Sunday, March 8, 2009

One Earmark Story

We've all heard about the earmarks in the recent budget bill which is expected to be voted on in the Senate shortly. One of the terms that has come to represent earmarks is "the bridge to nowhere" made famous by the money for Alaska for the bridge to nowhere. It became famous for two reasons. First, just by it coming to be and second when Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska was selected by John McCain as his running mate in the 2008 election. Her famous line is that she said "thanks, but no thanks to the bridge to nowhere."

In Michigan, we seem to have our own earmark. This was for $3.8 million added by Senator Carl Levin for Tiger Stadium. In the 90's, they began talking and planning for replacing Tiger Stadium with a new stadium. They finally did it at the end of 1999.
Tiger Stadium has been there since 1896. This was before the Tigers were even part of the American League. It has had various names. Named for a Tiger Catcher it was called Bennet Park. Later it became Navin Field, then Briggs Stadium and finally renamed by former Tiger John Fetzer, it came to be known as Tiger Stadium.
My own experience with Tiger Stadium was when as an 8 year old, I attended my first Tiger game. Later, in the mid 70's, I started going to nearly every game that Mark the Bird Fidrych pitched and I continued to go throughout the 70's and early 80's to anywhere from 25 to 35 games per year. It was a great place to watch a ballgame. Regardless of where you were sitting, you felt like you were a part of the game. You were close to the field even when you were in the bleachers in centerfield.
I loved the box seats, which were along the edge of the field in the upper and lower deck. You could be behind one of the dugouts, the screen behind home plate or even out to the bullpen, you still felt like you were a part of the game. My own favorite seat was in rightfield. Right in the corner of the upper deck. You were extended out over the field by about 10 or 12 feet and the overhang continued in fair territory along right field unti you reached centerfield.
Even the seats that were considered obstructed view were great. They were obstructed view because you had a pole in front of you somewhere. You still felt a part of the game. I believe that the left fence was 325 feet from the plate expanding outward to 440 feet in Center Field and then narrowing down to 315 feet in Right field and with the overhang, it was 10 feet less if the ball was high enough when hit.
This is where Reggie Jackson hit the light tower above the building in Right Field during the 1971 All Star game. It's also where Ty Cobb, Hal Newhouser and Al Kaline played. It's where Denny McClain won many of his 31 victories in 1968.
I hated the thought of them tearing it down and putting up one of the new style big stadiums. They had less seats, sky boxes and the seats are pushed back away from the field.
There were times in the 70's, that they would ask kids not to bang their bats on bat day because the rumbling could cause damage. But it was still the best place to watch a baseball game.
The decision was made to tear it down after the new Comerica Park was built. All efforts to save the stadium failed. This was in the good economic times that it was decided to tear it down. After many years of court battles, the demolition finally began in July of 2008.
Now, Senator Levin has decided to earmark $3.8 million for Tiger Stadium, calling it an historical landmark. Notice the two pictures above. The one on the left is Tiger Stadium when in use. The one on the right is after the demolition began.
If you look again at the picture on the right, all of the stands you see in that picture are now gone. The outfield is gone. Most of the left and right field foul line stands are gone. Yet, NOW they want to restore Tiger Stadium using tax payer money.
I love history and Tiger Stadium was an important part of my youth. But what that stadium was is no longer there. They can still keep the field and use it for college playoffs, high school championships and youth teams. But that wouldn't cost $3.8 million to make playable. Especially in the worst recession since the late 70's and early 80's.
As much as I liked Tiger Stadium and still respect it's history, the time has long since passed for restoration. They've torn down the outfield and most of the foul line seats. It seems pointless to waste money after it's more than 2/3 down. What was the charm of Tiger Stadium no longer exists. Especially when you consider that the American people are being told to pay for it in serious economic times.
This is another example of wasted dollars by the government. The sad part is that it is OUR TAX DOLLARS that they are wasting. to quote another historical figure from Tiger Stadium, Ernie Harwell, this stadium is now "LONG GONE!!".
You're welcome to comment.


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