Written by Tim Krause
February 13, 2022
I sat on the patio of Albion Malleable Brewing Company on July 24, 2020 with the self-styled Friday Club. Our lives were upended over the previous four months. Priorities were rearranged. “Ordinary” no longer existed. Everything had a bizarre disconnect from our previous lives despite no change of scenery or characters. But that day, something finally felt familiar and comforting after months of ambiguity.
The Friday Club met early for our traditional beer, so there was time to get back home. A few of us ordered coney dogs to celebrate, and the mood was noticeably lighter. Another friend came over to say hi and laughed at our cuisine. “I see you’re celebrating, too.” Yes we were: The Detroit Tigers were finally playing their first game of the 2020 season. In a year that brought so many unknowns, this felt good. Familiar. Comforting. Ordinary.
My earliest memory of Detroit Tigers baseball was in 1992 on the day when Mike Ilitch bought the franchise. My mom’s family always went to a game together at least once a year. Two grandparents and their four daughters, four husbands, and four grandkids. Grandpa always insisted on listening to the radio broadcast while watching the game live in the stadium. Grandma always had a perfectly color coordinated navy blue and orange outfit on, complete with orange and navy blue bracelets and earrings. I am sure mom and dad dressed us up in cute Tigers clothes, too. We were that family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Grandpa grew up within walking distance of Tiger Stadium off Trumbull Avenue and worked as an usher there for years. He knew all the best seats in the place that only insiders knew. That night, we sat in the orange upper deck seats along the third base line just past third base. They gave us each a white and navy blue “Homer Hankey” as we walked in to celebrate the new owners. Mom and dad bought me and April each a Tigers pennant that night, which hung on my bedroom wall for years. I am pretty sure if I looked hard enough it’s still around somewhere. And I know the Homer Hankey is still around:
My years as a young baseball fan were filled with games, but two games were particularly interesting. In 1998, dad happened to sit next to Jim Evans, a major league umpire, on a flight from Florida. They chatted about baseball and Jim said he was umping the next evening and invited us all to the game. When we picked the tickets up from will call, the attendant looked at the tickets and asked “Who do you know?” We sat in Tigers Den seats just a couple rows up from the on-deck circle. I mostly remember it being really cool that they brought our concessions directly to our seats – well that and the fact that the game went on for 15 innings or something like that.
The second memorable game was in 1999, we saw Mark McGuire and the Cardinals play the Tigers at Tiger Stadium. It was the year after he broke the homerun record, and the stadium was packed. It was early June and quite possibly the hottest, muggiest game I have ever attended in Detroit. (Ask my mom about the margarita dispenser, next time you see her.) He didn’t hit any long balls that game, but it was fun to see him.
The Tigers v. Cardinals game was also the last one I saw at Tiger Stadium, but I have a meaningful piece of Tiger Stadium history in my apartment to keep my memories of “The Corner” alive. During the auction to clear out the stadium, my parents bought me some of the lawn signs that marked the different sections of the outfield seating from when the Three Tenors came to Detroit and performed at Tiger Stadium in 1999. It is a gift I still cherish because it combines my beloved worlds of baseball and singing.
I lived in Dallas from 2009 to 2012 during the Ron Washington era of the Texas Rangers. It was well known in my office that I followed the Rangers only because of MLB blackout rules and the limited availability of livestreaming forced me, but at the end of the day I was a Tigers fan. I went to several Tigers-Rangers games in person when they came to town. Yes, that was before Globe Life Field was built with its cushy roof and air conditioning. So, I attended several games in 90- and 100-degree temperatures at Heatstroke Stadium (as locals liked to refer to Globe Life Field’s predecessor during the summer) to see my Tigers play. I think I’m still sweating from those games. That’s devotion!
In 2011, the Tigers played the Rangers for the Pennant. I was so disappointed that my Tigers lost the first couple games and had to endure the jabs from coworkers the next day. One of those games was a heart-breaking extra innings walk off loss. Then, the Tigers won their first game in the ALCS. I proudly wore my Tigers cap the next day in the office. Of course, everyone reminded me that the Tigers were still behind in the series, and one coworker even refused to talk to me while I was wearing my Tigers cap. It was all in good fun though. Unfortunately, the Tigers never caught up to the Rangers that year and lost the ALCS in Game 6.
In 2012, I moved from Dallas to Columbus for a short stint but it still did not solve the MLB blackout problem, and I would never dream of watching a Cleveland game “just for fun.” Luckily, it was also a record year for the Tigers so I saw plenty of nationally televised games. I watched the ALCS and then the World Series so closely, hoping that my Tigers would finally win the championship for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, after sweeping the Yankees to win the Pennant, the Giants swept the Tigers to win the World Series. I guess there’s always next year.
The best stretch of time I had as a Tigers fan was while I was living and working in Metro Detroit from 2013 to 2016. I could finally see every game I wanted on TV and I was close enough to go Downtown anytime I felt like catching a game. Since April and I were both there and mom and dad are big baseball fans, we bought season ticket mini-packages. In 2014, I attended the most games in one season – 12 games – between the season ticket package and one off trips. One of my friends who’s into baseball too and I would text each other during the day at work and go on Stub Hub to buy cheap tickets, then meet downtown and watch the game for the evening.
This was also the year that dad retired from Albion Department of Public Safety, so naturally a baseball family celebrates big milestones by going to baseball games. We all went to the game to celebrate and as a surprise for dad we bought a scoreboard announcement to congratulate him. He was completely surprised. We really “leveled up” as a baseball family that evening.
The best game of my life was during that era, too. Dad bought tickets to Opening Day in 2015 but told mom that it was just him and her going. So, Dad, April, and I conspired to surprise mom by not letting her know April and I were going to meet them there. April and I showed up after mom and dad got there and sat next to them. Mom was so surprised her first question was, “How did you know where our seats are?” There are too many wonderful memories from that game to share in this article. The only thing I’ll say is that if you’ve ever wanted to go to Opening Day, do it! Everyone is a baseball fan that day. The stadium is packed. Downtown is bustling. The crowd is loud and energetic.
I could go on and on about my many baseball memories, but we’re starting to get into the ones that are only interesting to baseball fans (like the game dad and I saw where Justin Verlander and Chris Sale were pitching against each other). Now, I live in Los Angeles, but I’m still a Tigers fan. In fact, when the strict COVID restrictions were finally lifted, I rounded up my friends to celebrate in the typical Krause way: going to a Tigers (at Angels) game. To me, there is no better celebration than friends, family, and baseball.
Nearly 30 years after my first Tigers game, my allegiances have not changed. I am still a diehard Tigers fan always waiting for “next year” when they’ll finally win the World Series for the first time in my life. There is comfort in baseball because it is familiar – even if that familiarity is “There’s always next year!”
About the writer:
Tim Krause is currently a doctoral student in psychology at Claremont Graduate University near Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Albion and graduated from Albion Senior High School in 2003. He served as Executive Director of the Albion Community Foundation from 2016 until 2020. His parents, Cheryl and Eric, still live in Albion and he visits town a few times each year.