I went to my first baseball game at Tiger Stadium when I was about 8 years old. It was at the north west corner of Trumbull and Michigan Ave, in a leafy, old neighborhood. For a long time, the stadium was called "The Corner". The Stadium was a gathering place of the people. You could feel part of a community there. It held the spirits of ages past, and it seemed that the Stadium was a connection to where the unique local culture had come from. Not the slightest bit dangerous or threatening, in those days, the area had the timeless feel of the outskirts of a very old big city.
That feeling was a lot different from where I lived, in the little university town of Ann Arbor only an hour's drive west on I-94. I liked it down there. It seemed to be the sort of place where the Little Rascals would play outside and cause trouble. I heard echoes of the post civil war days, when horses and wagons were the street traffic. The influx of southerners, to work at Henry Ford's factories...wave after wave, during the boom days of the '20's.
Poor black folks looking for a better and freer life came by the tens of thousands, and changed the culture. Polish migrants started up neighborhoods like Hamtramck down by the Dodge Main plant. German tradesmen, who built little engineering companies and machine shops to feed into the growing car industry, found the surrounding rural areas of Michigan to be very much like the old country. All of these and more added to the mix of culture. It was an old, and graceful place.
Fast forward 30 years, and in the same neighborhood my friend Scott Asheton is driving through west Detroit with friends. They are headed back to Ann Arbor late one night having been at a party in Windsor on the Canadian side. After crossing the Ambassador Bridge, the streets seem deserted at 2am. Guys are smoking cigarettes, and the car is stopped at a light with the window down. Out of nowhere, another car roars up, screeches to a stop. Guys jump out, doors slam.
A guy with a nylon stocking over his head walks right up to the drivers side window, pulls out a 9mm automatic pistol, points it at Scotty, screaming at him to “Get out of the fucking car!!!” Scotty, reacting instantly, slams his foot down on the gas pedal and smoked the tires getting out of there.
Just as he hits the accelerator the guy pulls the trigger, shoots Scotty in the head. Blood is everywhere, spattering the inside of the old Dodge, but Scotty keeps going, hauling ass up to the 94 on ramp. Only a little later do they check the wound, and find out the bullet seriously grazed his scalp, cracked his skull but didn't take out any gray matter. Scotty’s amazing luck was a matter of a split second and less than an inch. One of the greatest rock drummers of all time, Rock Action of the Stooges, was that close to getting killed that night.
They go directly to the hospital. Scotty tells me that later he found out it was an undercover cop and a case of mistaken identity.
The last time I saw Tiger Stadium was around Christmas few years ago. I was back in Detroit on tour with the Last of The Bad Men, and we played at the Lager House, a small bar on Michigan Ave a couple of blocks east of Trumbull. Scott Morgan's hard rock outfit Powertrane, from Ann Arbor was the headliner.
Tiger Stadium was a sad, ominous and deserted hulking monolith, looming darkly above the snow covered street. Luckily it was too cold out for the local crackheads and dealers to plague us. The Lager House was mostly deserted until a couple of busloads of Santa Clauses piled in. At least a hundred Santas appeared ... had the buses come down from the North Pole??
There were Santas of every shape and description. There were even fetching Santa's Helper chicks in short sexy Santa skirts and fishnet stockings. They all made a noisy racket, drank hard for about half an hour and then suddenly disappeared out into the snow. This left the band with the impression that we had been hallucinating, but it was true. A drinking bus tour of Detroit bars made up of people in Santa suits, bizarre as that may seem, had made a stop there.
The next time I went to The Corner, about a year later, Tiger Stadium was gone ..... gone forever, as were the times that it lived in. I wrote it into the song “Pine Box”, one of the laments I recorded on the recent “Detroit” album.
★Deniz Tek, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a proliﬁc guitarist, singer and songwriter currently based in Sydney, Australia. His career in music, grounded in late-60's Detroit, extends through several decades and across continents. He is best known as a founding member of the inﬂuential Australian independent rock band Radio Birdman.
In 2007, Deniz was inducted into the Australian Music Hall of Fame, and in 2012 was voted number 7 in the top 100 Australian guitarists of all time.★