From the day it opened in 1912, until the final game in September of 1999, Tiger Stadium was witness to more home runs than any other ballpark in baseball.
There were many famous home runs hit there, such as Babe Ruth’s 700th, and the walkoff homer by Ted Williams in the 1941 All-Star Game. In 1945, Hank Greenberg belted a grand slam late in the season that not only won the game for Detroit, but clinched the pennant. In 1984, Kirk Gibson launched a home run into the upper deck in right field in the 8th inning of Game Five of the World Series, sealing the title for the Tigers. Six years later, Cecil Fielder hit a moonshot over the left field roof on his way to 51 homers that season. And on September 27, 1999, with flashbulbs popping, Robert Fick hit the final home run at The Corner, a grand slam in the last game at Tiger Stadium. Fittingly, Fick’s blast was the final hit of any kind at Tiger Stadium.
Many legends hit homers at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, from Ty Cobb to The Babe to Joe DiMaggio to Hank Aaron to Ken Griffey Jr.
There were strange home runs: one hit on a line drive that stuck under the wall and allowed Dixie Walker to circle the bases in 1939; a homer that rattled around the flag pole in deep center field while Lou Gehrig ran around the bases in 1933; and the inside-the-park homer that Kirk Gibson hit in which he was a stride behind teammate Lou Whitaker who slid safely in front of him scoring from first base.
There were unlikely homers: little Freddie Patek, a 5 foot 5 imp who hit only a handful of homers in his career, hit two at Tiger Stadium; and 19-year old pitcher Denny McLain hit a home run on September 21, 1963, in his first big league game, and never hit another.
Tiger Stadium saw gigantic home runs, like the one Babe Ruth hit that witnesses swore traveled 600 feet as it soared over the right field grandstands. Or the blast off Gibson’s bat that landed on the roof of the lumber yard across Trumbull Avenue. Harmon Killebrew hit a home run that ricocheted off the left field roof and sounded like a gun blast off his bat. Reggie Jackson hit a titanic homer off the light tower in the 1971 All-Star Game. A few players, very few, hit home runs into the bleachers in straightaway center field, an incredible 440 feet away. Three who did were Roberto Clemente in the ’71 All-Star Game, Larry Herndon in 1983, and Mark McGwire in 1987.
There were home runs that didn’t seem to be home runs. The right field overhang frustrated many outfielders who were camped under a routine flyball only to see it land in the first row upstairs. It seemed like Rusty Staub hit more than his fair share of those, and Dave Bergman too. Al Kaline used to scale the fences in right field to take away home runs, and he played that area so well that it became known as “Kaline’s Corner.”
Some opposing players seemed to shine at Tiger Stadium. Ruth hit 60 homers there, the most by any visiting ballplayer. George Brett loved the park, and in his final game at Tiger Stadium in an afternoon tilt in 1993, he hit two homers, one to right and one to left (I was there!). Ted Williams said Briggs Stadium had the best sight lines of any ballpark, and that was back when the interior was painted green. Big Frank Howard loved to hit there, as did Killebrew and Reggie and Ken Griffey Jr. The latter once flipped off Sparky Anderson after hitting a home run into the right field upper deck in 1993. Junior was upset that Sparky had intentionally walked him so often.
No one hit more homers in Tiger Stadium than Al Kaline, who belted 212 there, while hitting 187 on the road. Norm Cash led all left-handed batters with 212 home runs, most of them going into the right field sections. Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg probably hit more home runs to deep left-center field at Navin Field/Briggs Stadium than any other player. He was also adept at hitting the ball out down the left field line, a trait later adopted by Willie Horton and Lance Parrish. Sweet Lou Whitaker, at just over 5 foot 10 and weighing a slim 160 pounds, was probably the least-likely prolific home run hitter at Tiger Stadium. Whitaker hit 146 homers at the old ballpark, most of them after he matured into a better power hitter in his late 20s. Bill Freehan deserves special mention in that he hit exactly 100 home runs at Tiger Stadium and also 100 on the road. Willie Horton hit a home run at Tiger Stadium when he was 16 years old during an all-city high school game. Prince Fielder hit a home run there during batting practice when he was a 12-year old and his dad was playing for the Tigers.
Only one current Tiger ever hit a home run at Tiger Stadium, and it was a memorable occasion. On April 15, 1999, Torii Hunter hit a home run off Brian Moehler at Tiger Stadium while playing for the Minnesota Twins. It was Hunter’s first major league home run, and it was a doozy — a deep fly to right center field that landed in the lower deck.
Most Home Runs hit at Tiger Stadium*
Al Kaline … 226
Norm Cash … 212
Hank Greenberg … 187
Lou Whitaker … 146
Rudy York … 140
Cecil Fielder … 130
Willie Horton … 127
Dick McAuliffe … 107
Lance Parrish … 102
Bill Freehan … 100
*(previously Briggs Stadium & Navin Field)
Most Homers hit by opposing players
Babe Ruth (60), Ted Williams (55), Jimmie Foxx (52), Mickey Mantle (42), Yogi Berra (37), Yaz (36)