaching at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit where the former chair of the photography department taught for 37 years. He previously taught photography at Bowling Green State University and the University of Michigan School of Art.

His first two Detroit projects were photographing Motor City landscapes and people on the streets to initially connect with his new hometown and its people.

At the three World Series games in Detroit, Diaz used his square medium format Hasselblad camera to create crystal-clear black-and-white portraits of unique individuals he randomly found outside of the ballpark at Michigan and Trumbull.

They included rabid Tiger fans, street people, and enterprising, independent vendors hawking their wares trying to make a few bucks while taking advantage of the World Series wave.

The 22 compelling portraits by Carlos Diaz, in addition to his four landscape photos of Tiger Stadium taken from within the Corktown neighborhood, are now displayed until Nov. 17, 2024, at the World Series Street Portraits 1984 exhibit located on the second floor of the Detroit Historical Museum.

“We always wanted to feature some of Carlos Diaz’s wonderful work in the Detroit Artist’s Showcase and I liked the idea of the 40th Anniversary of the Tigers World Championship being recognized in this way, “says Tracy Irwin, Chief Exhibitions and Enrichment Officer at the Detroit Historical Museum.

“It’s not your typical sports exhibit about a team. Instead, you have a broader context from the artist’s perspective showing people around the stadium and how important that season was for the city. We’re very fortunate that Carlos has donated all of the photos to the museum.”

Some of Diaz’s subjects include an elderly man selling peanuts and caramel corn curbside on Michigan Ave.; a Black man standing along Trumbull Ave. selling Tigers hats, buttons, and bumper stickers with a cigarette dangling from his mouth; two fans with painted Tiger faces holding open Budweiser beer cans; an alluring woman dressed as Uncle Sam supporting  both Presidential opponents — Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale — while selling cigars to support the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Foundation; and a forlorn bottle deposit collector and a young Latina leaning against a post observing the happenings outside of the ballpark; among others.

 “I really wanted to connect with the city and that was easy to do outside Tiger Stadium during the World Series because it was a very exciting place to be,” Diaz told an audience at the exhibition’s opening preview on March 21 during a discussion moderated by Jeremy Dimick, the Director of Collections and Curatorial at the museum that included 1984 Detroit Free Press Tiger beat writer Bill McGraw.

“As I walked along the streets near Tiger Stadium, if I found someone interesting, out of respect I asked if I could photograph them, and because it allows them to recognize the fact that they are being seen as well” said Diaz in a telephone interview.

“In my mind a photograph is more like a sealed time capsule, and to truly appreciate it, you must work to reveal its contents because there are many layers to an image. I hope when people see the exhibit, they will have pride in the city and what the Tigers achieved that year but also that they will see beautiful, down to earth hard-working people trying to survive and others who were simply enjoying themselves.”

Diaz’s four images of Tiger Stadium, the beloved ballpark abandoned by the team following the 1999 season and demolished in 2009, are somewhat haunting and a reminder of a bygone era.

One such image, entitled Residential Parking Lot and Modern Coliseum, was taken from the alleyway between two dilapidated homes in the Corktown neighborhood advertising parking with the ballpark visible in the distance.

The Carlos Diaz exhibition is open to the public until Nov. 17, 2024, at the Detroit Artists Showcase on the second floor of the Detroit Historical Museum located at 5401 Woodward Ave. across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Hours are Wednesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit detroithistorical.org.