My Dad came to Detroit about 1937 from Northern Michigan. He really didn't know many people in Detroit, so he looked in the Detroit Times for a room to rent, and when he went to the boarding house, a lovely girl anwered the door - my Mom. He found a job at Chevy Forge, and with a few bucks in his pocket, he frequented the movie show, and Detroit Tiger games, although at first he really didn't know much about baseball.
I'm sure there were a few dates at Briggs Stadium, and Mom either was a baseball fan, or became one to hang around Dad. (She told me when she answered the door it was love at first sight.
in my case, it was not unlike Greg’s in many ways. mom met dad at a dance at 8 mile and Gratiot, 1930.
Eastwood Park! Right around the corner from where I grew up!
Fast forward many years and six kids later. (I'm the fifth out of six.) When I was growing up, Dad was working hard, crazy hours at Chevy and two or three other jobs just to make ends meet. But while I was playing around the house, day or evening, Ernie and George were the background music for my childhood. Mom was an addicted fan.
Anyway, I had only heard these names, possibly saw them on a Sunday televised game, but had not ever attended a game. so, mom said, let’s go. it was an off day, weekday. and there, in the center concourse was a stage, all set up. then, like mystical heroes, they arrived. 6 of them. boros, kaline, lumpe, colavito lary and cash. I can still to this day, recall practically being crushed by the people trying to get closer to the stage. naturally, we were there so early I had the first row seats. anyway, mom bought me a ball to get signed, I got knocked over by some girl, the ball rolled under the stage, I ended up crawling under it trying to find the thing, and then, it was over. I recovered the ball, never got it signed, the tigers left as fast as they got there, and there I stood. crying. crushed physically and emotionally I guess. who covered for me? you guessed it. my very own in house tiger fan, mom. she took me to sanders, got one of those incredible Sundaes, and well, life was good all over again. ha.
she had to restore my belief in these guys and in a hurry. it worked. those moms.
Dad would take us to the games now and then, but we never got very good seats, because Dad couldn't buy tickets in advance for fear that he'd be called in to work. Nevertheless, I certainly enjoyed the company of Dad and my two brothers.
But I particularly remember a couple times Mom loaded my little brother Chuck and me on the Gratiot streetcar or bus to go to Ladies' Day! We'd pack a little lunch (Dad would never be caught dead packing a lunch) and get a transfer downtown on the Michigan Avenue line. Mom pointed out the stops where they used to live in the city, and the downtown offices she used to work in, or the J.L. Hudson she used to work at as a clerk.
Mom would tell us stories about how Charlie Gehringer used to sell suits at Hughes, Hatcher, Sufferin (or was it Hudsons?) and how he lived with his mother for years, and he went to Mass every day. (That was before a day game following a night game.)
68 of course was our coming together, as fans, as a city. we were torn apart by the year before and the riots. tens of thousands were vacating the city. king, kennedy, Vietnam, protests. Detroit received an incredible gift by this team. much more than a world series I believe. in my household, I still didn’t drive, but, I remember my brother, who had 3 kids of his own, driving over to our house from his home, and taking me, just me, for drive around Detroit the night the tigers won it all. to see the incredible pandemonium, to see the happiness in all of Detroit, this love of this team and that city was displayed everywhere. my brother knew how much this meant to me as a fan. great memories
later in years, mom would still listen. I would go often to see our boys of summer. and, guess who would end up going with me, now in her 70’s? mom. I knew the guy at the ticket booth on the corner. a few bucks, and, voila, we sat right behind home, first row, upper deck. heck, we could talk to Ernie one on one for chrissake if we actually wanted to. A guy named fidrych got not only Detroit, but my moms undivided attention. the team wasn’t going anywhere, but, for those few nights he’d pitch, me and mom had incredible moments of fun. stop at buddy’s for a pizza and a boomba on the way home, and all is good. yes, my mom and the tigers. what a powerful recipe for lifetime loyalty to our boys from the corner.
Wow, Mom, baseball, Buddy's and a beer! Could life be any sweeter! Maybe, 'cause that summer of The Bird was the year I married Debbie.
I have a couple theories. You know those teenie bopper girls that scream wildly at baseball games? Now this might be a bit far-fetched, but Jim, I think our Moms were those girls back in the 20's or 30's! They had crushes on Greenburg or Schoolboy Rowe. And they never stopped being fans, just became a little more lady-like.
When we came along, it was just their ticket to encourage our Tiger fandom, and see a game now and then.
I remember Mom had favorites. She didn't like Rocky Colovito. "I'll bet he's just a ladies man," she said with disgust. Where the hell did she get that idea? It's not like the Yankees having Kate Hudson hang around the locker room.
But hey, that's the fun of being a baseball fan; you can have your favorites, and "not like" a guy for no good reason.
So history repeats itself. I took my girlfriend (eventually my wife) to many a tiger game. She sat with me in the stands and pretended she didn't mind when it snowed on us.
Of course, I dragged our daughters to Tiger games, and one of the three actually likes baseball! I remember when they swooned over Gabe "the Babe" Kaplar. "His butt looks cute in those tight pants." Gee, I never noticed. The last year Tiger Stadium was open, we took a family pilgrimage. We walked around the outside and the inside. I pointed out the unique features and places where important things happened in my life.
"Dad," said daughter Kate. "Your'e taking this worse than when Grandma died."
I think Grandma was with us that day... with us in spirit...Tiger spirit.