Tiger Stadium auction a $192,729 home run
The auction of Tiger Stadium memorabilia hit a home run for Detroit. By the time it closed Saturday morning, the online auction of more than 700 artifacts from the historic ballpark had drawn $192,729. All of that – plus even more from the sale of seats – is to go to the city to defray the coming cost of demolishing most of the stadium except a corner to be saved as a community center and memorial.
The most expensive item auctioned: A piece of the fence from around the rooftop transformer hit by Reggie Jackson’s home run in the 1971 All-Star Game. The piece of fence came with a photo of the stadium and a Reggie Jackson baseball card. The winning bid: $4,025.
Other top bids included $2,000 for Al Kaline’s locker, $3,800 for a 1968 World Series banner, and $900 for the home dugout urinal.
Three items will wind up in B’s Baseball Museum in Englewood, Colo., outside Denver. Bruce Hellerstein, who runs the nonprofit museum, is a lifelong fan of old ballparks. He paid a total of $1,500 for three items: a cinderblock from the stadium structure, scoreboard letters spelling INN, and a directional sign. Hellerstein said he collected the items as “just a way of keeping the memory alive. I’ve studied old ballparks for the better part of my life and Tiger Stadium ranks up with any of them.”
Dan Rosenthal, chief operating officer for Schneider Industries of St. Louis, which conducted the auction for the city, said only about 20 items did not draw bids. Those remaining items include some of the dugout lockers and the whirlpool bath from the clubhouse. The few remaining items will go to the Detroit Historical Society.
Another non-seller was the huge sign from outside the front of the stadium at Michigan and Trumbull avenues. Rosenthal speculated that moving the big sign to a bar or restaurant might have raised too many liability concerns for anyone to bid on it. He said he was surprised some of the player lockers didn’t sell. “We actually thought those items would go for a lot more, but they’re big, bulky, and they’re not the most attractive things in the world. … The one thing about auctions, you never know what the people are going to find interesting.”
Thousands of seats from the stadium are being sold separately at $279 per attached pair. As of Saturday afternoon, about 6,000 pairs had sold, bringing in $1.7 million.
Once shipping and the cost of removing them from the stadium are deducted, the city will net more than $300,000 from that.Although the online auction is over, buyers have until Monday evening to continue buying seats at the fixed priced.
The auction of memorabilia marked one of the final acts for the ballpark, which the Tigers left after the 1999 season for their new home at Comerica Park after 87 years. After several years of debate and discussion, this summer the Detroit City Council approved Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s plan to demolish all but a corner of the stadium and redevelop the site for retail and residential uses. Demolition costs are expected to run $2 million to $2.5 million. Demolition could begin about the end of the year.
October 14, 2007
BY JOHN GALLAGHER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER