Does Bud Selig Really Hate Detroit?


Character Sundays

“Nostalgia is a symptom of a dying culture.”

I don’t know who said it first, I got the quote from Husker Du drummer Grant Hart in the liner notes for their album The Living End, but if true, the American culture must be on life support. 

The proof is in New York and Detroit as venerable baseball venues Yankee and Tiger Stadium are in their dying moments.  The Yankees will be playing in their new park starting at the beginning of the 2009 season.  The Tigers have been playing in Comerica Park since 2000.  New York will raze Yankee Stadium before the Yankees come north from Spring Training.

On July 10, 2008, the city of Detroit is finally got around to tearing Tiger Stadium down.  By Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009, the job is nearly comeplete.

Grown men are walking around the now construction site with video cameras and digital cameras.  Some are crying and are showing their sons and grandsons where they watched their heroes play the American game.  (For the record, I remember the first Tiger game I went to when I was four years old.  I went with my Mother, Father, Grandfather and Great-Grandfather.  We were nearly late for the first pitch because my Great-Grandfather told Mother to put a tie on me because we were going to a baseball game.  How old school is that? And when I was in Detroit in September I walked past the Corner and cried like a girly man.)  If you come to the South Bronx, you will see the same scene with grown men in Yankee caps instead of those with an Old English D in November and December.

ESPN and Fox Sports are broadcast every game they could from Yankee Stadium, reminding the viewers just how many games were left for the Yankees to play in the House that Ruth Built as each game ended.  The last game from Yankee Stadium was a national event, with the usual suspects (George Will, Billy Crystal et al.) waxing poetic about the Yankees and their what park means to America.  It’s enough to make you nauseous. 

But baseball didn’t televise the last game in Tiger Stadium, arguably the most historically significant baseball diamond in the United States.  (The Tigers played on that same spot from 1896-1999.  Every great American League player from Lajoie, Cobb and through Manny and A-Rod played there.)  There was no MLB Sports package on Direct TV so the game was impossible to see for anyone who wasn’t in the Detroit Metropolitan Area.  I always wondered why the game wasn’t a national game of the night, week etc.

In the spring of 2001, I was working an MLB benefit at the now defunct Park Ave. Country Club.  One of the guests was Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and I finally asked him why MLB didn’t televise the last game from Tiger Stadium.  “No one cares about baseball in Detroit,” he said.

I found that statement odd as Nightline, Good Morning America and all three major news networks were broadcasting from right outside the stadium walls.

When I called the offices of Major League Baseball and relayed what Selig had told me, Pat Courtney in the Public Relations department scoffed.  “That’s not at all the way he thinks,” Courtney said.  “When he was an owner the commissioner was in Detroit all the time to watch the Brewers play the Tigers.  And as commissioner, he helped them build their new ballpark.”

When I asked what if MLB Yankee and Tiger Stadiums should be saved or torn down.  “That’s a local issue,” Courtney said.

I get it now: MLB is running a nostalgia con.

So while I appreciate great baseball movies and baseball literature and wonderful articles like Detroit Newsreporter Gene Wojnowski’s on mourning the loss of Tiger stadium.   I know what baseball wants from me: my money, so I can watch cheaters like Manny Ramierez take hGC break records.

Jesus, they even got over on Walt Whitman.



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