So Long White Sox, Hello Tigers

There were six Joliat kids, and we were in charge of our own
fun.  We would jump on our bikes
and race away at every opportunity, just to escape the chores my Mom
assigned.  She was an evil
genius:  we had to dust and vacuum
everyday, and do the laundry folding and ironing.  The house was never messy; despite the fact that eight of us
lived in less than 2000 square feet, we were not permitted in the living
room.  It was for company.  She wanted us to be out of her hair,
and created an incentive for us to evaporate.  She had a bell that she rang when she wanted us home.  Ding, ding (pause) ding was the Joliat
signal.  

Because there were so many of us, Dad didn't take us to
baseball games.  By and large, the
Detroit Tigers meant nothing to me- until 5th grade. Our school had
a paper drive, and the winning class would get to take a bus to see the Tigers
play an afternoon game.  My class
went ape-crazy over this project, and we won.  And so I attended my first game.

I cannot remember the opponent, but I remember it was a
clear cold day. Briggs Stadium was already old and raggedy.  The next year it would be reborn as
Tiger Stadium, but the structure remained the same.  I recall the smell of hot dogs and peanuts, and the rows of
empty seats.  Detroit was a blue collar
town, and folks did not skip work to take in a  day game.  That
year, a banner crowd of athletes were on the field:  Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito,  Norm Cash, Dick McCAuliffe, Charlie Maxwell, Jim
Bunning.  I bought a program and
decided to have Rocky Colavito as my crush.  The Tigers did not work too hard to impress me:  they finished 6th in their
league that year.  Brighter days
were ahead, but I had to be patient. 

 

Like most families, baseball was our companion as we hung
around outside. Usually, we would have a transistor dangling from our
handlebars, or we would drag a plug-in model to the porch.  It was the background music of
summer.  If the crowd roared, we
would be shushed, but we knew George Kell and Ernie Harwell would keep us "in
the park". When I started pretending to be a Tigers fan, so I could crush on
Rocky, George and Ernie had just started serving as the radio voice of the
Tigers.  Kell went on to be the
television announcer, and Ernie stayed on the airwaves.  Both of their voices spell Tiger
baseball to me, and take me back to a simpler time.  

 

George Kell died in March, right before my Dad.  Yesterday I read that Ernie
Harwell has inoperable bile duct cancer. He is 91, came up as a sportswriter,
and ended up in the booth.  He
lived in Detroit full-time, and stayed with the good people of Detroit through
some very tough times.  His
affection for the game and the fans was always evident.  The people of Detroit have long revered
their broadcasters, and they had a special goodbye at Comerica Park for
him.

 

Since the White Sox have officially started "looking toward
next year" , I have decided to switch affiliations for the end of the
season.  I am hereby (temporarily)
a Tiger fan.  I would love it if Ernie got to see his Tigers in the World Series
before heading home.  Dad would have liked to see it, or just hear it, too.  

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