Hi, “Big Al” here, sitting in again for Dick and Jackie…Well, it’s a right of passage. It’s the official start of Spring. And as the old commercial jingle used to say: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”. Unless you’re Dick Purtan, who would skip the crust and only eat the apple part because of all the fat content. And don’t even get him started about hot dogs…a turkey dog maybe. But yes, it’s Opening Day in Detroit!
I’ve been to my share of Opening Days; considered among many as the holiest day of the year. And on most occasions, it’s usually the coldest day in April. But cold, hot, rainy, snowy, it’s a day that makes you feel like a kid all over again. One of my fondest memories was the day my Dad pulled me out of high school and surprised me with two tickets to the game! (Note: Sorry, the story is true but not this photo. I borrowed that pic from the Internet!)
While I really do love Comerica Park, nothing can compare to the Opening Days at Tiger Stadium. Sonny Elliott behind the plate portraying an umpire. Coleman Young on the mound throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Walking up that steep incline to the upper deck seating. And those men’s rooms - where you had to stand next to a bunch of guys at a single urinal trough. That was just too much pressure for me!
Another great highlight of Opening Day at Tiger Stadium was seeing “Herbie Redmond the Dancing Groundskeeper”. Herbie was one of the most colorful and popular characters in Detroit baseball in the 1970s and 1980s. During selected innings Herbie would lead a line-up of sweepers around the base paths to manicure the infield dirt. But Herbie was the only one who danced his way around the infield with his dance partner – his trusty broom. Born in 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama, Herbie served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and worked as a forklift operator for Ford Motor Company before joining the Tiger Stadium grounds crew in 1969. Herbie passed away in 1990. Thanks for the memories Herbie!
I hope you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to attend Opening Day today; whether it’s with your office mates, who all ironically called in sick, or with your son, daughter or even grandchild. Take it all in. It’s a special day filled with wonderful memories no matter what the final score. Have fun and please be safe. Have a great weekend everyone and…PLAY BALL!!!