I was at Opening Day, yesterday, and watched the miserable Detroit Tigers beat the home team, 7-0. I was thrilled! Growing up in Windsor, everybody who had a clue was a Tigers fan, and nothing has changed for me on that issue, even after enduring a decade and a half of lousy Detroit baseball.
To be honest, I haven't been the most attentive MLB watcher since I moved to Toronto in 1996. But the fact that the Tigers are in town gave me good reason to resume my Opening Day tradition.
As a Tigers fan, I grew up at the right time. An era in Detroit history was framed between the moments of my first awareness of Major League Baseball and the time I was leaving town. Just as I was tuning in to the radio, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were coming out of the minor leagues to form a double play duo that would last longer than any other (19 years). Ernie Harwell was describing the games from Tiger Stadium on WJR, and Sparky Anderson was the manager. They won the World Series when I was 12, but the best year was 1987, when they beat the Jays and won the American League East title on the last day of the season with the best record in baseball.
As I got older, the team got worse. However, my freedom allowed me to go regularly to the corner and watch. From Windsor, you were much closer to Tiger Stadium than most Detroiters were, and Windsor had a bus that would take you there and pick you up after the game. There were always tickets available, and I knew what section to ask for to get seats that were practically overhanging the plate.
As my life was changing and I was getting ready to move to Toronto, all of this came to an end. Lou and Tram retired, and the other players I had known were gone. Sparky retired, too. Ernie Harwell was forced out, but made a comeback. Tiger Stadium was replaced (and now is threatened with demolition). It was not just the end of an era, but a real break for me.
These days, when I think of Major League Baseball, my loyalties certainly still lie with the Tigers, but I get much more gratification and enjoyment out of watching the Intercounty League's Toronto Maple Leafs play at Christie Pits. Their opening day is on May 9. Sitting on the grass and watching a game is a lot of fun.