Detroit Tigers Opening Day: A trip down memory lane

Al Kaline and Steve Garagiola

The first time I ever saw the Tigers play was long before my first home opener in Detroit. It was spring training against the St. Louis Cardinals back in the 60s.

I was a National League kid because my dad had played for the Cardinals, but he wanted me to take a picture with the Tiger who wore number 6. I had never heard of him, but my dad told me that someday I’d think it was cool. He was right.

That Kaline guy turned out to be a pretty good ballplayer.

I’ve seen a lot of Tiger baseball in the years since then, and nothing beats Opening Day.
None of us was around for the Tigers’ first opening day in 1901 at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. They beat Milwaukee 14-13 scoring ten runs in the bottom of the 9th.  Now that’s the way to start a franchise. It’s still the biggest 9th inning comeback in American League history.

The largest crowd to see a home opener in Detroit was on April 6, 1971 when 54,089 fans filled Tiger Stadium.  The Tigers beat Cleveland 8-2. 

The most amazing start to a Tiger season was in 1984. Jack Morris threw a no-hitter in Chicago in the first week of the season. The Tigers then came home to win their home-opener three days later. They jumped out to a 35-5 start on their way to a Championship. That was a great year to be a sportscaster in Detroit.

My most memorable opening day was April 11, 2000, the opening of Comerica Park. I was anchoring the morning news here at Local 4. We arrived at the ballpark at 4am greeted by sleet, snow, wind, and ice. First pitch temperature was a balmy 36 degrees. I’ve read that the Tigers won that day... but it’s a blur to me.

We’ve had more good days than bad (in terms of weather) but really, it doesn’t matter. The start of baseball season is unlike any other sport. It’s not merely a game.

It’s a celebration that says we survived another winter. Like the Tigers, we get a fresh start. And, if it’s warm enough that you can smell the grass and the grilling hotdogs... it just doesn’t get any better.

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