In 1926, the Tigers traded Ty Cobb to Philadelphia and Detroit finished the season 79-75. Not a stellar year for the local boys of summer, but my dad managed to get born at the same time. Between that and the Tigers dumping a washed up drunk racist, Detroit did OK that year. In 1935, with my dad presumably out of diapers, the Tigers slugged their way to their first World Series (“World Championship”) victory, and my dad can still name the starting line-up.
Several years later as a young intern he would attend games at Briggs Stadium (still often called Navin Field) as the stadium doctor. I doubt that’s an easy gig to get these days.
Forty years later, when the Tigers were once again ascendant, post-season games were sold by lottery, and Dad just happened to get us tickets for the Pennant and Series winning games. This was the last Tiger Stadium on Michigan and Trumbull, and at the height of the Reagan rust belt years the fans went a bit nuts, tearing up hunks of sod from the field, overturning and burning cars and generally helping give Detroit the reputation that made it a setting for post-apocalyptic and dystopian films like RoboCop.
Last night, he and I waded through crowds, past full restaurants and bars and into Comerica Park in a resurgent part of the city. We took our seats a few rows up from the visitors dugout, watched Aretha Franklin (“Who?”) sing the National Anthem, and on a beautiful mid-60s evening, watched Detroit win.
During the sixth inning a bat flew into the stands a few rows in front of us. I looked at my dad, and I got the feeling he was looking at me, wondering if I was going to check on the guy (who, by the way, appeared to play it up for all it was worth). A paramedic and several officials arrived within seconds to tend to the stricken fan (who may have already been partly anesthetized by Labatt’s—ironic, eh?), and his buddy started taking pictures to document the “injury”. The days of an intern showing up as the stadium doc are long gone.
My daughter’s first game was in diapers, and I recommend that. Take a baby to a ball game and as long as you have bottles and clean diapers, you can watch the whole game. Now that she’s a little older, we have to make a few trips to the merry-go-round and other shiny attractions. Still, she’s starting to get it, and really, who wouldn’t be awed by that first glimpse into the stands, the lights, the crowd?
Baseball is full of characters, on and off the field. It’s been said before, but baseball is more than a sport. As my dad says, “the more you watch, the more interesting it gets.” It’s a game that takes time, that allows friends and families to sit outside for a couple of hours and chat. It’s not as fast and charged up as football or hockey (usually), but as long as you know the basics of the game (usually by growing up with it), you can follow along at any pace, take time out for a hot dog or a conversation, and immerse yourself in history.