• Opening Day, 1963

    by  • April 8, 2010 • Best of THE NIGHT TRAIN, History, Meditations • 21 Comments

    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.

    21 Responses to Opening Day, 1963

    1. jdg
      April 8, 2010 at 6:27 am

      wow.

    2. April 8, 2010 at 6:55 am

      These are fantastic.

    3. April 8, 2010 at 7:17 am

      Great story. Wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

    4. April 8, 2010 at 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 at 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 at 9:45 am

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

    7. grekrs
      April 8, 2010 at 10:16 am

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

    8. April 8, 2010 at 11:24 am

      The womens’ hairstyles are the best!

    9. April 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      Amazing. Sending this immediately to my mom.

    10. Scotter
      April 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

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

    11. denis
      April 9, 2010 at 8:11 am

      look at all those white people.

    12. April 9, 2010 at 8:33 am

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

    13. April 9, 2010 at 9:13 am

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

    14. emmy
      April 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      aMAZing!

    15. Craig
      April 9, 2010 at 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 at 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. May 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm

      What a great story about your dad and wonderful pictures!

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    19. Brule Laker
      April 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

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

    20. April 9, 2011 at 4:45 am

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

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