July 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Tiger Stadium fades further into history as Comerica Park builds memories

In its relatively short history, Comerica Park has hosted two World Series and has even seen a renovation project, on its scoreboard. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

Detroit The first time Bob Floros of Warren walked into Tiger Stadium he clutched the right hand of his father as he walked past the old metal turnstiles.

It was 1979, Rusty Staub was back for his second visit with the Tigers, and the young kid was optimistic for a banner Tigers season. Floros could not get the smell of stale popcorn, fresh roasted peanuts and grilled hotdogs out of his nostrils. Not that he wanted to. It was a smell that has lasted a lifetime and turned him into a huge Tiger Stadium fan.

There are thousands of fans who felt the same way. The saddest day of their lives came in 1999 when Tiger Stadium closed. This was the stadium they came to as kids, where they hung out with their buddies. When news came the old girl was closing, they hugged her and protested the new stadium a mile away off of Woodward.

The protests did not end when Comerica Park opened. People claimed they did not like the sight lines, the long waits at the concession stands and the sun that drenched fans along the third-base line, especially in the upper deck.

But in the 15 years since the opening of Comerica Park, there seems to be a softening. The place gets rave reviews from locals, especially young people, and people from around the country.

"I guess I like Comerica Park, but I do not love it," Floros said.

It seems as if many fans have forgiven the Tigers for moving from Tiger Stadium. Of course, there is a new generation of fans who do not share the emotional ties to Tiger Stadium that members of the Tiger Stadium fan club and other organizations that tried to keep the old ball park open do.

Some of the old guard will never forgive and forget. But there are fewer of them, and their roar is not as loud.

People were passionate about Tiger Stadium. That has diminished over time. But you still get a good amount of people who go to the Tiger Stadium site to play ball and mow the grass to keep the field in playing shape.

"My first reaction was shock," said Steve Karas of Warren. "When you first saw this, you thought of it as a minor league park, so it was hard to justify the move from there to here. I don't know if there was anger on my part. I know why they had to do it, but when Comerica first opened I was not a big fan of it."

What about now?

"I have changed my mind," Karas said. "I have memories now. So that changed my mind with this stadium now. But I will never forget Tiger Stadium."

The newer memories are two World Series appearances, a memorable home run by Magglio Ordonez to send the Tigers to the 2006 World Series. There is Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on the mound, the imperfect-perfect game by pitcher Armando Galarraga and a triple crown and two MVP awards by Miguel Cabrera.

Fans flock to Comerica Park like they never did before at Tiger Stadium. A couple weeks ago I took my brother-in-law Big Ralph to his first game at Comerica Park, and he gushed all game about how nice the stadium was. Recently a fan visited all 30 major-league ballparks and ranked Comerica sixth.

Canadian Devin Vince woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday and was on the road about an hour later for the five-hour trip from Sault St. Marie, Ontario, to Detroit. They attended both games of the day-night doubleheader and loved the ballpark.

"This is definitely a classic ballpark," Vince said. "It is a lot better than the Rogers Centre in Toronto. If I lived here, I could see myself coming here just about every game. I love it."

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
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