Tag Archives: Detroit Tigers

Remembering Rudy York

dave and dad computer“Who was Rudy York?” My husband Dave asked his Dad that question on our recent visit to Ontario. Dad, who is 93, lives in the Leamington Mennonite Nursing Home. Sometimes Dad struggles to remember people and events in the present, but his memories of the past are vivid.

Dad with his ball team. Dad is the last player on the left in the back row.

Dad with his ball team. Dad is the last player on the left in the back row.

Dad has always been a fan of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. An avid ball player himself, he treated his five sons to a trip across the border every summer to Detroit to watch a Tigers’ game.

Scan 28It was a ritual he carried on with his grandchildren as well. Our sons attended Tiger games with their Opa too.

   detroit tigers capOne afternoon during our recent visit Dave walked into Dad’s room at the nursing home wearing a new Detroit Tigers cap. Dad commented on Dave’s purchase and he and Dave began talking about their beloved ball team. Dad, who no longer watches television, knew nothing about the Tigers’ performance in the 2014 season but when Dave asked, “Dad who was your favorite Tigers’ player of all time?” Dad thought about it for a minute and answered, “Rudy York.”

“Who was Rudy York?” Dave wondered aloud. Dave is a baseball aficionado and a true Tigers’ fan so he thought he knew about all their star players past and present. He’d never heard of Rudy York. Despite Dave’s skepticism Dad insisted Rudy had been a great Tigers’ player. Dad talked about York’s hitting power. He had played catcher and first base.

That night we were at our nephew’s house and I mentioned the Rudy York conversation with Dad. Our nephew whipped out his phone and did a quick search. Sure enough! Rudy York had been a Tiger from 1937-1945. Dad would have been in his late teens and early twenties when Rudy was playing in Detroit.    

I was curious and did some research. I discovered Rudy York’s photo had been on the cover of Newsweek magazine with the headline “Greatest Slugger Since Babe Ruth.” In August of 1937, during his first month as a major league player, York broke Babe Ruth’s record for the most home runs in a month. He hit eighteen home runs and was responsible for forty four RBIs.

A Washington Post sports writer described the achievement poetically. “The booming bat of 24-year-old Rudy York, Detroit’s late entry into the home run race, spoke in tones heard around the baseball world this afternoon as one of Babe Ruth’s proudest and supposedly invincible records went crashing into discard.”

The men in the conscientious objectors camp in Montreal River

The men in the conscientious objectors camp in Montreal River

 During some of the time Rudy was playing for the Tigers, Dad was working in a lumber camp for conscientious objectors in Montreal River, in northern Ontario. baseball line up conscientious objector camp montreal riverI know Dad played on a ball team in the camp, since he has recorded the names and positions of all the players in an old autograph book.

In the lumber camp bunk house. Dad's on the far left.

In the lumber camp bunk house. Dad’s on the far left.

Were he and his fellow lumberjacks able to get newspapers to keep up to date on Rudy’s baseball exploits?

Dad was a handsome teenager

Dad was a handsome teenager

In 1937 when Rudy York broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record Dad was sixteen and living with his family on Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Stories I found online about other Mennonite families living on the island at the time include the mention of baseball games played at school and in the community. Did Dad and his friends listen to the radio to follow Rudy’s career?

Finding out that Dad had been absolutely right about Rudy York being a noted baseball player was somehow comforting to me. Even though Dad isn’t always familiar with the present when we visit him, he is still teaching us interesting things about the past.

Other posts about the Detroit Tigers……

Tiger Baseball

The Tigers Met the Yankees and We Were There

 The Detroit Tigers In The Pink

 

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The Tigers Met The Yankees And We Were There!

Does my husband Dave look happy?  Well he certainly is in this photo! Our first night in New York the Yankees baseball team beat Baltimore to advance to the American League Playoffs. And guess whom they were going to be playing Saturday night at Yankee Stadium? The Detroit Tigers!
       Dave has been a Tiger fan all his life. He grew up thirty- five miles away from Detroit in Leamington, Ontario. It was a tradition for his family to make an annual trip across the border to watch a Tiger game. It was a tradition we carried on with our own sons on our yearly summer visits to southern Ontario.
As soon as Dave knew the Tigers and Yankees would be playing on Saturday night in New York he went on the internet and bought tickets for us. We headed off for Yankee Stadium on the subway arriving well before the eight o clock first pitch. Dave wanted to get there early enough to watch batting practice.

It was a cold night so we dressed warmly!

Dave bought a new New York Yankees hat so he would fit in with the local crowd. During the game he tried to keep his cheering for the Tigers fairly quiet and low-key so as not to antagonize the Yankee fans all around him. 
Of course you can’t go to a ball game and not have a hot dog so we each enjoyed one before the game .
In Yankee Stadium all the food and beverage stands have a calorie count listed beside every item for sale on their menus. Even the vendors selling in the stands wore large buttons telling customers how many calories there were in their product whether it was a beer or cracker jack. I guess posting calorie counts is part of the American war on obesity and it will probably work. Knowing a bag of peanuts had over a thousand calories definitely made me think twice about buying some. 

Before the game each of the Yankee players came up on the big screen to personally welcome us to the game.
Jenna Ushkowitz, a New Yorker and star of the hit TV show Glee sang the national anthem. While she sang a group of American military personnel unfurled this enormous American flag on the baseball field.
It was an important play off game but the stands in Yankee Stadium were half empty, which seemed kind of strange. Maybe it was too cold for most Yankee fans.

The Yankees really didn’t give the crowd much to cheer about. At the end of eight and a half innings the Tigers were ahead by four runs. When the Yankees had two outs we figured the game was almost over so we decided to leave the stadium since it was already after 10 o’clock. Unless we wanted to pay for a $50 cab ride we had to take the subway and then walk quite a number of blocks back to our bed and breakfast in Harlem. We had been told this was a trip best not made too late at night.

Don’t you think a couple of two- run homers just after as we were walking away from the stadium meant the score was tied? Luckily we got back to our bed and breakfast on time for Dave to watch the end of the game on television as his Tigers pulled out a win in the 12th inning. My favorite thing at the game was the Fan Cam where they turned the cameras on the fans and projected them on to the big screen above the playing field. I loved the look on people’s faces when they realized everyone in the stadium could see them. 

Although we never made it onto the Fan Cam we still had a great time at Yankee Stadium. By the way the next afternoon while we were on a boat out to see the Statue of Liberty the Tigers won again putting them ahead by two games in the series. GO TIGERS!

If you enjoyed this post you might also like these stories about…….

 Visiting Comerica Park to See the Tigers

Baseball in his 60th Year

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Tigers Baseball

On Friday we went to Detroit to attend a Tigers baseball game as guests of Dave’s brother Paul and his wife Shirley. Attending Tiger games in summer is a Driedger family tradition that goes back to when Dave and Paul were young boys and their parents would take them to one or two Tiger games a year. Most summers when we would come to visit Dave’s family in Ontario a trip to Detroit to take in a game was part of the itinerary. If I was at home writing this post, instead of in southern Ontario, I’d include some cute photos I took of our boys when they were small at Tiger games, wearing Tiger shirts and hats. 

Comerica Park opened in April of 2000. When Dave was young he attended games at Tiger Stadium about one mile away from the Tigers’ current home. Comerica Park is quite the place! It has a carousel with thirty hand painted tigers to ride on, life-size sculptures of famous Tiger players, a huge fountain, a ferris wheel with seats shaped like baseballs, five merchandise stores, a food court, batting and pitching cages for fans, and a hall of fame which provides a detailed pictorial history of the Tigers baseball team. 

The outside of the stadium is adorned with fierce-looking tigers holding baseballs in their mouths. They reminded me of gargoyles. Whenever the Tigers score a run you hear the sound of tiger growling. Comerica Park is named after the Comerica Bank which used to have its headquarters in Detroit and donated a cool $66 million towards the construction of the new Detroit stadium .

Our seats were along the right field line. Dave insisted on holding a copy of The Detroit News in his hand while I took this photo—perhaps to prove he was actually in Detroit. Paul and Shirley are looking at him a little askance. Do we really know this strange man in the seats beside us? The stands were packed on Friday night for the game against the Chicago White Soxs.  The Tigers’ star pitcher Justin Verlander was on the mound and he took a shut-out into the eighth inning when Chicago hit a home run. To be perfectly honest we didn’t see that home run because we left after the seventh inning.  The score was already 8-0 for the Tigers by then and we wanted to stop in at my nephew Tim’s house on the way home. He was having all the Driedger cousins over for the evening and we thought maybe we should crash the party for a bit. Our four children had flown out from Winnipeg and Saskatoon in the afternoon and we still hadn’t seen our nephew Beau who had driven down from London, where he is a student at Western University. 

My favorite play of the game was Cabrera stealing second in the first inning. The highlight inning was definitely the 5th when Brandon Inge number 15 led off with a single and scored on a home run. Then later with bases loaded Peralta hit a double that scored three runs.  Paul and Shirley have a soft spot for Inge because of his kindness to their grandson Nash. At a family fun day at Tiger Stadium just after Nash had broken his leg, Inge spent a long time talking to Nash and even signed his cast. 

One thing that struck me on Friday night was how baseball in America is so closely tied to the spirit of nationalism in the United States. ‘Love of country’ is somehow connected with ‘love of baseball.’  Lots of the fans around us had American flags they waved at key points in the game. A member of the armed forces took the game ball out to the mound before the first inning and was thanked for his service to his country. This is apparently a tradition at Comerica Park. Wounded military personnel were special guests of pitcher Justin Verlander at the game. They sat in an elite box and were recognized on the big screen and applauded at one point in the evening. Americans actually sing when their national anthem is being played. Several times during the game we were reminded by the announcer and by features on the electronic scoreboard that the Tigers salute America’s heroes in the armed forces and recognize their bravery and devotion.  It was an interesting mix of patriotism and sport that I don’t think is nearly as prevalent in Canada. 

 

Close to where we were sitting was a brick wall that recognized many of the famous former Tiger players. I captured a few in this photo including the great Ty Cobb. As you can see from the people above the brick wall, it was standing room only at the game on Friday night. 

 

 

I think the hardest working people at a ball game are the vendors. It was so hot on Friday night and they walked up and down the stairs carrying containers heavy with whatever they were selling. They must be hoarse by the end of the evening shouting constantly to encourage the fans to buy things from them. I suspect they don’t have time to even follow the game. 

 

 

 

What next? Well Dave has always said that one of his dream vacations during his retirement would be a trip to visit every major league baseball stadium in North America. There are thirty of them. Could be quite an adventure. 

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