The Detroit Tigers are fighting to win a World Series title this season and once again they’re packing Comerica Park with fans, breaking attendance records nearly every night. Though the historic franchise moved to the new ballpark in 2000, abandoning Tiger Stadium, there are still many wonderful remnants of that old Tiger tradition.
Located on Michigan Avenue, just a few hundred feet from the footprint of old Tiger Stadium, the Detroit Athletic Company is still standing and pleasing sports fans in a historic downtown Detroit setting.
“We do as much business now as we did when the Tigers were in Tiger Stadium,” DAC President Steve Thomas said. “We’re proud to be in the same historic neighborhood and in the same building where we started more than 25 years ago.”
Steve and his brother David have a long history in the old Tiger Stadium neighborhood. Before they were teenagers, the pair were selling peanuts on the corner of Cochrane and Kaline Drive outside Tiger Stadium. The old ballpark was opened in 1912, just days after the sinking of the S.S. Titanic, and it was host to many memorable events, including World Series, NFL Championships, music concerts, and speeches by Martin Luther King and the Pope. When the Tigers played their final game there in 1999, Thomas didn’t flinch.
“We’re a part of this neighborhood, our family has been down here for many, many years,” Thomas says. “Just because Tiger Stadium wasn’t going to be hosting baseball anymore, didn’t mean we were going to skip out on this place.”
Thomas helped lead efforts to save the old ballpark, but it was finally torn down in September of 2009. However, the site of the playing field remains at the location where it was, groomed periodically by local volunteers. The Detroit Athletic Company is just a doubleplay pivot away from the hallowed Detroit sports grounds, something that’s not lost on Thomas.
“We’re privileged to be a part of downtown Detroit and to help in a small way to carry on the history and legend of this place, where Cobb and Cochrane and Greenberg and Kaline and Lolich and Trammell played.”
Originally known as the “Designated Hatter”, the name was later changed to the Detroit Athletic Company. The showroom floor is lined with jerseys, jackets, caps and much more and carries an extensive supply of Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons apparel and memorabilia. Thomas, an avid historian of Detroit sports, especially loves helping the generations of fans who enter his store.
“They come in wide-eyed, grandfather, father and son. I enjoy seeing granddad get his Gordie Howe or Al Kaline jersey and have him tell stories about when he saw those legends play right here in downtown Detroit. We feed that love affair with Detroit sports by serving the younger fans, who want their Justin Verlander jersey or their Lions cap.”
The Detroit Athletic Company is located at 1744 Michigan Avenue and is open from 10 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Saturday, and 10 AM to game time on Sundays. There are extended hours for days of Tiger games and during special events like the playoffs. Items are available at their website or via phone (1-877-604-4490), and more information is available at their Facebook page. ~Dan Holmes, Contributing Writer