A Baseball Game With Dad

The white Victorian house was built in 1908, with all of the stereotypical charms of the era.  The front porch was created in a different time, a time when people would walk on the sidewalks and chat with their neighbors.  Off the living room was a small parlor.

That parlor holds a special memory for me.

During my childhood, the parlor served as my Dad’s study, and it was sacred ground.  My Dad was a college professor for 38 years and spent countless hours grading exams and preparing for class in that parlor.  My two sisters and I knew one rule better than any other:  if the door to Dad’s study was closed, he was NOT to be disturbed.

When the door was open, however, his study became a special place.

Dad had a small black and white television on the bookshelf of his study.  He had a leather recliner facing the television and an office chair in which a young boy could watch sports beside his Dad. It was there that I watched my first baseball game.  I was in my Dad’s study.

I was there with my Dad.

I watched my first baseball game in my Dad's study. Baseball became a bond between Father and Son. Click To Tweet
baseball on the porch
My childhood home in Michigan.  

My Dad and I loved baseball and would listen to many evening games on the radio sitting on that front porch in the picture above.  He had grown up listening to baseball on the radio, and it was his preferred method of catching a game.  I’ll never forget the feeling of sitting on that porch in the summer evenings, imagining the plays as they were described over the airwaves.  It was a special place, it was a special time.

I was there with my Dad.

During our frequent games of catch in the front yard, we’d imagine I was Al Kaline (he was always my favorite player) in the Tiger’s outfield as my Dad threw the ball high into the air.  “It’s going deep into right field, he’s back on the warning track and makes the grab!”, my Dad would announce as I snagged the certain home run ball inches over the top of that outfield wall in my mind. 

I remember the first time I saw Al Kaline in person.  I was six years old, and my Dad let me take my baseball glove to the game at Tiger Stadium.  We sat in the bleachers deep in right field, directly behind my hero Al Kaline.  We were so close I could actually see the name Kaline on the back of his jersey!  It didn’t matter that I could hardly see home plate.  I was there with Al Kaline. More importantly…

…I was there with my Dad.

Over the years my Dad and I went into a Tiger’s game nearly every year.  It was my highlight of the entire baseball season, and I treasure my memories of those seats at the old Tiger Stadium.  The stadium was build in the grand old age of baseball, back in 1912.  Yes, it was built in the same era as my childhood home, perhaps that’s a factor in why they both hold such a special place in my heart.   We always got tickets in right field, right behind Al Kaline.  With the limited resources of a teacher’s salary, they were likely the best seats we could afford.  It never mattered to me, I always looked forward to watching Al Kaline.  Besides, it wasn’t the game that really mattered.

I was there with my Dad.

I left for college in 1981, and my annual trip to Detroit with my Dad came to an end.  Our last trip into Detroit was on February 11, 1984.  I should mention that, in addition to baseball, my Dad and I had also enjoyed watching boxing matches on T.V. over the years (also in his study).  On that February weekend in 1984, I had two British friends who came home with me for a weekend from college.  When my Dad found out they were boxing fans, he offered to take us into Detroit to watch the World Champion Thomas “Hitman” Hearns defend his title against Luigi Minchillo.  Of course, we jumped at the opportunity and were there in person as one of the greatest boxers in history won one of the 61 victories in his 67 fights (!!).  The fight went the distance, and the hometown crowd was crazy in support of Thomas Hearns.  Click below for a few minutes of the excitement, you may hear me yelling with the crowd if you listen closely…

Watching Tommy “Hitman” Hearns box in downtown Detroit’s Joe Louis arena is a special memory in my life and one that my Dad and I talked about hundreds of times in the decades since.  It’s hard to believe that was the last time my Dad and I were in Detroit together.  Life interceded, and I became busy with my family, my career and my commitments. 

A Baseball Game With Dad

Now that I’m retired, I’ve got time to do the things that really matter.  I was talking to my Dad a few weeks ago and he mentioned that his group of guys never made it to a Tiger’s game this year.  They’d gone every year, but they’re all getting older and it wasn’t going to happen this year.  I could sense the disappointment in his voice.

As soon as I got off the phone, I looked at the Tiger’s schedule.  There were only a few weeks left in the season, but fortunately, there was a home game at 1:00 pm on Labor Day. It’s only 600 miles from our retirement cabin to Michigan.  Sure, I was planning on going to FinCon to meet some of my blogging buddies, but they could wait.  My Dad is 86 years old, and I know my days with him are numbered.  The choice was obvious.

I booked the best seats I could find, just 24 rows up behind the batter’s box.  Close enough to read the names on the back of the jerseys.  Just like the old days, only better.   My Dad deserves the best.

I drove to Michigan for the weekend, and my Dad and I talked excitedly about going to the game on Monday.  As planned, I picked him up at his assisted living apartment in time to get to the ballpark early.  I treasured every minute of our two-hour drive to the ballpark, talking about how many times we’d made this trip together when I was a child.  We talked about life, we talked about retirement, we talked about getting old.  Just like when I was a child, there was something special about heading to a baseball game with my Dad. 

We always enjoyed having some extra time in the stadium before the game started, and it was important to keep our tradition alive. We arrived early and took our time walking into the stadium. We found a place overlooking the outfield to sit and have a hot dog.  We talked about Al Kaline.  The memories from my youth came flooding back.  I was at a Tiger’s game.  I was sitting in the outfield.

I was there with my Dad.

We took a few breaks as we strolled around the stadium on our way to our seats behind home plate.  Comerica Park is certainly not Tiger Stadium, but they’ve done a great job commemorating the history of the Tigers with photographs and mementos from each decade placed along the concourse behind the stands.  We spent a lot of time in the area that highlighted the 60’s and 70’s.  We saw pictures of Al Kaline.  We both smiled at the memories.

I savored every minute of my time at the ballgame with my Dad.  The Tiger’s are in last place, but it didn’t really matter.  We had great seats, the weather was perfect, and it was a great game.  More importantly… 

I was there with my Dad. 

Impossible as it may seem, the day got even better when, halfway through the game, my Dad shouted out “There’s Tommy Hearns!!”.  He pointed up to the JumboTron, and my eyes turned to see our hero, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns sitting in the front row, right behind the batter’s box.  I glanced down toward the field, and saw the boxing legend sitting just 24 rows in front of us!

We realized that the last time we had been in Detroit together was for that boxing match in 1984.  Our conversation drifted from baseball to boxing, and we spent an hour talking about Tommy Hearns and our memory of watching him box in Joe Louis arena.  

As the game moved into the 9th inning, I noticed Tommy Hearns starting to gather his things.  It became apparent that he was going to leave a few minutes early, and would be walking up the aisle just 15 seats to our left.  I quickly told my Dad, “Come on, we’re going to go meet Tommy Hearns!”.  His eyes lit up with excitement, and we made our way past the chairs and out into the aisle.

We were just in time.  Tommy was approaching our row just as we stepped out into the aisle.  I explained to him that my Dad and I had seen him fight in Joe Louis Arena back in 1984, and would be honored if we could get our picture taken with him.  He smiled, and my dad and I posed for what will likely be remembered as our favorite photograph of our lifetime: 

bas
Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, with a father and son who watched him box 35 years earlier.

We couldn’t stop talking about Tommy Hearns for the rest of the day.  It was a special moment between Father and Son, knowing that we’d just had an experience that both of us would remember for the rest of our lives.


Conclusion

It’s a sad reality that my Dad’s getting older, and I know my days with him are numbered.  That’s really what the baseball game was all about, and I think both of us knew it.  With only a few weeks left in the season, our time together is limited.  When the season is over, it will be too late.  You can only watch a game when the team is on the field, and it won’t be long until that field is empty.   I’m treasuring every minute I get with him in the latter innings of the game, and I’ll miss him when he leaves the field. Retirement affords me the privilege to never miss a chance to do what needs to be done, and few things were more important than spending time with my Dad while he’s still on the field. 

The season is almost over. You can't watch a game when the players leave the field. Spend your time doing the things that matter, with the people who matter most. Click To Tweet

 I’ll treasure forever the memories I made with my Dad during that September afternoon in the final weeks of the season. It wasn’t because I was able to watch the Tigers play a game on a beautiful fall afternoon.  It wasn’t because I met a world boxing champion who I had idolized in my youth.  The reason I’ll always treasure that Labor Day baseball game in Detroit was simple.  

I was there with my dad.

48 comments

  1. Great post Fritz! Many people can relate to having special memories with their parent or close relatives… I know I can. For about 10-15 years my brother and I would take my dad and one of our kids to an Ohio State football game each year. My dad is not a big sports fan but went every year to be with his sons and grandkids. Lots of great memories.

    My baseball memories were nurtured down I-75 in Cincinnati. Would go to Riverfront Stadium each year with my parents and brother to watch the Big Red Machine.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post Fritz. I lost my dad a year ago in May, he was one month from his 85th birthday. My dad and I never got to go to a ballgame when I was growing up, but I got to take him to his first St Louis Cards game a few years ago and to a few more after that. Your so right, you have to do the important things when you have the chance.

  3. Wonderfully crafted post Fritz. We can all certainly relate when we all went to our first MLB game with our fathers. Recently, I took my ailing parents back to Puerto Rico to perhaps see the family for the last time. It was challenging since they both have mobility and cognitive declined issues. Nonetheless, an early retirement allows us to spend more time with our parents and relive those wonderful memories. I remember my dad taking us out to see the Amazing Mets 69 Mets at Shea Stadium when we lived on Long Island. He still remembers it and, more importantly, remembers “saving my life” when Dr. Julius Erving was inbounding the ball when he played for the New York Nets in the old ABA league. They played in the Commack Arena in Nassau County, LI where you can easily walk up to the court which I did looking up in amazement at Dr. J’s mountainous tall 6’7″ frame. As he attempted to inbound the ball with those wiry long arms, my dad quickly grab me before I was sure to receive an elbow to the head. My reward for my haphazard curiosity was one of those patented red, white, and blue ABA basketballs which my dad bought for me at the game. It was a prized position for many years.

  4. So neat your dad was able to do this! I to have memories of sitting with my dad and listening to the Milwaukee Brewers on the radio in Sunday afternoons! He was a Braves fan and loved that a team came back to Milwaukee. He is no longer physically with us.. but when I get out the radio and do the same on Sunday afternoon he is right there next to me! Great post!

  5. Not only is my mom still on the field, she’s in the batter’s box. She’ll be 100 next month and is still living life to her fullest capacity. Unfortunately, my father is deceased.
    What a great post speaking to the benefits of spending as much time as possible with your parents as they age.
    Thanks for the reminder Fritz!

  6. I’m not crying, you’re crying…

    But seriously, even though we missed you at FinCon, your trip with your dad was obviously the right choice 🙂

    Makes me think more about spending time with my mom. Living two time zones apart means it takes a lot of planning, but every time I see her it’s hard to leave, knowing it could be the last time.

  7. Fritz, Well written… memories memories memories. Your Dad has been a Tigers fan since he and your Mom moved to Hillsdale 1959 I think. A faithful fan often disappointed but always optimistic there is always next season. Hug to Jackie. Mark

  8. This brought back memories…I sat in right field, too, watching Al Kaline. Great player and a great man. Rarely, my dad was able to get tickets from a season ticket holder – right on the outfield corner of the third base (opponent’s) dugout. Boog Powell was a giant of a man when I was 12! Dad’s gone, but I should go to more baseball games – after they are done with road work on I-75.

  9. Beautiful piece!
    It’s great that you could have new memories with your father like meeting Tommy Hearns. My father passed away 10 years ago and the more time goes on, the more I wish I had the opportunity to talk with him.

  10. Holy crap! I got chills reading this post. It reminds me of the time a few years ago when I went to a Philadelphia Flyers game with a bunch of my childhood buddies. On the way to the game, we were reminiscing about the old Flyers and the legendary goon Dave Schultz came up. And wouldn’t you know it, who do we run into at the game? None other than Dave “The Hammer” Schultz. Great story Fritz. So glad you got to enjoy another Tiger game with your dad. And nevermind Al Kaline and Thomas Hearns. The true Detroit sports legend of your era was Mark “The Bird” Fidrych! Peace.

    1. Ha – Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, now THAT was one weird guy! I’ll never forget that 1976 season when he won AL Rookie Of The Year with a 19 win season and an ERA below 2.5, and who can ever forget the pitcher who was always talking to the ball! Great memory, Mr. G. Cool that you ran into Dave Schultz, funny how “The Hitman” and “The Hammer” came up in the same story. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Oh man Fritz, you made me cry.
    Comiskey Park, Busch Stadium, anywhere with my dad and a baseball.
    Thank you sir !!
    Three days retired and you have helped me prepare for it for the past three years!

  12. Every shared moment, every occasion is a memory to be treasured forever.
    You’ll never regret the time spent with a loved Dad or Mom.

  13. This was beautifully written, Fritz. It is amazing how a boy and his father can bond so strongly over baseball. I share the same bond with my dad and hope to create that bond with my boys as well. Thank you for the reminder that it is high time for me to take my dad to a game.

  14. Awesome writing Fritz!

    Kaline was a great hitter. As life and the world keep getting faster and faster I find myself coming back to baseball – because it’s slow. Or that’s how we perceive it now. When I was a kid I never had any trouble watching a game on TV or, more commonly, listening on the radio (Orioles for me). But as life got faster baseball fell out of favor for many, because it’s viewed as old and slow, especially compared to football. I think the tide is turning back slowly and people are rediscovering the joys of slowing down and watching a baseball game. Great post

  15. Fritz,
    I can relate so well to your post I have to tell my story. Growing up on a farm in Kentucky, I remember so many great fishing trips with my Dad. Any time we would get a break from farming we would pull his old fishing boat over the hill on the back of the farm with a tractor and fish all day. As my 4 siblings had other interests, I felt I was the special one being his fishing buddy.
    After I moved away for college, and then started my own family, years passed with him fishing alone as long as he could. He eventually moved into assisted living, and when I visited we talked about those days we would fish together. So about 15 years ago, I picked him up one day and we went back to the home farm, (now owned by my 2 older brothers). We hooked the old Ford tractor to the boat and pulled it over the hill and fished. Neither of us caught a fish, but we didn’t care. We were fishing together again.
    He passed away in 2006 and I will always have that memory. I should have done it more often.
    He was my DAD.

  16. I have tears in my eyes. What a priceless gift you gave both yourself and your Dad. And what a beautiful writing style you have to share the story. I lost both parents within months last year and realize the preciousness of moments that you may not even realize are fleeting. What a “carpe diem” for you both! Bravo!

  17. Fritz,

    What a great post! I enjoyed it very, very much.

    For, me it was always fishing with my Dad. Unfortunately, I lost him in the second inning.
    I hope you and your Dad get extra innings.

    Thank you for writing this.

  18. Definitely beats out FinCon. My dad was a huge Packers fan and one year when Lambeau was renovating and selling bricks, we bought him a pavement brick that read “Packers play. Can’t be late. Farm and cows will have to wait.” Some of my best memories were made at the stadium. Great story.

  19. Fritz,

    This post was awesome! I’m embarrassed to say that when we had the chance to talk recently and I asked about your dad, I assumed he was not doing well. This was an assumption based on hearing you’d be missing FinCon to go spend time with him.

    How often do people actually take advantage of these opportunities when we have them? This was the reason I timed leaving my job so early to have time with my daughter while she is so young. Our travel in retirement has been almost exclusively focused on spending time with my and my wife’s family, as was our decision to buy a house with a MIL suite so they could spend time with us.

    Still, this is so rare in the general population, it never crossed my mind that you’d bail on the conference for something so awesome. I just assumed the worst. I apologize.

    Kudos to you for using your retirement to do what is truly important. Also that was captivating writing. I can’t wait to check out your book!

    Cheers!
    Chris

  20. Wow! The Hitman! That’s incredible. I saw clips of his fights when I was really small. He was one of the legends. It’s great to hear you had a good time with your dad.
    My dad has such a different personality and it’s tough for me to get along with him. Hopefully, I’ll have a better relationship with my son.

  21. Wonderful post. My dad passed away 3 years ago. I have so many wonderful memories though of going to baseball and football games with him. He used to come over to our house after church every Sunday to watch games on TV with me. I can still hear him walking in the door and saying something sure smells good in here. Didn’t matter what my wife had cooked that day. He wasn’t able to do very much or even leave his house the last couple years as first heart problems then cancer took away his strength. But one of the last times I was with him when his mind was clear, we spent the night watching our beloved Indians. They won that night. Played a great game. It was a wonderful evening. He went down hill very quickly after that and passed away a couple weeks later. I am thankful for those memories I now have. You are wise for taking advantage of the opportunities you still have.

  22. I just started following your blog after I heard you on a FI podcast yesterday. Im hooked. You are so very inspiring!! Then I saw you again today with Josh Scanlon. I have so much in common with you!!! Fellow RVer, 56yo, FI but not retired til April 2022 when we get my husbands medical insurance/fed gov pension. I also worked at my job 34 yrs and have a pension. I struggle with not obessing about the future with the excitment of retirement in just 2 1/2 yrs. I consider my self an orphan, my Mom died 25 yrs ago and my Dad 7 years ago. I miss them everyday!! You are right to cherish every moment. I hope we meet sometime. I live in N Fl. So just a quick RV trip 😉

    1. Gina, welcome to the team! Were you the “Gina” that popped up during the questions/comments on the live feed? If so, I remember you! Glad to have “hooked” you, and happy to have you on the team, it sounds like we do, indeed, have a lot in common! Your wise to recognize that the future can become an obsession, work hard to enjoy the Present, it’s an important element of a life well lived. See you at an RV park somewhere, someday…

  23. Lovely tribute to the Time Value of Time with your Dad. Consider reposting this every “official” Father’s Day and writing one for your mom! See you next year in Long Beach.

  24. What a great post Fritz!
    We are former Michiganders too but go back every summer. Detroit sure has changed a lot since your last trip in 1984. We get a sense of revitalization finally! Growing up in the 1980s going to Detroit was taboo and you got in and out as fast as you could.

    My dad passed a couple of years ago (we was young and didn’t take care of himself) Sharing experiences was definitely the best gift, like going to a Lions game. He always said he would never see a Super Bowl win 🙂
    Enjoy those moments

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