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July 05, 2005 - Image 83

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-07-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



In 1951, Briggs Stadium hosted the All-Star Game and saluted Detroit's 250th birthday.

All
N
Memories

GEORGE CANTOR

Columnist

Baseball legends in the making
in downtown Detroit.

o other All-Star game compares to base-
ball's. It was the original and it's still the
greatest.
The basketball and hockey contests are mere car-
nivals of offense. Football's is a joke.
But baseball is different. People hold up the All-
Star Game's shining events to the light of memory.
They actually contain moments that people treasure.
The greatest pitchers face the greatest hitters, with
both players using all their skills, and there's no way
to trivialize that.
The Tigers rarely were in the pennant race when I
was growing up. But on one Tuesday every July, we
could watch one or two of our local heroes on this
national stage. Al Kaline. Ray Boone. Jim Bunning.
George Kell.
Until Detroit actually made it into its first World
Series of the television age, in 1968, these All-Star
appearances were our greatest moments as fans, and
we shared in the triumphs of the players.
Even as an adult (well, chronologically speaking),
I insisted to my wife that we have dinner in our .
Denver hotel room during a vacation trip so I could
watch Mark Fidrych start the 1976 All-Star Game.
She complied, but in looking back on it, I think she
only did it because she was in the queasy stages of
early pregnancy.
Baseball also does so well at celebrating its past in
these games. No one who saw the 1999 All-Star Game
at Fenway Park will ever forget the sight of an ailing
Ted Williams, in his wheelchair, surrounded by pres-
ent-day stars who were awestruck at his presence. If
that didn't get to you, better stick to computer games.
When I was a kid, the only other times stars from
the two big leagues faced each other was during the
World Series — and that always seemed to be

Yankees versus Dodgers. Trades between the leagues
were rare and restricted and there was no inter-
league play.
The All-Star Game was our only chance to see
Stan Musial face Whitey Ford, or Henry Aaron hit
against Bunning, or Willie Mays try to discombobu-
late the opposition on the bases.
We took it seriously, too. When fans in Cincinnati
stacked the voting one year so that their Reds started
at seven of the eight non-pitching positions, we were
outraged. When the National League won eight
times in a row between 1963 and 1970, we were
disgusted. When Detroit's own Denny McLain start-
ed the 1966 game against Jewish icon Sandy Koufax,
we were seriously conflicted.
My father was at the first one in Detroit, in 1941,
and always described Ted Williams' game-winning,
ninth-inning shot off Briggs Stadium's third deck as
one of the most dramatic things he ever witnessed at
the ballpark.
I can still remember the excitement of the 1951
game here, and the sadness, too. It came just days
after the death of the Tigers' beloved play-by-play
announcer, Harry Heilmann.
I was in the stands when Reggie Jackson sent his
drive off the light tower in the 1971 game. It's gen-
erally forgotten now, but Jackson had been in a long
slump after his sensational 1969 season and was
being written off as a dud. He only made the 1971
team as a late substitution. The monster home run
he hit here changed the course of his entire career
and turned him into a superstar.
Something unforgettable may happen at Comerica
Park this time, too. After an absence of 34 years,
you'd think we deserve that. El

Jewish News columnist George Cantor covered the
Detroit Tigers for four years in 1966-1969 as the base-
ball beat reporter for the Detroit Free Press.

ITN

7/ 7

2005

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