Tiger Stadium field to be named after Willie Horton

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Willie Horton

Detroit — On Saturday, a group of Tigers fans played what was ceremoniously called the final game at Navin Field.

The next games at the old Tiger Stadium site will be played on a field set to be named in honor of Tigers great Willie Horton, a source with knowledge of the Police Athletic League's plans told The Detroit News on Monday.

PAL, which is taking over the site to build its headquarters, is having a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.

Horton, a Detroit native who played 15 seasons with the Tigers and now is an adviser to general manager Al Avila, will speak at the ceremony.

It's not exactly clear how the field be named. The source said PAL might be checking into trademark law to see if something like Willie Horton Field of Dreams is acceptable.

A message left with PAL CEO Tim Richey wasn't immediately returned Monday night.

Horton, 73, played at Northwestern High School before the Tigers signed him in 1961. He debuted for Detroit in 1963, and played for the Tigers until they traded him to the Texas Rangers in 1977.

He won a World Series with Detroit in 1968, the year after riots ripped the city apart. Horton is famous for his actions in 1967, leaving the ballpark, in uniform, and hopping atop cars to urge Detroiters to cease the havoc.

For his 18-year career, which also included brief stops with the Oakland A's, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, Horton, an outfielder, batted .273 with 325 home runs and 1,163 RBIs. Twice, he topped 100 RBIs with the Tigers; he hit a career-high 36 homers in 1968.

PAL has raised more than $11 million for its new headquarters, which is set to border the Tiger Stadium site, around the outfield. Residential and retail construction projects are planned for the rest of the border for the site, which within a year of groundbreaking will serve as a playground for thousands of inner-city youth, participating in baseball and multiple other sports.

The Horton field will feature artificial turf, as grass was to deemed too taxing to maintain considering the volume of games planned, PAL has said. That decision irked members of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, self-appointed caretakers for the land since Tiger Stadium last hosted the Tigers in 1999 and was demolished starting in 2008.