Ballpark Ghosts: Tiger Stadium

Bob Busser shot his first ballpark photographs in 1967 with a brownie camera. Since then he’s been to nearly 800 venues, capturing more than 75,000 images. His work is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and I recently got the chance to talk to him about his travels and, more specifically, his photographs of Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

The Beginning

Bob began taking photographs of ballparks in earnest in the summer of 1976. He and his family traveled to the east coast on vacation and while the family went to see the Queen of England, who was in town to celebrate the Bicentennial, Bob headed to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox.

On another part of the trip, his father was driving past Tiger Stadium and pulled over, telling him the family would wait while he took pictures. Bob was able to talk his way into the empty ballpark and enjoy one of the more iconic ballparks in Major League Baseball. Later he did the same at Comiskey Park in Chicago, County Stadium in Milwaukee and Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.

“It was a different time,” he said. “It wasn’t a big deal to let a teenager into a ballpark then for a few minutes. It’s gotten much tougher since.”
But that hasn’t stopped him. For more than 40 years, Bob Busser has been traveling the country, taking photographs of ballparks old and new as well as football stadiums and arenas. Sometimes the venues are new, something they’re falling apart. In some instances, they’re just a shell, but that doesn’t matter to Busser.

“I’m happiest when I’m in a ballpark somewhere,” he says. “My wife is a big sports fan too, so she’s fine with me heading off somewhere to take photos. Sometimes she comes with me and we’ll go to a game.

The Corner

Bob Busser Tiger Stadium
In 2003, Busser and his wife were on a trip in Detroit when he stopped off at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and shot some amazing photographs. The Tigers had moved to Comerica Park three years earlier, but the old ballpark was still there. Its best days were long gone but much of the character still remained, though it was somewhat hidden under debris.

“Tiger Stadium was the quintessential ballpark,” says Busser. “Ty Cobb played there. Hank Greenberg played there. So did Babe Ruth.”

“It had double decks, crowded cramped concourses; I loved going there. You could smell the stale cigars and the sausages. The field was an immaculate green. It was a place where people went to watch a game, not ride a Ferris wheel.”

Among the gems of this trip was the opportunity to see and photograph the offices of former Tiger President Jim Campbell and owner Walter Briggs.

Bob Busser Tiger Stadium
Jim Campbell’s office

“The guy who was showing me around asked if I wanted to see the offices and I said, ‘Absolutely!’” I was shooting film at the time so I didn’t get as many images as I wanted to but it was really great to see. They didn’t let a lot of people in there.”

Bob Busser Tiger Stadium
Walter Briggs’ office

The Ballpark

Bob was able to capture some great images of Tiger Stadium, a ballpark that hosted a who’s who of baseball for 87 years, as well as some of the finest players in the National Football League from 1938 through 1974.

Bob Busser Tiger Stadium

About Bob Busser: Bob Busser is a professional photographer who has been capturing images on stadiums and arenas for more than 40 years. You can find Bob’s photographs of ballparks old and new at www.ballparks.smugmug.com. He is also the administrator of the Ballparks, Stadiums and Arenas of the past and present Facebook group and can also be found on Twitter @BobBusser.