Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My best baseball moments

Over on 30 year old cardboard, Bryan Appelbaum has asked his fellow baseball bloggers to look back at their favorite baseball moments, and list them in a top 10 format. As soon as I read this request my mind started to fire up, and so here are the 10 most memorable baseball happening since I started watching America's Pastime in the late 1960's...

#1...My first memory of Tiger Stadium, August 1st, 1969

        During a conversation last month with my Uncle Bob, I asked him if he could remember the first time he took me to the famed old ball park at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in downtown Detroit to watch the Tigers, and after thinking about it, he told me it was 1967, and that he took me every year, at least once, between 1967-1974, however, the first game I remember vividly was played on August 1st, 1969, as Denny McLain shutout the ChiSox 8-0, raising his record to 16-6(that made his record 47-12 since the start of 1968).

I remember the excitement as we road in the car, and the total amazement that I felt when I saw the massive, I thought, look how big it is! 

Al Kaline drove in 2 runs, Willie Horton and Mickey Stanley had two hits each, and my baseball memory bank had been started.

#2...Nolan Ryan no-hits the Tigers

I'm 13 years old, my Uncle Bob is sitting next to me in the left field bleachers of Tiger Stadium, and I can't figure out why the fans were applauding, after all, the Tigers were I ask my Uncle, "why are they cheering the other team"...I didn't know what a no-hitter was...and after he explained what was going on, I still cheered for the Tigers to get a hit, but that didn't happen.

                                                          Other than Nolan Ryan throwing a no-hitter, along with 17 K's, what's most remembered about that game was what Tigers first baseman Norm Cash did in his last at bat against the Angels flame thrower...he came to bat with a table leg he had broken off in the Tigers clubhouse. As "Stormin Norman" told the home plate umpire..."...I can't do ant worse that I've done so far."

The umpire refused, of course, to allow Cash to use the table leg... Cash was retired, and the Halos won, 6-0.

#3...1970 All-Star game

The only baseball game I remember watching with my Dad, who wasn't a big sports fan...except when it came to his Boston Celtics...was when we were on vacation in northern Michigan, and we watched the 1970 All-Star Game, made famous, of course, by Pete Rose bowling over A.L. catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run. It was a spectacular end to the game, the first All-Star Game I ever saw on TV.

 #4...The Tigers on the road

Through my travels in life I have been fortunate to watch my beloved Tigers on the road, and in some of baseball's most famous ball parks. In 1987  I saw Allan Trammell hit a three run HR in a Tigers victory over the Orioles in old Memorial Stadium. My next visit to a Tigers-Birds game was not so memorable, except for the fact that I was in beautiful Camden Yard, the O's new home. 

In 1988-89, while in the US Navy, I had the privilege of attending eight Red Sox games @ historic Fenway Park, including a game in which the Tigers beat the BoSox behind a HR by Lou Whittaker, and a stellar pitching performance by Frank Tananna. I was also fortunate to see Nolan Ryan, then a Texas Ranger, pitch on a ABC Monday Night Baseball Game of the Week, and see several great players like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, and Lee Smith.

In 1992 I attended my one and only game @ "The House that Ruth Built," old Yankee Stadium...but the monuments were closed for repairs.

Other venues I've been fortunate to attend...Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Wrigley Field in Chicago(I was only 12, and I don't remember much", Shea Stadium, Joe Robbie Stadium, and Tropicana Field.

#5...The World Series, 1992

This is my one, and only appearance at a World Series. I was fortunate to get tickets to see the Twins and Braves play in Atlanta. Our seats were very far up in right center field, but the atmosphere of a World Series was fantastic.

#6...Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Game #1

My team, the Detroit Tigers, were scheduled to open up big league baseball in Tampa, and I just had to be there. I got tickets for games 2 and 3, but I had to scalp tickets to the first ever game in Devil Rays history...$50 bucks apiece...but I got in, and the Tigers beat the Devil Rays, 11-6. Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Al Rosen threw out first pitches...although I was so far up down the right field line that I couldn't see them.

#7...The "Bird is the Word"

To this day, 34 years and counting, no Tigers player, not Allan Trammell, Lou Whittaker, or Cecil Fielder caused a stir among Tigers fans like Mark Fidrych did in his rookie year of 1976, no one.
Fidrych simply captivated Tigers fans...he was energetic, running on and off the field, he talked to the baseball, telling it to stay low, and he  manicured the pitchers mound, making sure it was to his liking, and he thanked his teammates for their play, even if it was a routine ground ball.  

Recognize the guy raising his fist in the crowd behind Fidrych? 

Yep, that's current Tigers Manager Jim Leyland and his Mom.

#8...My first Spring training games, 1978

My Dad took my brothers and I to see the Tigers play in Lakeland, Florida,  the Tigers spring home since 1934...I have been back a few times, including 2006, when I took my bride to see the Tigers, and her favorite player, Pudge Rodriguez, and even though the Tigers lost, the reaction of my wife when she first saw Pudge in person, well, I'm sure my Uncle Bob saw the same reaction when I saw Bill Freehan for the first time.  It was a priceless day...there is simply no place like Joker Marchant Stadium.

#9...Sweeping the D-Backs

In the summer of 2004 I went to a three game series @ Comerica Park, the Tigers vs. Arizona.
Game 1 was won, 1-0, by the Tigers, but that was nothing...the next night night Tigers third baseman Eric Munson hit a walk off homer into the General Motors water falls in dead center field, and then, on a beautiful Sunday Afternoon, the Tigers were trailing in the bottom of the ninth when first baseman Carlos Pena hit a walk off Grand Slam HR to give a sell out crowd a day to remember forever.

#10...Meeting Ernie Harwell

Yes, this should be higher on the list, but as the saying goes, I've saved the best for last.
Last night I was going through some old boxes, and I found the ball that Ernie signed for me during a break in a spring game in the late 1990's. Like many thousands, if not millions, of young fans, I grew up, and learned about the Tigers by listening to the best play by play man in the history of baseball, Ernie Harwell.

God Bless you Ernie...
So, there you have it, my top baseball moments in my 40+ years of following Americas great fans,  always remember baseball fans, to swing hard in case you hit the ball, because you don't want to get caught "standing there like the house bu the side of the road."

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