Part I - Opening Day and Other Baseball Memories

April 4, 2015 | UPDATED Opening Day for the 2015 MLB season is upon us.  The following is a collection of Opening Day and other a...

April 4, 2015 | UPDATED

Opening Day for the 2015 MLB season is upon us. 

The following is a collection of Opening Day and other assorted baseball memories. In many ways, baseball has become a metaphor for life in a uniquely American way. 

After reading the stories from Connie, Russ and Steve, I now consider myself a fair-weather fan!

Our first entry came via a brief Facebook submission.

Dave K wrote:

Trying to get to Candlestick Park for Opening Day about 1984 and setting on U.S. 101 until the 2nd inning.... About 3 miles from the "Stick". Worse traffic EVER.

Dave K submitted further information via Facebook on Saturday, April 4. 

Baseball has been a significant thread in my life, my dad was huge fan and passed his love of the game to me, I have had the opportunity to see two World Series Games, 2012 and 2014 with each of my son's. They share the love of the game, I never got to share the 2010 WS with my dad, I know what it would have meant. My son was in Iraq when the Giants won in 2010 and we communicated throughout the series, it filled a hole that was left when my dad died. Love this game and can't wait to take my grandson and granddaughter to games!!


Call the next two entries from Russ T. a bit of copy cronyism. A native Texan, I became friends with Russ through one of my brothers who was his high school classmate in the early 70s. Russ's family lived in the City of Detroit prior to and after the 1967 riots and the Tigers 1968 Tigers Championship. 

Now a 30-year plus resident of Mississippi, Russ remains a committed Tigers fans. He travels annually to watch the Tigers and has done this even in the years when they fielded terrible teams. 

As the second story will illustrate, Russ is also the Tigers Goodwill Ambassador to Scandinavia. The word fan is a derivative of fanatic, and in all the positive connotations, that describes Russ.   

Russ T's Opening Day Ritual

RKT's 49th Annual Open Day Schedule
Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers
Monday, April 6, 2015

0500CDT: RKT Awakes
0630CDT: RKT at Work
0710CDT: Coffee Cool-down with Clarke and other misled Red Sox Fans
0800-0830CDT: Manpower Survey Overview
0830-1030CDT: 013B Manpower Survey documentation critique
1100CDT: RKT Departs Work
1115CDT: Brats Cook Up for Clarke and other invited guests
1140CDT: Pre-Game Show, WXYT Radio
1200CDT: National anthem: Legendary Motown group the Four Tops (Ain't no Country like the one I love!)
1204CDT: First pitch: Metro Detroiter and acclaimed actor and Oscar-winning J.K. Simmons
1208CDT: Game Time David Price v. Phil Hughes
1530CDT: Tiger Cooldown/Walking the Vicksburg National Military Park

"For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on t
he earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." Song of Solomon 2:14


40 Years and The Golden Boy

By Russ T.

Back in 1995, we attended a Tigers v. Rangers game in Arlington. It was also my Dad's 80th birthday and he bought all his grandkids a baseball to take with them to try and get autographs during batting practices and pre-game warm-up. Our daughter was six at the time and she came back to our seats in tears saying that the "big kids were pushing her out of the way and she couldn't get any autographs." 

I told her to come with me and we would get an autograph. We were sitting on the third base side behind the Tiger dugout (to give them spiritual support). We went up to the second deck behind home plate and walked up to the base of the broadcast booth.

Sitting there calmly watching batting practice was Al Kaline, my boyhood idol. At the time Kaline was announcing Tiger TV broadcasts. I said hello to him and said we came all the way over from Mississippi for the game and asked if he would sign my daughter's baseball. 

"Sure....toss it up," he said with a smile. 

After signing it, he said "Do you want George's too?" Of course, and my daughter got two Detroit Tiger Hall of Famers' autographs....George Kell and Al Kaline. He tossed the ball back down to me and I told Blair that she couldn't have the ball until she was 40 years old! I would hold on to it for safe keeping.

Years later after our daughter graduated from high school my wife and I hosted high school exchange students. During their year with us, I would turn them into devoted Detroit Tiger baseball fans where we would drive over to Dallas to watch a three game series when they played the Rangers. 

It was the first time they ever been to a baseball and seeing a game in person magically turned them into fans. One year, we were hosting a boy from Germany and Norway that we took to some games along with a Swedish exchange student. I would always give all of our exchange students unique nicknames that match their personalities and we called the Norwegian "The Golden Boy" because everything nice always happened to him and what he touched. 

During their very first baseball game, the Golden Boy had a foul ball drop straight into his lap hit off Tiger slugger Johnny Damon. I have been to about 400 MLB games and have never once caught a foul ball. During the next games, he took this ball with him and got numerous Tiger player autographs.

A month later the Golden Boy returned home to Norway. Taking our students to the airport is a sad time for all and some handle it better than others. That evening after dropping him off to the airport, I prepared for bed. When I lied down on the bed, my head felt a lump in my pillow. I reached underneath the pillow and here was the Golden Boy's foul ball along with a note thanking us for the year we hosted and saying he would come back when he was 40 years old and get his baseball. 

He signed it "Always a Tiger!"


Opening Dan 1978

For me, there are two opening days that come to mind, and they both involved my Dad and The Detroit Tigers.

I'll share Opening Day for the '78 season, which was on Friday, April 6. As a sophomore living and going to school at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, for some reason I wandered over to my parents' house on Grosse Ile that afternoon. Probably to raid my Mom's refrigerator.

I'm not sure why, but my Dad was off work, and for early Spring in Michigan, it was a warm and cloudless day. A real treat after what was a particularly harsh Winter.
Trammel and Whitaker, circa late 70s.

With no real plan, my Dad and I ended up sitting in the backyard drinking beers, (probably my Old Man's) and smoking cigarettes (probably his again). Hey, it was the 70s! 

Even though they came up briefly the previous September, we both commented on two rookies having a particular good opening day and how it could be something for the Tigers to build upon. Those two rookies, the Tigers' most famous keystone combination - Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker - would be instrumental in the Tigers '84 championship season.  

Listening to Tigers' announcers, legendary Ernie Harwell, and Paul Carey on WJR, we just sat, drank beer, probably snacked on something, smoked and enjoyed the game. It was a good afternoon, and the Tigers won.

My Pops, who passed away in 1988 after 68 years, was born in era that saw him come of age during the Great Depression and grew into adulthood while serving in the American and Canadian Armed Forces for four years during WWII. That generation of men was never known for being particularly expressive, especially with sons, compared to us baby boomers Dads. In fact, I cannot really remember my Dad ever telling me individually that he loved me.

That's OK though. Sometimes love is best expressed just by listening to a ball game like that afternoon in '78.

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Steve L said...

Great video chronicalling Tiger baseball history. Never heard the baseball song with the Tiger references before. Classic!!

So many great memories of my childhood, those '68 Tigers with Freehan, McClain and Lolich.

I recall taking my hand-held transistor radio to school and listening to the Series in class with an earpiece as the teacher tried to teach the class algebra. I remember getting caught and the teacher allowing me to give play-by-play to the class as I heard it through the earpiece.

Those were the days! - Thanks for the walk back to the late 60's.

Bob L said...

Loos like many of us are showing our age here with these references to the '60's.

I recall seeing the Dodgers Drysdale and Koufax pitch at Dodger Stadium in the early 60's. When I think back, I can still recall the smell and taste those Dodger Dog, just like it was yesterday. Those were some great memories of some great teams. It was a time before free agency, when a player would play for the same team his entire career. It was a time before steroids tarnished the game forever. Sure the guys popped "greenies" back in the 60's, but a day game after a night game in the heat of July in August, it may have been warranted. It insured we saw our heroes when we went to the park. They weren't taking days off to rest like today.

Ah, the good 'ol days!! Pass the peanuts, please.

Anonymous said...

Let's Play Ball~

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