The Home Opener Issue 2012
My favorite son
A big kid and his dad talk baseball, Detroit and a new, Tigers-centric book
Published: April 4, 2012
Several times Wendel writes of that old baseball romance, like Ken Burns or Bob Costas, and then he nails what's best about the sport: it's a patient game, a social game, an intelligent game. It's also a family game.
"The Tigers clinched the pennant on Sept. 17, 1968," dad remembers. "Your mom and I were there. She had purchased two tickets as a birthday present and she just picked out any old date and what a game it turned out to be. Don Wert, No. 8, a slick-fielding, light-hitting third baseman drove in Al Kaline with the winning run. The place went crazy. Security personnel couldn't keep the fans off the field. The players ran for the dugouts, the stadium lights were dimmed and finally, the irrigation system was engaged! Folks had the greatest time. The strangest part was that, unless you went on the field, you didn't move. The fans just stayed in their seats to relish the thrill of having watched their Tigers win the American League pennant, the first in 23 years and they were going right to the World Series. It was the final pennant to be won, because the ensuing years saw the current format of wild cards, divisional playoffs and so forth. But, the night of Sept. 17 was still on. ... As your mom and I headed back to our car, parked in a family parking lot, I noticed this older woman and a younger boy walking in front of us. They both had rather large clunks of the green sod of Tiger Stadium draped over their shoulders! What a sight! Then, to my amazement, that 'older woman and younger boy' turned out to be your grandmother, 52, and your uncle, my 15-year-old younger brother! Didn't know they were going to game and I never did believe how they got the sod. ...
"Scott, you need to remember that baseball has changed. Baseball's no longer the National Pastime. Some fans say it's too slow, not quick enough. Football is a spectacle, the college game, followed by the National Football League and the grandeur of the Super Bowl. But, if you're a baseball fan and understand its nuances, it's tough to beat. I think Wendel is a baseball fan and he truly captured the grit and change of the 1968 season. A great season that became a precursor to significant changes in both baseball and our country."
Scott Harrison is an area musician and writer. His dad wasn't in the Beatles. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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