As my father, my younger brother and I walked around Comerica Park on Friday night, we noticed the red, white and blue half-circle banners that had been draped around the stadium. Then my father made a poignant comment.
“Those banners can mean one of two things,” he said. “It’s opening day or you’re in the playoffs.”
And that’s when it hit me: The Tigers were playing baseball in October. Not the final-game-of-a-meaningless-series baseball. But playoff baseball.
I mean, I’ve experienced electric atmospheres. I was there when Tim Biakabutuka ran for 313 yards against the Buckeyes in front of a raucous Big House crowd in 1995.
I watched Barry Sanders embarrass the Bears and the Packers on Monday and Thursday night games.
I went crazy for Michigan’s come-from-behind wins over Michigan State and Penn State my freshman and sophomore years.
But none of those moments really compared to the electricity at Comerica Park on Friday night. There was enough to light the entire city of New York for days, which is ironic considering the Yankee lineup (“baseball’s greatest ever”) would later experience a power outage.
Fans lined more than two hours before game time. Two hours. And the crowd looked so anxious, so ready to start the game, that an 11-year-old “Harry Potter” fan waiting for the new J.K Rowling book would’ve looked calmer. Trust me, that’s pretty nuts. Then, the gates finally opened and the fans poured in by the thousands. Vendors didn’t just yell “programs” or “beer,” they bellowed with a robustness not heard at a Tigers home game since Ronald Reagan was in office.
Among those thousands were the three “Bosch boys,” the nickname my mother gave my father, my brother and me. We walked in proudly with our Tiger jerseys and hats, three drastically different ages with two common loves: A love for baseball and the Tigers.
That moment was more than 20 years in the making.
It started when I was born and my father began instilling in me a passion for the game of baseball. I even had my own stuffed baseball (it was really a baseball with a happy face on it, but close enough) and a stuffed tiger. There were countless backyard “bullpen” sessions and trips to historic Tiger Stadium, followed by visits to the brand-new Comerica Park.
Then, nine years ago, my brother was born. While my father continued his traditions of going to the games and playing catch with me, he began indoctrinating another little Bosch, slowly but surely. When I outgrew the catching sessions and couldn’t go to as many games, my brother stepped in to fill that role.
Those Tigers games and endless nights playing catch in the backyard came down to Friday night. All my brother and I knew before this season was losing while my father had a taste of championship baseball before it was taken away from him by aging stars and inept front office decisions. But none of that mattered on Friday night. Not to us. Not to the fans. And definitely not to the Tigers.
Through the concourse we walked side-by-side, like Dorothy and her friends walking down the yellow brick road. And even though we weren’t going to see the Wizard of Oz, even he couldn’t have given us a better experience.
With blue towels in hand, 43,000-plus fans booed mercilessly as New York’s roster was announced before the game. And they cheered relentlessly when, after 19 years of anguish, the Tigers first took the field in front of their home crowd as a playoff team
It was a picture-perfect night, and the game hadn’t even started.
As for the game itself, I’m sure you’ve seen the highlights. Sean Casey’s single to right field to score the Tigers’ first run, Kenny Rogers striking out Bernie Williams and Robinson Cano back-to-back to quell a Yankee threat in the fifth, Curtis Granderson’s monster home run in the seventh and Todd Jones’ strikeout to end the game.
It was all amazing. But the best part of the experience came directly after the final out, when my father, my brother and I – who were jumping up and down and screaming – embraced in a hug.
When that happens it can mean one of two things: You’ve scored opening day tickets, or your team has won in the playoffs.
– Bosch would like to announce that those wearing pink hats and those over the age of 13 wearing baseball gloves were being just as loud and raucous as he was. If you’d like to tell him about your playoff experience, e-mail him at email@example.com.