My love of baseball started was when I was 9 years old. It was the summer of 1968. The year before my parents had divorced and my mom remarried. My new dad, Jack Dillon, was a huge Tiger's fan. (He still is.) My dad played semi-pro baseball and football in Detroit, and my Grandpa Dillon was a player for the Tigers in both minor and major league games when Ty Cobb was the manager. We listened to the games on those warm summer nights, lights off, all screens open, television on, all of us kids in varying forms of repose while we listened to Ernie Harwell announce the games. My favorite Tiger was Willie Horton and I lived and breathed each run or catch he made. I also had a love affair with Al Kaline, Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan.
I have such fond memories of Grandpa Dillon, especially when he would take my sister Kim and I to a twilight double header at Tiger Stadium. We'd take off in his old boat of a car and felt the excitement in the air as we approached the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street. I didn't care where our seats were or how old the stadium was, it was a magical place to me. Grandpa would get us settled, and he would fill us in on the stats of each player as we downed our cokes and munched on peanuts in the shell. When the Tigers came out of the dugout we would stand and cheer and we felt so proud to be there. Grandpa would yell his support and so would we. When we struck out, we would groan along with the him and the fans in the stadium. We would eat a couple hot dog, popcorn, more Coke, and make our way through two games on a brightly lit, warm summer night in Detroit. The best games were when we won, and we won many that season. We'd tumble out onto the street, full of cheer and excited talk about the game. It would hit me then that it was dark outside and quite late. It didn't seem to be in the lit stadium. Usually we'd end up talking all the way back to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Allen Park, although I admit, we sometimes fell asleep.
Life stood still during the World Series. We'd had a wonderful season and so this was the pinnacle. When we won the World Series I thought Detroit was the best place in the world to be and the Tigers were the KINGS of Baseball. That was many years ago and I now live about 5 hours north of Detroit, but still manage to come down to Comerica Park every year or so. It's a beautiful ball park and the view from every seat is great, however, it's just not Tiger Stadium. My memories of that place are etched forever in my mind. The smells, sounds and time with my Grandpa were some of the best of my youth and I am proud to call myself a Detroit Tigers fan.