Curious Historian

Stories on local history

Detroit Tigers, Baseball and a Rollercoaster of Emotions

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Phew.  I am exhausted today.  Five solid hours of a roller coaster ride of baseball.  The Detroit Tigers, my hometown favorite, against an unexpected opponent:  the Minnesota Twins. 

I knew it was going to be edge of your seat baseball…but I did not expect the game that drained me emotionally as this one did.  When it started at 5:00 and the Tigers took the early lead, I was elated.  Then Minnesota hit one ball…then they tied…then…then…then…

Was it 10:00 when it finally ended?  I talked to my Mother in Detroit a couple of times.  When 10:00 finally hit, the roller coast game came to a screeching halt.  My mother and I both watched the game; her in the Midwest, me here in Bridgeport.  We were both exhausted from watching the up and down, stomach clenching game.  Twelve innings of intense baseball watching.

I grew up with the Detroit Tigers…actually almost physically, since my grandmother lived in an Irish area of Detroit called Corktown.  Tiger Stadium was smack in the middle of it.  It was an area of small housing, little cottage type dwellings much like those on the South End of Bridgeport in the Cottage Street area. 

When I visited my grandparents on the weekends, the streets were always packed with cars going to the game.  Once in a while we would go to see the Tigers play.  But mostly we watched from my Grandma’s house as a sea of spectators headed for the stadium. 

My Grandmother actually made a few dollars parking cars in her tiny back yard.  In fact, it was one day in the late 60′s that she had a deadly heart attack right in the back yard, where she was navigating cars into her patch of land.  But she was happy.  She was with her Tiger fans.

The area was not far from the Detroit Riots in ’68, and my Uncle was still living in the little house at the time.  Twelfth Street later became Rosa Parks Boulevard, named after the woman who would not give up her seat on the Montgomery Alabama bus, but Rosa settled in Detroit, and she became a symbol for the embattled city.  She died two years ago, but she is still remembered as a City resident.

As a teenager, I took the bus downtown to Tiger Stadium  practically every week the Tigers played, buying cheap bleacher tickets with my girlfriends.  The Tigers had won the World Series in 1967, so we had those winning players still working hard in the Stadium.  We watched Mickey Lolich, Denny Maclain, and my favorite Willie Horton as they played the game.  I even knew all the players by heart.  Al Kaline hit home runs like you wouldn’t believe.

So yesterday, when the Detroit Tigers played in Minnesota, something felt wrong to me.  A flood of nostalga hit me, but I felt uncomfortable.  They weren’t playing in Detroit, they were playing a long and very unpredictable game that went on for twelve innings.  At times it looked like they might make it through and win. 

But then the Minnesota Twins won the game.  The Twins were going to play against the Yankees today.  The Detroit Tigers tried their best, but with one hit, the Twins won the game.

I called my Mother.  Strangely, we both breathed a sigh of relief.  The Tigers lost, but the stress of watching them almost win was over.  We both could go back to our regular day to day lives.

We also could look forward to the World Series, knowing that the stress of watching baseball was less.  Although I remind my mother that Derek Jeter was from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I for one would look forward to watching the Yankees play baseball the next few weeks.  And worry about Derek and the Yankees…as my local friends sit at the edge of their seats as I will while we watch baseball for the remaining days of the 2009 World Series.  The Tigers are out, I can relax.  But can I?

3 Responses

  1. Mary Witkowski says:

    Hey Mary Ranson Walerowicz…is that my neighbor/Detroit buddy who lived across the street and listened to Motown with me?
    what a great comment…e-mail me…chesterlily@aol.com

  2. Mary Walerowicz says:

    I too remember those bus rides to tiger stadium. The giggling girls sitting in the bleachers and the smell of hot dogsin the air. The excitement of watching a truly great baseball team. There was a connecion with ’67 team, they were a gleam of hope in troubled times. Even though I live hundreds of miles away I still root for them. Although I no longer know the players names, the Tigers will always have a place in my heart. In these current troubled times we all need something to believe in, there is always next year!

  3. Stephen Raguskus says:

    Mary,
    The late, great Bart Giamatti said it best: “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

    Don’t forget the annual cry of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ fans: “Wait till next year!” And don’t forget your friends who are rooting on the Red Sox! We’ve still got at least a few games before next year.