When I was a boy, the Detroit Tigers were a very important part of my childhood.
Wherever we drove, Tiger baseball was on the radio, Ernie Harwell calling the play by play. There was no need for color commentators back then, because the announcers were talented enough to keep you interested in the game.
As you would drive out of Detroit on I-94 heading for Jackson, there was a Mobile Oil refinery that had one of its containers painted to be a baseball with the “Go Tigers” cheer painted on it.
When we would come home to Windsor to visit my Grandfather – Papa – we would often find him sitting in front of the radio – listening to the game – with every finger and toe crossed as the Tigers tried to comeback to win or close out a game.
It was magic to hear the game through the tiny speakers of the day – with the buzzes and whistles of AM radio. You could paint the whole game in your brain.
I still remember vividly sitting in old Tiger stadium with my Dad and Papa – eating hot dogs and watching my heros – Al Kaline and Willie Horton, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan and Mickey Lolich.
They won the World Series in 1968. I was 6 years old.
The next year, Neal Armstrong walked on the moon.
It has been amazing since I have been back in Windsor these last 6 years, how some of those memories come flooding back. It has been amazing also how Darlene and I have made new memories at Comerica Park – the successor to Tiger Stadium.
We still listen to the games on AM Radio. Dan Dickerson and Jim Price are almost as special to me now as Ernie was way back then.
“Maglio Ordonez – touch them all!” as the Tigers finished off the A’s with a walk-off home run to advance to the 2006 World Series.
But the other day, the most miraculous Tigers event occurred. Willie Horton signed my daughters T-ball baseball card.
While talking with my wife, she said as any proud mother would do: “Let me show you my little baseball player” and retrieved Alannah’s baseball card from her desk. He admired the card, and her stats on the back. He liked that her favorite team was the Tigers and chuckled that Brandon Inge (it really says “Brian” by mistake on the card) is her favorite player.
And then he signed it.
When Darlene showed me the card that night, I literally held it up to the sky to show my Dad, and Papa. “Look guys! Look who signed Alannah’s baseball card!”
A little bird should be by soon to get a peek for them.