On April 20, 1912, the Detroit Tigers host their first game at Navin Field. The original opening day was to be April 18th but it was delayed, as was Fenway Park’s by multiple days of heavy rain.
The starting lineups included three future members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame: charter member Ty Cobb, Wahoo Sam Crawford, and Nap Lajoie. Many might argue that a fourth player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, could be in the Hall of Fame. Detroit manager Hughie Jennings — was also a future Hall of Famer.
Shoeless Joe scored the first run in Navin’s Field history, and the Tigers did not help their own cause committing 5 errors on the day. However, the game was a back and forth affair that featured 5 lead changes. The game went into extra innings tied at 5, the Tigers benefited greatly from their large crowd of 24,382+. In the top of the 11th, Joe Jackson’s ground-rule double into the overflow crowd in center field, many hundreds of fans had to stand in the nether reaches of the outfield in a cordoned-off area. This had resulted in five ground-rule doubles, four by Cleveland and one by Detroit. The Cleveland Plain Dealer said that Jackson’s drive would likely have gone for a triple had it not been for the ground rule that held him at second — and more importantly, held Olson at third. Mullin, the starting pitcher was still in and escaped the 11th without harm.
Donie Bush singled and Oscar Stanage followed suit. Bush went to third as Stanage was out at second trying to take an extra base. That made it two outs with Bush on third. Even though Mullin had already given up 13 hits and walked four, Jennings elected to let him hit for himself — he was a good hitter, having batted .286 in 1911. Mullin came through. He singled to left, scoring Bush with the winning run. The Tigers walked off with a 6-5 win over the Cleveland Indians.