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C.O. Brown Stadium, Battle Creek, Michigan

C.O. Brown Stadium, Battle Creek, MICHIGAN

Number of states: 7
States to go:  43
Number of games:  1
First and last game:  July 20, 2004 (Battle Creek Yankees 3, West Michigan Whitecaps 2, 10 innings)

C.O. Brown Stadium is no longer in use for the affiliated minors as of the 2007 season.

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Singing buddy Kristin and I found our way to Cereal City after experiencing the annoying shortcomings of South Bend and the always fantastic Wrigley Field.  Since I had no experience with Battle Creek other than driving through it on I-94 a few times (sometimes it smells like Corn Flakes, other times like Froot Loops), I had no real expectations for the evening.  What I got was quite a memorable ballgame, an extremely quirky ballpark, and a sense that I was a part of the dugout for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

The park’s location is fairly typical for single-A:  it’s a part of a recreational complex, just the largest of about a half dozen fields on the site.  The cool part about this is that, at least on the night I went, there were other

games to be seen on site.  If Kristin and I had arrived earlier, we could have sat in on either of two other baseball games taking place (it may have been American Legion or AAU ball).  It was here that I secured my only foul ball of the whole trip, but alas, it was not at the Yankees/Whitecaps game…it was one launched into the parking lot from one of the other games.  I retrieved it and dutifully tossed it back.

I can’t for the life of me figure out how C.O. Brown Stadium came to be shaped exactly as it is.  The largest block of seating is behind home plate, but there’s an almost-as-big block which hooks around the left-field foul pole.  My best guess (indeed, my only guess) is that the older-looking seating area by the foul pole was, at one time, the only block of seats in the ballpark, and that home plate used to be over there.  My theory then has the larger block built later on, and home plate moving but all the seating remaining.  A friendly usher was unable to help me solve this conundrum, and I still can’t figure out why the ballpark looks that way.  Quirky?  Yes.  Charming?  That’s in the eye of the beholder.

Another quirky feature of the ballpark adds loads to its charm, however.  Just past each dugout is a box of seats that juts out four or five rows

beyond the dugout and towards the field.  Kristin and I had seats on the inside edge of that section, second row.  That means that, by looking over our right shoulders, we were able to look directly into the visitors’ dugout.  Any sense of privacy those players hoped to have was shot!  I looked as players lifted barbells, chatted, high-fived, and watched the game.  It made it very easy to root for West Michigan on that day.

Besides, just out of principle, I can’t root for any team nicknamed the “Yankees.”  I’m annoyed that the team has this name.  Battle Creek’s name was just changed in 2003, from the locally appropriate (and interesting) “Battle Cats.”  Does George Steinbrenner think that everyone really wants to be like him?  Worse yet, after the Yankee victory, the loudspeakers played “New York, New York.”  Gimme a break!  We’re not in New York, even if it’s what the players are striving for.  You know the line “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere?”  Well, the players have to make it in Battle Creek first.  Lay off that song, or at least relegate it to pregame somewhere.

As I meandered through the ballpark before the game, I saw a scoresheet on a table behind home plate on 

the main walkway.  Would the Yankees really put their official scorer out there with the people?  I was astonished.  Later, I found out that this was not at all true–but instead was part of what I think is a fantastic promotion that balances my desire for promotions at the low-minor level without the concern that those promotions will interfere with the baseball.  Spectators were given Bingo cards upon entry to the stadium with various possible outcomes on them, such as “Matt Carson walks” or “Nick Walsh doubles.”  This means that fans must keep track of the game to fill out their bingo cards.  The scorebook behind home plate was not the official scorekeeper, but was the Yankees’ worker keeping score–the guy the winner takes the bingo card to as soon as he/she has a bingo.  I had never seen this before, and was quite impressed with the idea.

At the end of pregame warmups, Whitecap Juan Francia got on my good side by

delivering a baseball to a youngster next to me.  What a stud–I hope he rises through the organization.  He went 1-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base, as well as some flashy defensive play.  But I’ll always remember him first for being a nice guy.

It was church night in Battle Creek, so I had to be on my best behavior.  According to the Yankees, 361 of the 1,574 in attendance were a part of ten or twenty church groups that were in attendance.  A chorister from one of the churches sang the National Anthem and bungled it badly–he started in a key so breathtakingly high that I turned to fellow singer Kristin and whispered “I’ll hate to hear ‘the rockets’ red glare.'”  Sure enough, when he got there, he had to drop down an octave.  Later, he sort of made up a melody for “land of the free” to dodge that high note as well.  Singers–if you are to sing the National Anthem a cappella, I implore you to do the following:  for a couple of minutes before you begin, sing “Oh say can you see” and “And the rockets’ red glare” back to back repeatedly.  “Say” and “red glare” are the lowest and highest notes you’ll have to sing, unless you choose to go up the fourth on “land of the free” later on.  This will prepare you for the anthem and avoid the situation this man found himself in.  It always worked for me.

I don’t know if this was planned, but after the sixth inning, they gave the anthem singer another shot at the mike, this time to sing “How Great Thou Art.”  I guess this was to celebrate church night.  This led to a bizarre situation on the field and in both dugouts.  How does one respond

to the singing of a religious hymn during a game?  I admit, when the guy started singing, I stood and removed my cap…but as soon as I realized he was singing “How Great Thou Art” rather than “God Bless America” or another patriotic song, it occurred to me that it might not be appropriate to have my hat over my heart and standing at attention to the flag.  This is not the national anthem.  I passionately love my God and my country, but I passionately love them separately.  Mixing them by observing the flag while singing a religious hymn felt wrong to me.  However, I’d want to be respectful by standing in silence, just as I would stand in silence for a sacred song for any religion.  So I was at a bit of a loss for what to do, and figured it would be worse for the players.  Do the players look at the flag, stand reverently, or just go about their business?  A quick look over my shoulder, however, revealed that West Michigan manager Matt Walbeck (who, until and including the previous season, had been a major league player) had his hat over his heart, and had beckoned his team to join him on the top of the dugout steps, which they did:

Seconds later, however, I think Walbeck realized that this wasn’t “America the Beautiful,” because by the time the singer got to “My savior God to thee,” Walbeck had run out of the dugout to his third-base coaching position, where he prepared for the inning.  The Whitecaps’ players, at least a couple of whom must be Jewish or Muslim or agnostic or atheist, all of whom had until seconds earlier had been standing in reverent silence, had headed to the bat racks and benches, perhaps wondering what the heck had happened.  And Wilton Reynolds, the designated hitter, had clearly realized the bizarreness of the situation, because he actually was doubled over in laughter.  I made eye contact with him–I thought the whole thing was funny too.  (Looking at the picture above, it looks like Vince Blue, #31, also senses something is awry.)

On the whole, this was a nice way to spend a muggy Michigan night–surrounded by nice people enjoying a ballgame at an old park.  This also turned out to be one of the best minor league ballgames I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.  I’ll tell you about that under “Baseball stuff” below.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  6.5/10
Reasonable, with big Midwestern trees beyond the outfield wall and massive Midwestern clouds, but nothing really to denote Michigan or Battle Creek.  I couldn’t even smell the Froot Loops until I was on my way out of town.

Charm:  4.5/5
Sure.  Quirkiness and fans so close to the action that kids talked to the bullpen catcher as he warmed up pitchers.

Spectacle: 5/5
Excellent here.  Understated and persistent–frequent between-innings action and the Bingo game tied right in with the baseball.

Team mascot/name:  2/5


The name change to Yankees was tragic, as the old “Battle Cats” paraphernalia on sale for half price was one of the saddest things I’ve seen. I hope Steinbrenner helped defray the costs.  The mascot himself is Doodle–apparently a youngster or a very short individual.  I like the name Doodle (get it?) a lot.

Aesthetics:  3/5
Sweet on the outside, but not too attractive on the inside (see below).

Pavilion area:  2.5/5
There was an area where kids were playing pickle, but it was far too small.  Mostly, it was just prison-like cement.



Scoreability: 3/5
Numbers and names readily available in the pavilion, but by the seventh inning, the names they had on the scoreboard didn’t at all match the actual people at bat.  It’s like the scoreboard people gave up.  Good for a while, though.

Fans:  3.5/5
The church people were very nice in the conservative Midwestern way (and I mean that affectionately–not at all sarcastically or disparagingly).  A few drunken louts nearby hurt the score.

Intangibles:  4.5/5
A great game where I felt like I was chatting with the players.  Fun night.

TOTAL:  34.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

What a game!  Mr. Walbeck has a little work to do in the managerial department, I’m afraid.  The game’s star was Whitecap starter Virgil Vasquez, who cruised through eight innings of four-hit shutout ball.  I was surprised to see him come back out for the ninth inning.  Don’t they have pitch counts at A-level ball?  Walbeck had a reliever, Eulogio de la Cruz, warmed up, and Vasquez had thrown quite a few pitches.  Still, he struck out Matt Carson to start the inning, and things looked good for West Michigan.  When third baseman Kody Kirkland kicked Erold Andrus’ liner, there was one on and one out, and I was thinking that one more baserunner and would bring out Walbeck with the hook.  Bryce Kartler singled.  Vasquez stayed on.  A popout brought it to two on and two outs…then a laboring Vasquez walked John Urick. SURELY, I thought, this has to be it for Vasquez…he’s had a fine game, now de la Cruz can nail it down, right?  Nope.  Walbeck stuck with Vasquez.  It turned out to be a bad move, as Tommy Rojas singled to tie the game with two unearned runs.  Only then, too late, did Walbeck relieve Vasquez.



De la Cruz got out of the inning, but Battle Creek won in the tenth on Andrus’ RBI single.  An angry Kody Kirkland, whose error made all of this possible, violently kicked a plastic cooler in the dugout on his way back to the clubhouse after the game.

Also, Garth McKinney homered for the Whitecaps.  Party on, Garth.  (I bet he’s never

heard that one before!  Man, it just occurs to me that Garth would have been around 10 at the height of Wayne’s World…what a bummer of a time to be 10 and named Garth.)

(Written August 2004.)

Comerica Park

Comerica Park, Detroit, MI

Number of games: 2
First game:  July 21, 2004 (Tigers 4, Royals 2)
Most recent game:  July 22, 2004 (Royals 13, Tigers 7)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

I grew up in Denver before it had a major league team.  When the time came (as it inevitably does in any young man’s life) to select a favorite team, the Tigers were my choice, mostly due to my legions of relatives in the area.  Some of my best

childhood memories are centered around trips to Michigan in my youth…every damn summer, my parents would pile my three siblings and me into the back of a station wagon and drive the three days to my Aunt Sally and Uncle Fred on Bishop Street and Grandma Gene’s place on Lennon.  Indeed, it was with them and my two cousins that I went to my first ballgames at Tiger Stadium.  So I was excited to head back to them in 2004–returning to the original scene of the crime–to take in Comerica Park.

I had the pleasure of attending my first game back at Comerica with most of the same relatives I went to my first game with 24 years earlier.  I think my Uncle Fred was born drinking a beer and watching a ballgame…so

he’s got to be one of the top choices for partners at any ballpark.  Aunt Sally is not at all a sports fan, and yet she tagged along, offering me her unique perspectives on baseball.  (Example:  she believes that, if major league hitters were indeed the best in the world at hitting baseballs, a .600 average should be the baseline for greatness, not the paltry .300 we use as a benchmark now.)  My cousin Joe helped me remember the fourth and fifth starters for the ’84 Tigers, a problem that had dogged me for several days prior. (I thought Juan Berenguer was the #5, but he was the #4.  Dave Rozema spot started at #5.)

I was especially impressed with the art in this ballpark.  Loads of tiger statues and gargoyles festoon the exterior of the ballpark, including several with baseballs in their mouths.  Tigers guard just about every entrance

and even patrol the tops of the scoreboards, and they’re the right mixture of cute and scary.  Baseball bats serve as columns and bats crossed like swords mark the entrance.  There’s even a lovely baseball-themed fountain.  But the sculptures of past Tigers’ greats absolutely knocked my socks off.  I’ve now been to about a dozen stadiums which feature some kind of baseball player sculpture, and it’s usually one of my favorite parts of the ballpark.  Tiger Stadium’s sculptures (of  Cobb, Gehringer, Greenberg, Harwell, Horton, Kaline, and Newhouser) are immensely superior to any I have seen anywhere else, and it’s not like the other ballpark sculptures are bad.  I’m afraid my photographic skills don’t do the sculptures justice, but I gave it a try.  Here’s a look at the sculpture of Hank Greenberg.  I’m making this picture larger than I usually do so you can get a better look at it.  Check out how the artist hints at motion with the swinging bat and traveling ball.


The ballpark further adds to its local color by focusing on Tiger history in its pavilion areas, setting up exhibits focusing on the Tigers in each decade in the twentieth century.  I found my beloved 1984 team and learned a few things about earlier teams.  I even got into a brief conversation with a woman about the ’67 Tigers as well.

In spite of all this, there are a few drawbacks that, in my eyes, keep this from being a top-ten park.  First of all, Comerica Park is guilty of

outrageous excess.  I’m referring here to its carousel and its Ferris wheel.  I ask this:  why?  My Detroit relatives got a little testy when I asked this, saying something about how there needs to be something at the ballpark for the kids so that they’ll grow to like baseball.  This is, I believe, a flawed argument.  There were no amusement park rides at Tiger Stadium, and it’s not like I was bored there at age ten.  Even when I was younger, as a seven-year-old attending Denver Bears games at Mile High Stadium, I managed to make do without a Tilt-a-Whirl or an Octopus.  “But Paul,” my opponents say, “That was a different day and age.  Kids today are raised on MTV and video games.  Surely they can’t make it through a game without at least two or three visits to a carnival thrill ride.”  Baloney.  I have taken my nephews to major and minor league games when they were as young as six, and again, they have no problems.  Do we need to go walk around and burn off energy during the game?  Of course.  (And because of this, I can even handle playgrounds and slides like those at Safeco Field, PacBell Park, The Ballpark in Arlington, and a few others I’m forgetting…they give a destination less garish and silly than Comerica’s rides are.)  Do I need to provide my nephews with astonishing amounts of ice cream, hot dogs, and/or soda pop?  Yup. But we watch the game.  We get through it.  We enjoy it.  We even score it.  This, to me, is incontrovertible proof that Comerica’s carnival rides are unnecessary at best and deleterious at worst.

Speaking of deleterious, the PA announcer was the worst cheerleader PA guy I’ve ever heard.  His announcement of “Brandon Inge” made me cringe.  His voice goes up at least an octave and a half as he announces the name of any Tiger.  I can feel his vocal cords tensing to the point where they might snap.  Lighten up, buddy!  We know when to cheer.

I can’t ignore the fact, however, that beyond carnival rides and overly perky PA guys, there’s something a bit deeper about the whole experience and atmosphere of going to a game at Comerica Park that creeped me out.  I guess I see some things in Detroit now that I formerly didn’t, and those things bother me.  The city has devastating problems.

For starters, the stadium is in such a bad area that a stadium-induced neighborhood renaissance (like the ones that turned iffy warehouse neighborhoods in Baltimore and Denver into cool spots with nightclubs and brewpubs) is simply too much to ask.  There’s no feel of being in a neighborhood…spectators don’t linger before the game, don’t hang out near the ballpark, don’t go to sports bars before and after the game.  Indeed, there aren’t any sports bars there–around the ballpark, all I saw was the tony, alienatingly-exclusive, don’t-even-think-you’re-good-enough-to-belong Detroit Athletic Club, one diner, the Fox Theater, and about a half dozen court buildings and jails.  No watering holes.  No places selling Tiger merchandise.  The fantastic feeling of anticipation that comes with heading through a throng of ballpark-goers headed toward the game is replaced by people concerned for their own safety, trying to get into the ballpark (and back out to their cars) as quickly as possible so they can make it back out to the safety of Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham.  Not that I blame them–I’d do the same thing, and in fact did.  (Update 2009:  I recently read a Sports Illustrated article indicating a great sports bar opened nearby.  Possible change for the better?)

Why does this bother me in Detroit when other ballparks in terrible neighborhoods (such as Comiskey Park or Yankee Stadium) don’t trouble me as much?  In Chicago and New York, the edginess of the neighborhood makes its way into the ballpark.  Even though it scares me, I think I like that better than the freaky oasis-from-the-poor-outside-these-walls vibe at Comerica.  Plus, at Yankee Stadium anyway, the subway ride gives me atmosphere–I feel a part of the city rather than apart from it.

Additionally, as scary and depressing as the housing projects near Comiskey Park and Yankee Stadium are, they’re not nearly as depressing or scary to me as a deserted, broken downtown.  Comerica Park took a page from the new ballparks in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere by providing a vista of downtown past the outfield wall. 

But it’s a little different in Detroit.  With the exception of the distant skyscraper that houses GM headquarters, instead of the gleaming glass-and-metal buildings I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in downtowns, the view from Comerica features old stone-and-mortar buildings–brown and tan instead of gray and reflective.  This, in and of itself, isn’t a problem–it just gives me a feeling of a retro downtown.  But things go sour for me at twilight…I learn that Detroit’s downtown isn’t retro, but instead is simply decimated.  As it got dark in Detroit, I looked out past the scoreboard and saw the skyscrapers again, and I noticed something that, to me, is nothing short of alarming:  there were literally no lights on in the skyscrapers.  It was Wednesday night, about 9PM.  Where the hell were the people?  Where was the lawyer working late, the businessman calling overseas?  Geez, where was the custodian cleaning the offices, even the staircase that’s lit 24/7?  Nothing.  The only conclusion I can reach is that these two buildings have been completely abandoned.  I turned to my relatives to ask why there aren’t any lights on downtown.  They live here, so I guess they’re accustomed to it:  I get a shrug.  “I guess nobody’s working there.”  To me, this downtown vista, intended to be a beautiful view and celebration of the city, had the opposite effect.  It scared me.  Possibly the scariest movie I’ve ever seen is This Quiet Earth, where a man wakes up to discover everyone in the world has disappeared…he wanders around the cities looking for any human contact.  The darkened downtown Detroit reminded me of that…we’re all entertaining ourselves with a baseball game surrounded by a city that’s disappeared. Comerica Park makes me wonder about how things got this broken.  It even stirs in me some predictable and passe’ white guilt, since Detroit is a city that’s about 90% African-American and I’m sitting in a crowd that’s about 90% White…and much of the other 10% are ushers, hawkers, and cleanup crew.  Simply put, this is not the best mindset in which to entertain myself, but I can’t help but feel this way.

Even during the next day’s day game, the s

adness of the urban situation interfered with the experience.  I borrowed the relatives’ car and headed downtown, making sure I did not make any turn that could put me even a half block out of my way.  I zipped to the ballpark.  Ninety minutes before the game and the streets around Comerica Park were deserted–everyone was on a beeline straight from their cars into the ballpark.  There was zero neighborhood atmosphere.  Even on the inside, while wandering around getting a feel for the park, I was attracted to two bits of graffiti on the bar in a restaurant by the Ferris wheel.  They felt to me like examples of the problems of Detroit, as hard as Comerica Park tries to keep them on the outside, pushing their way into the stadium.  Something about these words written a few feet away from a Ferris wheel–and a few more feet away from a world nobody should ever have to know–really struck me somewhere deep.

In any event, I was very much impressed by Comerica Park in all kinds of ways.  In spite of the theme-park overkill, the ballpark is quite lovely, and the art there probably better than the art at any ballpark I’ve ever been to.  They do well to focus on baseball history and on Detroit history.  But the experience was,

paradoxically, harmed by that very history.  I’m not a city planner–I don’t know what combination of social and economic factors got Detroit where it is, and I certainly can’t propose a way out.  But I sincerely hope that there comes a day when being located at the heart of downtown Detroit is an asset rather than a liability, and that I can head back one day–ten years from now?  twenty?  more?–and take a leisurely walk through a vibrant, interesting, and active stadium neighborhood.  I hope I can score a Tigers game in the ballpark without feeling just a tad guilty and callous because of the conditions all around me.  I hope that I can walk to a sports bar after the game and have some nachos and a drink, staying downtown without a second thought until the end of the West Coast games.  Somebody out there–please find a way to heal this city so that the beauty of this ballpark is the rule rather than the exception.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Mike Sweeney hit a pair of home runs–a grand slam and a three-run homer–to lead the Royals to a decisive win.

Nook Logan makes his major league debut, going an amazing 4-for-7 in the two games I see him.

Omar Infante homers twice in a game.

Indeed, I saw ten homers in two games–and many of them would have been homers at the old Comerica.  Only a couple were made homers by the then-recently-shortened left-field porch.

(Written August 2004.)

Tiger Stadium

upperight

© Lowell Boileau, The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit, http://DetroitYES.com. Used by permission.

Tiger Stadium, Detroit, MI

Number of games: 2
First game:  August 11, 1980 (Tigers 8, Red Sox 7)
Last game:  September 3, 1982 (Tigers 6, A’s 3)

Tiger Stadium is no longer in use as of the end of 1999.

Because I grew up in Denver before it had a major league baseball team, I didn’t begin my ballpark quest in earnest until after college.  Tiger Stadium was the exception.  I visited it twice on visits to relatives in Detroit.  I was ten and twelve.  And while I had been to a few Denver Bears and Denver Zephyrs games at Mile High Stadium, my only two childhood major league games were at Tiger Stadium.  Because I was a kid, I can’t give you a fully accurate description–I just thought it was incredibly cool.  I didn’t notice it was in a horrible neighborhood–in fact, I wandered out to the concourse alone during a rain delay to look at the skyline.  I didn’t pay any mind to the 1912 architecture and the beams that obstructed my view from the second deck down the left-field line–I had nothing to compare it to.  This sounds cliché, but what I remember of the stadium was all that gorgeous grass.  Also the funny stuff on the scoreboard.

There was a very long rain delay, which means I got to hang out with my aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandmother for a while watching highlights of the 1979 World Series.  I remember thinking it strange that the umpire would stop the game in the middle of an at-bat and not wait until between at-bats.  The rain delay was awfully long, as was the game, which didn’t finish off until 12:51 AM.  I laughed out loud when the PA announcer said:  “The next Tigers home game will be against the Boston Red Sox…tonight.  Drive carefully.  Good morning.”

My cousin Joe–maybe six or seven years old?–clued me in that Richie Hebner was the absolute greatest player in world history.  When Hebner came to bat in the third inning, Joe shouted from our upper-deck seat:  “Keep your eye on the ball, Richie!”  Even at ten, I found such advice to professionals to be superfluous and silly.  Or was it?  Hebner homered.

I faintly remember heading out to the concourse hoping to buy a pennant and finding I didn’t have enough cash for one.  But the hawker–a teenage kid–talked me into buying a pencil with a pennant on the end of it.  At first, it felt like a poor substitute for the real thing, but I was glad to leave with something.

I went to the 1982 game shortly after visiting my great-grandmother in the hospital.  She was 90 and a bag of bones.  I knew she was a baseball fan and a Tiger fan, but only after talking to her in the hospital did I realize quite how hard-core she was.  She not only knew that the Tigers were playing Oakland, but said something like:  “Every team has their really good players, and they have Henderson.  He’s really something.”  Not bad for a woman born in Kaliszka Gubernia, Poland.

I’m not 100% certain, but I may have tried to score the game when I was 12.  I remember copying the names, anyway.  Maybe I just wrote the home runs down.  No evidence survives.

In short…I have little memory snippets–mostly of the games–but Tiger Stadium will always hold quite a bit of sentimental value for me.  I have no memory of its many problems…just memory of excitement, family, and two good games.

BASEBALL STUFF I SAW THERE:

Looks like I saw Fred Lynn hit a home run.  Jack Morris and Bob Ojeda started my first ever game, but both were driven out early–Ojeda without getting an out.

Rickey Henderson stole a base in the game I saw in September 1982–his 124th of the season, extending his record in the year he stole 130.  I think it was the first inning–he was walked and stole second, but Lance Parrish gunned him down when he tried to steal third.

Dwayne Murphy hit a home run off of a light tower on the right-field roof.  I remember the sound of that.  Crack–fffsssssssssssssss–ping!!! (Okay, maybe the “fffsssss” is added only in my memory.)  The crowd was so surprised and impressed that we gave him a polite golf-clap ovation as he ran around the bases.  There can’t be too many people who have done that in Tiger Stadium’s 87 years.  If the light tower hadn’t been there, I don’t know where Murphy’s shot would have landed…I swear it was still going up.

Lance Parrish, one of my favorite players as a kid (because of these visits to Tiger Stadium, I grew up a Tiger fan), hit a homer in the Oakland game.