Sunday, August 06, 2006

Birthday Games Were A Comfortable Staple -- And Memorable

By all rights, I should be at the Tigers game this afternoon. But then again, that tradition hasn't been upheld since the early 1980's, so maybe I shouldn't be there "by all rights." Let's just say, once I used to be there on this date.

Today's my birthday, #43, and I don't bring that up to be gratutious. But from 1973-1980, that date -- August 6th -- was a date on which my parents took me to a Tigers game. It seems like the Tigers played at home on every August 6, because I don't ever recall going on August 4th or 5th or 7th. Always the 6th. And, I was always allowed to invite a couple of friends. It was a grand tradition.

1973: The first and maybe the best. The Yankees are in town on a Monday night. Actor George C. Scott, a Detroit native, talks it up with Jim Simpson and Tony Kubek prior to NBC's Monday Night Baseball telecast. The Tigers are behind in the ninth, and tie it up on newly-acquired Frank Howard's homerun. Then they win it in the tenth. Good stuff.

1974: Interesting, in retrospect, because I end up witnessing Norm Cash's and Jim Northrup's last at-bats as Tigers. The next day, Cash is cut and Northrup is traded to Montreal. I don't even remember who won the game, and I'm not going to cheat and look on, either.

1975: Wonder of all wonders. The Tigers are in the middle of their celebrated 19-game losing streak. The Orioles are in town -- Northrup is with them by now -- and unbelievably, Brooks Robinson drops a simple foul popup. Brooks Freaking Robinson. The Tigers lose, of course, and Northrup hits a homerun. But I saw Brooks Robinson drop a popup.

1978: The Tigers play the White Sox on a Sunday afternoon. It's only worth mentioning because
a few days later, my friend Steve Hall and I will see the Chisox in Toronto -- a trip to his relatives that is also part of my birthday present. And in Toronto, outfielder Ralph Garr of Chicago loses his bat after a swing, and the flying wooden object crowns a kid in the head. Several innings later, the kid returns, his head bandaged, triumphantly holding Garr's bat aloft. The crowd goes bananas.

1979: The only birthday doubleheader. The Texas Rangers are in town for a twi-nighter (remember those?). For whatever reason, several of my high school classmates also attend the game, by coincidence. And several of us are in the same section. Weird, but fun.

The tradition stopped after 1980, because I was about to enter college, and new traditions began -- and not all with my parents' blessing, or their knowledge. So I haven't been to a game on my birthday in 26 years -- and counting. I could have gone -- just attended on behalf of MCS Magazine -- but would that have been the same thing, really?

Maybe next year.


Blogger Ozz said...

Happy birthday! Damn, you should've gone to the game today. A 1-0 victory would've been a cool present.

It's not cheating if I look up that '74 game at Retrosheet.

Indians beat the Tigers 9-7. The winning pitcher was a guy named Milt Wilcox, who threw four innings in relief. It was also the 6th MLB game for Ron LeFlore, who debuted on August 4th.

Northrup went 3-5 in the cleanup slot with a double. He drove in a run and scored one, made an error in RF and grounded out to the second baseman to end the game.

Cash singled in the 9th pinch hitting for catcher Jerry Moses, who had replaced starter Gene Lamont. Bill Freehan got the start at first.

Other than the outcome, hope that brings back some good memories.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Ozz said...

TYPO: LeFlore debuted on August 1st.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...


Thanks for the wishes and the research.

Now that you mention it, I DO recall that I saw Cash's last big league hit, though I don't remember it, sadly.

But I absolutely recall the disappointment -- and the crying -- when I picked up the paper a couple days later and saw this headline in the Free Press, which I will NEVER forget:

"Cash Cut, Northrup Traded As Tigers' Shakeup Begins"

Northrup told me last month during the MCS Magazine Roundtable that Cash found out about his firing by hearing it on the radio on the way to the ballpark. And, The Grey Fox told me that he himself initially wasn't going to report to Montreal, where he'd been dealt. But he did so after some cajoling from the Expos' brass. Montreal was on the fringes of contention in the NL East.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Ozz said...

Wonder what Cash's reaction was. Surprise? Disappointment? Anger?

That's a crappy way to find out, especially for as long as he'd been a Tiger.

10:25 PM  

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