On Tuesday the 4th of August the Chicago White Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 9-6. The game was witnessed by 24,484 fans and was completed in 2 hours and 43 minutes. Chris Singleton, the rookie Center Fielder of the Sox, had another outstanding night, going 4 for 5 with three RBIs and two stolen bases. The Sox finished the game with a 51-54 record and the Tigers fell to 42-65, good enough to keep them in last place in the Central Division. And if this is all I have to say about baseball, I shouldn’t bother!
What should be said about this game is that it was the end of an era for the White Sox. This was the last time the Sox would travel to Detroit and play at Tiger Stadium. The old park, which originally opened in 1912, is closing and a new “stadium”, Comerica Park is opening for the 2000 season, complete with corporate sponsoring!
A park where Ty Cobb once roamed the outfield and won batting titles while striking fear in the hearts of his opponents; where Wahoo Sam Crawford played next to him. Where Norm Cash went from the Sox to have a wonderful career and who died way too young. Where Al Kaline played outfield, on his way to the Hall of Fame. Where Denny McLain had his 31 win season, before going to prison. How many others come to mind? Kirk Gibson, Cecil Fielder, Ron LaFlore, Gates Brown, Bill Freehan, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Alan Trammel and Bill Gullickson.
Being a lifelong White Sox fan most of these players have no special place in my heart, while others have brought sadness as they frequently caused ruin for my Sox. But I was lucky enough to have been taught baseball from my Grandfather, Vince Daufenbach; my uncle, Marty Daufenbach; my dad, Emil Wittmann and countless coaches and fans who I have sat with at ballparks for many years. I have been taught the proper way to watch a game, to think between pitches and to appreciate the visiting player as well as the hometown hero. I have been taught the history of the game and hopefully I’m passing it on to my son, Michael and my daughters, Colleen and Kathleen as well as all the kids I’ve coached and plan on coaching.
Baseball is a game where generations come together, where families see different plays and remember. While I watched the game on a 35-inch TV set with Michael in our family room in Lockport my mind drifted to other games and players. To memories of my deceased grandfather, who passed away ten years before my son was born. I remembered a plaque I made in Cub Scouts for my grandfather of Bill Freehan tagging out Frank Robinson at home plate as Davey Johnson, the on deck hitter looked on and signaled the slide. That plaque hung in my grandfather’s bedroom until the day he died and now hangs in my son’s room. I thought about all the people who were lucky enough to be sitting in the stands watching this game and hoped they felt the same way about the game as I do.
Tiger Stadium has seen millions of fans past through it’s turnstiles and thousands of players have been blessed to perform on it grass and dirt. As all baseball fields, it is a holy place, but it has reached the end of the line. I’m sure there are grandfathers, fathers, sons and daughters who will miss going there. I’m sure there are players who will mourn it’s passing as it was a place where they performed and heard the roar of the crowd. I can only relate what happened the first time I took Michael to New Comiskey Park for a game, the old park was just about torn down, and just the outfield section remained. Michael asked me what it was and I explained it was the old Comiskey Park where I watched games as a kid and through my adulthood; I told him the new park was built for him and his children. With all the wisdom of a 3 or 4 year old kid he asked me if I was sad they tore the old park down. I wiped a tear away and said yes.
I wish for Tiger Stadium a few tears at it’s passing from the old fans and excitement from all for the new park. Whether you watch a game in person eating a hotdog with mustard and a coke or at home eating “worms and milk”; there is nothing better. Baseball captures the hearts of young and old, male and female and needs the occasional passing of the old to continue to appreciate the game’s past and to make way for the future. Catch a game with your family and enjoy!