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VINSON: America's pastime gives son lasting memories

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Though it’s been a couple weeks since the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in four games to win the 2012 World Series, this column should work because the main theme is one that both supersedes and exceeds professional sports, grand though they are.

“It was a Tuesday, the summer of ’66, and Dad came home from work and said, ‘We’re going to the game,’” said Doug Lott, owner of Dr. D’s Sports Pub.

The “D” in Dr. D’s is for Detroit, where Doug was born and raised.

Lott said that long-ago day, “So, I – all excited – got ready, and Dad and I drove over to Tiger Stadium and parked in a parking lot behind Hoot Robinson’s, a popular bar located right at Tiger Stadium.”

As Lott and his dad walked toward the stadium, they stopped at a street vendor, located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street.

“And dad bought me a bag of roasted peanuts,” Lott said. “Man, I still remember how good those peanuts smelled and tasted. Every time Dad and I went to a game, he always bought me a bag of those roasted peanuts.”

Lott remembers the sights and smells of the game.

“Once we walked inside the stadium, there was this great combination of hot-dog smell, cigarette smell, cigar smell, beer smell, all kinds of other smells, nicely topped off by the warm summer weather and excitement in the air, resultant of anticipation to hear the first crack-of-the-bat,” he said. “It was like a total ambience that just can’t be described to someone who never has attended a major league baseball game . . . you have to experience it in the flesh!”

The Tigers faced the Minnesota Twins in that game.

“The Twins had a superstar in first baseman Harmon Killebrew, a powerful slugger who hit tape-measure home runs on a regular basis,” Lott recalled. “We had our own superstar in Al Kaline, an 18-time all-star who was a great hitter, won 10 Golden Glove awards as a right fielder, and was best known for his strong throwing arm.

“The fact that there is a street named after him, Al Kaline Drive, and he is known as 'Mr. Tiger' should tell you all you need to know, regarding his legacy,” Lott continued.

“While I’m talking about Al Kaline, I once saw him – in a different game – throw out the same batter twice in one game," he said. "The batter had managed a couple hits that dropped between first base and right field and should’ve been easy singles – not on Al Kaline’s cannon. Kaline threw out the runner before he reached first, both times. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see him do that."

Then Lott rounded back to his original point.

 “Remember, this was the summer of 1966, and my dad had purchased our tickets for $1.25 a piece. That’s right, Dad and I paid a whopping $2.50 to watch the game,” he explained. “Even though our $1.25 tickets were for seats way up in the bleachers, there weren’t all that many people in attendance that night, which left a bunch of empty seats. Dad and I were able to watch the game from a couple high-dollar seats right behind home plate."

Though he attended hundreds of Tigers’ games over the years, he said there was something extra special about that one particular day the summer of ’66.

“It’s sorta' like everything was perfect,” he continued. “I suppose it boils down to the fact that I was totally happy to be at the game, and Dad was totally happy because I was totally happy. I didn’t think of it like that as a 9-year-old boy, but I do now.

“In addition to other moments, I’ll always treasure that special day, and, too, I’ll always appreciate my dad for it. I hope every father and son can experience a day as grand as the one my dad and I experienced."

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Baseball, Mike Vinson, Sports
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November 12, 2012 at 12:48pm
A cool but heart warming story. And Al Kaline did have a cannon for a arm.
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