This is how baseball was meant to be played–by guys with nicknames like Legs and Pops and the Preacher, without gloves or egos or million dollar endorsement deals, with kids running around and popcorn and a sun so bright that it hurts your eyes.
And that is how baseball (or, charmingly, base ball) was played this past Sunday at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit. Yes, that corner. The corner where Ruth and Cobb and Gehrig played. Bennett Park, Navin Field, Briggs Stadium…whatever you want to call it, that place was magic. If you are from Metro Detroit and you don’t have a fond memory of seeing a game at that place, then I feel bad for you. I still remember walking up the ramp to get to the seats, seeing that bright green field (I won’t add “of dreams”), the bleachers, the big concrete poles that offered “obstructed view” seats…the smell of the hotdogs, the popcorn, the beer.
My ex-husband and I got season tickets for the final season at Tiger Stadium and were lucky enough to go to the final game. Here is a story of that game ~ we were sitting behind a skinny, blonde chick who I presume one would describe as “hot”. She was on her cell phone most of the game (and remember, this was 1999 when cell phones weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now). At the end, Sparky Anderson appeared on the big screen. Girlfriend turned to her friend and said, “Who’s that old guy?!?” I almost went over the seat in full attack mode, but then-boyfriend, now-ex-husband calmed me down.
None of that kind of crap happened this last Sunday, when Fiance Ken and I went to the Corner to watch the Royal Oak Wahoos play the Dexter Union Base Ball Club. The game is played by 1860s rules, which includes a “gloves optional” rule and no DH (yes!). The ball can bounce once and it still is considered an out (took me a minute to catch onto that one). And the game is played for the love of the game.
Several dozen people gathered on the grassy lawn of what is now again being called Navin Field. Thanks to a dedicated bunch of folks (the Navin Field Grounds Crew), the field is being mowed and cared for. I don’t know any of those people personally, but I want to. I know they are good people because they care about a good place.
Until last Sunday, I never thought I’d see baseball at the old “corner” ever again. And the good news is that there are games almost every Sunday, and sometimes during the week. Check them out on Facebook …and head out to the old ball field. Your childhood will thank you.