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April 20th, 1912 marked the first-ever Opening Day for the Detroit Tigers at their new stadium, Navin Field, which was eventually renamed Tiger Stadium. With a capacity of 23,000 fans, Navin Field was built to replace Bennett Park, the team's original home field. The Tigers had a long-standing tradition of celebrating the first game of the season, but this year's Opening Day was especially significant. It was the first time the team was playing in their new ballpark, and fans were eager to see the Tigers in action. This article will take a closer look at that historic game, the events leading up to it, and the significance of the day for the city of Detroit and the Tigers franchise.
Rain, Rain, Go Away!
On April 18, 1912, baseball fans were eagerly anticipating the first game at Navin Field, the new home of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers were set to host the Cleveland Naps, and the day was planned to be a grand celebration of the start of the season. A parade featuring both teams was scheduled to wind through downtown Detroit, culminating at the new ballpark on Michigan and Trumbull Avenues. Following the game, a banquet in honor of the Tigers and Naps was planned at the luxurious Hotel Pontchartrain, courtesy of the Detroit Board of Commerce.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. Heavy rain fell on April 18, forcing the game to be postponed. Despite the disappointment, fans remained excited to see the Tigers take the field at Navin Field as soon as the weather allowed.
Opening Day Festivities
The Tigers' first game at Navin Field was a festive occasion. Fans arrived early, dressed in their Sunday best, ready to celebrate the start of the new season. The stadium was decorated with bunting and flags, and the air was filled with excitement and anticipation. The day's events began with a parade that started at the city's downtown area and ended at the stadium. The parade was led by the Detroit Police Band, followed by the Tigers players in their new uniforms, marching down Michigan Avenue. The team was accompanied by the mayor, several city officials, and members of the press. The parade ended at the stadium gates, where a large crowd had gathered to watch the festivities.
The Tigers' opponent for their first game at Navin Field was the Cleveland Naps, a team that had won the American League pennant the previous year. The game was scheduled to start at 3:00 PM, but due to the large crowd, the start time was delayed by half an hour. The delay did not dampen the enthusiasm of the fans, who were eager to see their Tigers in action.
The Tigers' starting pitcher was George Mullin, a seasoned veteran who had won 29 games the previous season. The Naps countered with Vean Gregg, a promising young pitcher who was making his first Opening Day start. The game started off well for the Tigers, with the team scoring two runs in the first inning. However, the Naps responded quickly, tying the game and then taking a 3-2 lead in the top of the third inning. The Tigers then tied the affair in the bottom of the frame.
The game remained tied until the top of the fifth inning when the Naps put two runs on the board to take a 5-3 lead. But the Tigers were not ready to give in, as they tied up the game with two runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth inning. The game ended up going into extra innings, before the Tigers were able to push across the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning, much to the delight of the 24,384 fans in attendance. Despite giving up 13 hits and walking four in the game, Tigers pitcher George Mullin was left in the game to hit for himself. This decision was likely influenced by Mullin's reputation as a strong hitter, having batted .286 the previous season. In the end, the gamble paid off as Mullin hit a single to left, bringing in the winning run scored by Donie Bush, who had singled earlier in the inning. Mullin ended up picking up the win after pitching all 11 innings for the Tigers. Tigers LF Ossie Vitt and RF Sam Crawford each picked up three hits on the day, while Ty Cobb went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI.
Significance of the Day
The Tigers' first Opening Day at Navin Field was significant for several reasons. First, it marked the beginning of a new era for the Tigers franchise, as they moved into a new, larger stadium. The stadium was a symbol of the team's growth and success and would be their home for the next several decades.
Second, the game was a testament to the enduring popularity of baseball in Detroit. The large crowd that attended the game showed that baseball was more than just a sport; it was a community event that brought people together.
Finally, the game was a showcase of the talent of the Tigers' players, particularly Ty Cobb. Cobb was already established as one of the best players in baseball, but his performance in the game solidified his place as a Detroit sports icon. He would go on to have a storied career with the Tigers, and his legacy would endure long after he retired.
First Opening Day at Navin Field (Tiger Stadium) was a historic event
The first Opening Day at Navin Field (Tiger Stadium) was a historic event that marked the beginning of a new era for the Detroit Tigers. The festivities leading up to the game and the large crowd in attendance showed the enduring popularity of baseball in the city of Detroit. The game itself was a testament to the talent of the Tigers' players, particularly Ty Cobb, who had a game-winning triple that secured the team's victory. The significance of that day cannot be overstated, as it was a symbol of the team's growth and success, and it set the tone for many more memorable Opening Day performances to come. As the Tigers continue to play at Comerica Park, the legacy of Navin Field and that first Opening Day will always hold a special place in the hearts of Detroit baseball fans.