One more on baseball, well, starting from baseball

Having written that post on the Detroit Tigers and their claim to fame this season one cannot write about the other side to that story. For in this town all stories do have a flipside. For every story on succes there are stories on loss and pain. Newcomers in town, ‘transplants’ in the local language, are heralded by most and scoffed at by others. Investments in town are welcomed by business peeps and are laughed at by those who like Detroit as it is: a breeding ground for urban experiments. What both groups share is a certain neglect for what was here before. As an European from a museum-alized city [in the sense that we cherish our medieval city centre so much] it is surprising at the least to see that neglect in mainstream media. Because when reading on baseball in town it took some time to find mentions on the Negro Leaugue stadium in Hamtramck.

For the Europeans: As playing in the Major League baseball clubs was forbidden during the de facto apartheid years in US history African Americans organized their own baseball competition. That period started to end with Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League baseball in 1947. Many claim this moment to be one of the contributing moments to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.

As most countries the United States doesn’t have a culture of raising monuments for the ashaming aspects of their history. But when a baseball park as Roesink Stadium in Hamtramck does still exist, the European culture of maintaining its’ past would surely have propelled that stadium into being a musuem before a long time. Here in Detroit that discussion is just starting. Local historian and baseball fan Gary Gillette dove into the history and local authorities received him to hear the story.

“What would be the benefit?”, was one of the questions during the session with local government in 2010. Like having a historical piece in itself couldn’t be a benefit. But well, as one of the few Negro League stadiums remaining, it surely will atract tourists and “that preserving the stadium would generate national media interest, propelling Hamtramck into the national spotlight.”

Now with such recommendations one supposes it would be a matter of time for the stadium to be on lists for historical preservation, for a small renovation on the stands, and bam to be launched into that national attention. But now, one and a half year later the stadium is a neglected as it was last decades. Serving as a symbol of both neglect for African American history and of the poor economical situation of this city and its’ surroundings. Just this week the mayor delivered a speech Detroit had to be cutting yet another 10 percent on personnel budgets. National media report on the ‘Great Recession’ the US of A is in and Time Magazine ran a coverstory on “Can you still move up in America?” and one doesn’t have to be a great mind to guess what’s the answer.

With foreign commentators writing about Obama finally understanding that building bridges in the divided political landscape that is Washington will not benefit him, but that focusing on and charging at the ‘fat cats’ who got richer and richer over the last decades might do that, the picture emerges: This country is coming to a point understanding the American Dream is destroying more than it builds up.

To some there’s nothing new in that. But to many it seems a new thought. An idea that opens new roads, with directions towards unknown places called equality or sharing. Directions towards a new American dream? Now, that would be something revolutionairy indeed.


"Resurget Cineribus"

Most likely a lot of people did see the
Johnny Knoxville report on the D. Link here, here, and here. But than who did read all comments? Ah…
Here is selection by my hand of some of those.

Lived here all my life. The past few years,_ there has been an influx of hipsters in downtown. Why? Because they just adore taking pictures of the central station for their 'art' classes.

I admire the positivity and the DIY attitude, but I didn't see much job creation. This will sound cynical, but how many of the people featured were actually getting paid? or how many were living on trust funds. What about seniors,_ didn't see many kids, will these people start families in Detroit, send their kids to the local schools? I know this is aimed at a young trendy market but you need more than organic farmers markets and bands to revive a city

I have yet to see a city whose core is constructed of 20-30yr old, single people flourish. Skate parks don't make the city money. Raves put money in the promoter's pockets and sometimes leave havoc - after the event. Most artists don't have healthy incomes. And gardens feed only a few. Detroit needs to attract tech companies with tax breaks, alternative power industries with land deals and bio-engineering firms with the keys to the city.

Wow, can you interview anybody who's not a fucking 20 year old hipster. Why don't you interview the 58 year old people who have lived, worked and STAYED_ in the city for decades! They've been "saving" the city their whole lives, even after they've had their places shot up and been robbed. They're not just trying to create a steller rave scene. (don't get me wrong, the rave scene in detroit is great but it seems trivial).


Detroit Tigers

Some of you might know Detroit is home to a Major League Baseball organisation: the Tigers. The Tigers were founded in 1894 and, contrary to many other teams in Major League baseball, never moved to another town. Wikipedia says this about the club: “The Tigers have won four World Series championships (1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984) and have won the American League pennant 10 times. The team currently plays their home games at Comerica Park in Downtown Detroit. The Tigers constructed Bennett Park at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue and began playing there in 1896. In 1912, the team moved into Navin Field, which was built on the same location. It was expanded in 1938 and renamed Briggs Stadium. It was renamed Tiger Stadium in 1961 and the Tigers played there until moving to Comerica Park in 2000.”

And it is on that new stadium i would like to continue. Because to build a new baseball park in a town with so many problems doesn’t seem to be the most logical thing to do. But than, economical necessities more often than not don’t suit the needs of the average Detroiter. As someone mentioned “You don’t get richer not building a new stadium.” And that might be true: building breeds money. Maintaining just costs money. Promptly the Tigers went through some bad years, with the 2003 season being one of the most disastrous baseball seasons played by any team in Major League Baseball history. Quoting wikipedia again: “While the 2003 Tigers rank as the third worst team in major league history based on loss total. The Tigers went 43–119 that season, 47 games behind division-winner Minnesota.” The pitchers of the Tigers were #1, #2, and #3 in the major leagues in losses for 2003—the only time in major league history that one team has had the top three losers.” Things couldn’t get worse.

But now, with the town itself starting to breathe again, so did the baseball club. 2011 saw the Detroit Tigers competing well and making it to the American League series, which is the equivalent of the semifinals, to lose against the Texas Rangers. What pleased the neutral baseball most is they beat the Yankees in the ‘quarter finals’. That, for Europeans, is the equivalent of a Dutch soccer team beating Real Madrid. And not only the Yankees, as a rich club able to sign expensive players, didn’t make it to the final rounds, neither did other rich clubs. Actually other clubs from the ‘
rust belt’ performed well this season, inciting Richard Florida to write a pleasant commentary on the “de-industrialized Rustbelt metros”. Read here


As we know, not everything happening in Detroit is new, as also concluded the Frenchies on their blog Detroit, je t'aime , and this picture from the Yes Farm's site just proves that.

Influxes from the outside world

Naturally the situation Detroit is in attracts [media] attention from outside. The former branding of the city as a ruin town, as the living example of the death of the American dream seems to be outdated. So many people here worked so hard to maintain this city, so many people did their best to have some kind of society working, it had to pay off. Whereas Detroit was leading all the wrong lists in many of the USA media, ow the tide is changing. From a town in which one would not even be found death, now the stigma on Detroit is one of 'can do'. From disaster city Detroit turned into 'city of opportunities'. A link to provide you with further insight on that idea:
- Is Detroit the new Brooklyn?

But that idea of course is contested in yet another one [numerous are the publications on this town, and countless the comments they provoke]:
- Detroit: the death of Manhattanism.

Many of the outsiders coming into town at this moment are not wholly trusted by the Detroiters i have been meeting these weeks. As opposed to the white flight from the 50ies, and more recent, now power and money don't leave town, but flow in. That causes Detroiters who stayed here to wonder on the willingness of those people to contribute to non fordist dream of Detroit's future. Are businesses and investment bankers not trying to revive the old system which so deeply hurt this town? Are they here for profits only, rather than for the sake of the community? As some one put it last week: "The new incomers have access to two things most people here don't have: resources and out of town networks. Kids who grew up here during last decades are than again losers - as they don't have these two assets. Who is going to guarantee me the investers will not move somewhere else sometime soon and once again leave us? And in that process having transformed our dream into another nightmare?" Let's see what some of the investers think of that themselves:
- Detroit's fix-it men in their own words

"Second" impressions

“Second“ impressions Having spent one more week here, filled with more talks and tours through various parts of the city, it’s time to write down some second impressions. What struck me most is the concern and love of all people here in Detroit for the city they live in. There does exist a certain idea of what Detroit ought to be: a town in which the experiment on the post-fordist , post neo liberal society is taking shape. An experiment with an unknown outcome, but based on ideas and beliefs the local counts more than the national, based on convictions the Detroiters are in this situation all together and need eachother to make the experiment work. Whether that be by buying local, by social networking in your town, or by supporting eachother in all one does makes no difference now. The belief is here that people need to do it themselves, independent of the structures that characterized the fordist system. Politics and politicians? To be laughed at. Companies and other institutions? Not concerned with people. So everybody works in non profit organisations. Some get paid for their work, others live of food stamps to have their NGO function on the highest profile possible.

This indeed is all very beautiful, but it brings up some tough questions: In the limbo-ism of this moment cooperations work out fine, but how will the future with some more organized models influence this way of working? How will Detroiters deal with the influx of people and money from out of town? Can the love and desire for making Detroit work again survive the phase of self obsessedness that naturally stems from it? How will Detroiters deal with the outside world putting various stamps on the city? The future might be less bright for some of the ideas that seem so vivid today.