Opening Day, 1963

opening day anthem

My dad claims that he has not missed a Tigers opening day for 40 years.

I didn’t know a thing about my dad’s devotion to this Detroit rite of spring until our heathen Easter dinner last Friday, but I have no reason to doubt him. My dad is a pretty simple guy: he likes baseball, and he likes meat. Other things too (blackjack; the Rat Pack; the crackhouse pitbull rescued across the street from his factory) but not many.

Somehow, within the bounds of these small pleasures, my dad is full of surprises. But it wasn’t his perfect opening day attendance that blew me away; it’s that on his first opening day, in 1963, he was on the field at Tiger Stadium, cheesing around with Al Kaline and Governor George Romney. All it took were some fake press passes, a couple of 35 mm cameras, adventurous friends and a friendly hello to Mayor Cavanagh, who lived in my dad’s neighborhood and ate at his deli on the north side.

In the middle of our dinner, Dad got up and said, “I think I still have some of those pictures.”

He came back to the table with a shoebox crammed full of slides. Hundreds of them. The oldest are from 1962, when my dad was 17, partying on a fake ID and wearing a varsity jacket in U of D colors to entice Catholic schoolgirls.  They taper off around 1969, when he was married with two kids and living in Southfield.

We spent the next two hours squinting through them, trying to place them, date them, name them. “There’s something profound about these,” he said. Babies in bathtubs and kids posed in front of the car; big Jewish weddings; my grandfather reading the newspaper in the living room; Niagara falls illuminated at night. And this trove from Opening Day.

These probably aren’t the best vintage Tigers pictures the world has ever seen. But 47 years ago, the Tigers played the White Sox, and lost, and my 18-year-old dad was there, on the field with the greats, at ground zero of his lifetime of Opening Days. And that’s pretty amazing.

al kaline

Al Kaline, with one of my dad’s cohorts, Mike Sampson.

bob scheffing

Manager Bob Scheffing.

warm up

Opening pitch warm-up.

van patrick

Tigers announcer Van Patrick.

jerome cavanagh and al kaline

Al Kaline and Mayor Jerome Cavanagh.

jim bunning george romney

Michigan Governor George Romney with then-pitcher, now deservedly unpopular US Representative from Kentucky, Jim Bunning.

george and lenore romney

Governor Romney with wife Lenore.

color guard

Color guard.

cavanagh and romney

Mayor Cavanagh and Governor Romney.

play ball

Play ball! (EDIT: This is from a 1962 Easter double-header at Yankee Stadium. Oh well.)

Happy Opening Day, Detroit.

#1963 tigers#al kaline#bob scheffing#george romney#jim bunning#lenore romney#mayor jerome cavanagh#opening day#tiger stadium#van patrick

Comments

  1. jdg - April 8, 2010 @ 6:27 am

    wow.

  2. Amber - April 8, 2010 @ 6:55 am

    These are fantastic.

  3. Tom Stanton - April 8, 2010 @ 7:17 am

    Great story. Wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Woodward’s Friend - April 8, 2010 @ 7:45 am

    Amazing pictures. Of all the “old Detroit” things I wish I could have personally seen, Tiger Stadium in it’s green glory tops the list.

    I think that last picture is actually Yankee Stadium. Still very cool.

  5. amy - April 8, 2010 @ 7:59 am

    Ah! You’re totally right. He has a lot of pictures from a 1962 double-header at Yankee Stadium on Easter Sunday that we laboriously weeded out together — missed this one. Good catch.

  6. dwellephant - April 8, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    This is one of my favorite things you’ve ever written.

  7. grekrs - April 8, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    Love this piece. Especially the part about your father sneaking onto the field with fake passes. Classic.

  8. Christina - April 8, 2010 @ 11:24 am

    The womens’ hairstyles are the best!

  9. Trevor - April 8, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

    Amazing. Sending this immediately to my mom.

  10. Scotter - April 8, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

    I like the girl popping bubble gum in the background behind Kaline and Cavanagh.

  11. denis - April 9, 2010 @ 8:11 am

    look at all those white people.

  12. niku - April 9, 2010 @ 8:33 am

    I heard you on WDET this morning. It’s great to see the pictures that go with the story…..

  13. Mikel - April 9, 2010 @ 9:13 am

    It was great to have you on WDET this morning, Amy!

  14. emmy - April 9, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

    aMAZing!

  15. Craig - April 9, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

    I was 12 in 1963 and I lived for baseball. These photos take me back and the ladies attending the game reminded me of the hairstyles my Mom used to wear. Love the pic of Al Kaline – my hero at the time.

    Thanks for the memories…

  16. sue - April 10, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    Another fabulous piece, Amy! And what a lovely gift to your father. It was so great to hear your voice on WDET, miss you!

  17. Andrew - May 3, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

    What a great story about your dad and wonderful pictures!

  18. Brule Laker - April 8, 2011 @ 10:14 am

    I have some great baseball stories but this tops them all. Great narrative and photos . . . thanks for sharing.

  19. jennifer - April 9, 2011 @ 4:45 am

    Awesome writing – and those pictures are fabulous in so many ways. What an adventure your dad had that day.

  20. James Piteo - January 6, 2016 @ 7:54 pm

    I find it interesting to see the empty seats. I can’t recall any Opening Days in my memory (I was born in 1959, so this 1963 game would have been a little before my memory of such things), that were not sell-outs. How things change. Also interesting that David Maraniss’ book about Detroit that focuses on the period from late 1962 to 1964, of which this was smack in the middle of, with record auto sales and such at that time, while the ominous changes soon to come maybe not so obvious.
    James Piteo

  21. http://edbehandlung.men/ - August 9, 2016 @ 4:33 am

    That’s an inventive answer to an interesting question

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