Sunday, June 28, 2015

Twi-night Double Headers

There are two kinds of people in the world: baseball fans and those who, like my daughter, think watching baseball is like watching grass grow. At this point, I'm not really a fan. Oh, sure, I root for the Cubbies because, you know … the Cubbies. The true age of miracles will have begun if the Chicago Cubs ever win the World Series, and I want the universe to know that I'm on the right side of that.

But I was a fan when I was a kid, mostly because of my dad. I'm sitting here with him now, not talking to him because he's sleeping, and thinking about baseball. We were Detroit Tigers fans and in the '60s, that was something. Many of my earliest memories have to do with Tiger baseball games. It was part of our family's DNA. My dad always says that he knew my mom was the girl for him when she sat through a double header on their first date. My mom goes back and forth on whether her fortitude on that first date was a good thing or not.

Willie Horton (the Tiger left fielder, not the felon of attack-ad fame) was my hero when I was a little girl, probably because I got a Willie Horton bat at Tiger Stadium on Bat Day in 1967. That summer, the Detroit Tigers came in second in the American League, and the excitement of a winning team was one of the few positives in a city that was was rocked by violent race riots.

I remember going to a Twi-night double header that lasted into the wee hours when the second game went into extra innings. I asked my brother, the walking-sports-record-book, whether he remembers it being the infamous June 17 games against the then-Kansas City A's, which still holds the American League record as the longest double header in history at nine hours and five minutes. The Tigers won Game 1, but lost Game 2 after 19 innings. I can't believe my brother doesn't remember if that was the double header we saw (although to be fair, he was only five), but I'm going with yes. I was most excited because we got to stay up so late.

The next year, the Tigers took the World Series in seven games against the Cardinals. I can still recite most of the roster from that team. We trick-or-treated at the home of series MVP pitcher Mickey Lolich. I remember being let out of third grade early one day that fall so we could all go home and watch the game on TV. I remember riding home on the handle bars of Jimmy Brown's bike, listening to the opening inning on his transistor radio. I remember listening to the games in the car on WJR AM, and growing into a cranky teenager who would much rather have been listening to rock and roll on FM stereo.

Mostly, though, I remember baseball and the Tigers being all about my dad. Every night, when he walked in the door after work, my dad would shout: "I'm home, sports fans!" I'm sitting here with my dad for an entirely different kind of twi-night double header and I'd give a lot to hear that kind of enthusiasm again. I'd give even more if I could take him home.