11/14/2008 2:52 PM ET
'The Corner' immortalized in music
As a ballpark comes down, a voice lifts in its honor
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
The first time folk singer Ben Hassenger walked into Tiger Stadium, it was a musical experience, all right -- but maybe not a very pleasant one.
"I was with my Cub Scout group, it was the 1960s, and all I remember was that it was bat day," says Hassenger, who lives near Lansing, Mich., and has written several songs about baseball and the Tigers, including the brand-new "The Corner," a paean to the old ballpark that's being torn down.
"We were in the lower deck, and everyone was banging their bats in the upper deck through the whole game. I got the worst headache ever."
The relationship between Hassenger and the yard at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull got a lot better over the years, however.
"I always liked the Tigers, but it really wasn't until the mid-1980s that I started going to a lot of games, maybe 20 or 25 a season," Hassenger says.
"And I fell in love with the place. I'd sit in the upper deck along first base line and get a beautiful view of field. And bleachers were so cool. The seats were inexpensive, I'd take my young son and he could walk around. I met all these people, and we all still keep in touch."
Those memories are alive in "The Corner," for which Hassenger also shot a video that shows him strumming his guitar and singing as the bulldozers go to work on what's left of the ballpark.
"I remember when I first sat in those bleacher seats/Walked up that ramp a new world opened up to me," Hassenger sings. "The sun shone bright on that emerald green/It was nothing like I'd ever seen.
"I made new friends who are still my friends today/After church on Sunday I'd be in the stands, praying for my Tigers with all the other fans."
Hassenger loves the place so much that he has become involved with the Old Tiger Stadium Convervancy, a group working to save the original Navin Field structure and playing field that became Tiger Stadium.
"They're on their way to keeping a portion of the park there and keeping the playing field there," Hassenger says.
"Hopefully it'll always be there, but I've always told my wife, 'If I die before you, I want part of our ashes to go on our land here, some of it to go to the Upper Peninsula, and I want the rest to go over the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, whatever the (heck) is there."
Before any of that happens, Hassenger will probably be writing and singing more songs about his favorite baseball team.
In addition to "The Corner," he wrote a song about beloved retired Hall of Fame Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell called "Voice of Summer" and a tune called "Wait 'til Next Year" that Hassenger says he wrote, "as a ray of hope after the Tigers lost the Series in 2006."
He's gigged with baseball folk singer, Chuck Brodsky to raise money for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy and will keep going to Tigers games -- even if they are at Comerica Park downtown.
"You know, Comerica's fine," Hassenger says. "There's nothing wrong with it. And I have a line in 'The Corner' that says, 'The new girl's sexy but she ain't the same.' It's a nice park and we have pretty nice seats, but it's not the same. Maybe in 90 years it'll have its own memories. But they'll probably tear that down and build another one before 90 years anyway."
That's why Hassenger makes sure to drive by Michigan and Trumbull on every summer day that finds him headed to downtown Detroit to watch baseball.
"Every time I go to a Tiger game, I always drive by Tiger Stadium," he says. "It's one of my rituals. I won't go to a Tiger game unless I pass by that corner first."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.