The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, September 30, 1993 - 5
Hey, buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks
Schmoozing with Cecil, Mickey and the gang made a baseball fan out of this usher!l writer
By ALISON LEVY
I've never been a cross-training
junkie, but sports have always played
a role in my life. I was raised on
Michigan football. I would accom-
pany my father on recruiting trips
and be quizzed on the finer points of
the game. I played, basketball in
middle school and was a member Gf
my high school tennis and soccer
teams. I watched hockey for the
fights and "Raging Bull" is my sec-
ond favorite movie. However, there
was always one sport I absolutely
detested and had no interest in learn-
ing about: baseball.
Just the mention of itwould make
me cringe. My vision of baseball
was just a bunch of tobacco chew-
ing, wife-betraying yahoos hitting a
ball around in a sport with about as
much excitement and action as cro-
cheting. Unfortunately, this created
quite a problem when I got a job as
an usher this summer at Tiger Sta-
dium. Since the competition was
stiff for the midnight shift at
McDonald's, I talked to my friend
Tricia, a Tiger employee, and she
got me the job. "C'mon," she said.
"It'll be fun."
On the first day, I arrived in my
white shirt and black pants, was
given a bright orange jacket-cap set
and was sent to take tickets. For the
next two hours I greeted guests and
tore stubs, directing people left and
right, all the while wishing I had
gotten my degree in economics or
engineering instead of film. Next, I
was sent to relieve other ushers in
the Tiger Den. Atreat for most, Ij ust
stood along the third base line yawn-
ing and gawking at all these silly
fools who would spend all their time
and hard earned money to come to a
baseball game. How pathetic. Fi-
nally, with the score tied in the bot-
tom of the ninth I turned to a fellow
usher and rolled my eyes. "Gee, I
sure hope this game doesn't go into
overtime," I whined.
"It's called extra innings, dear,"
she replied. Ooops.
Things progressed and I moved
to ushering in the upper deck. I ran
from seat to seat with a wet rag
wiping off the chairs for enthusias-
tic fans who seemed to regress to
childhood when they saw the play-
ers on the field. Secretly I laughed to
myself, "What a bunch of losers."
But they wereavery generous bunch
of losers because they gave me
money for wiping their seats and a
bunch of inebriated, young bucks,
invited me to the bar with them.
They said I lookedlike Sharon Stone.
"Hmlnm. Baseball is getting better
and these fans are smarter than I
thought," I marveled.
It seems, however, that this
money thing was no fluke. You are
SUPPOSED to tip the usher I soon
found out. Please keep this in mind.
It's the PC thing to do in the baseball
world and it makes for happy ush-
From the upper deck things
* moved like lightning and I was
wisked into the den. I stood behind
the Tigerdugout and stopped people
for the pitch. It was a highly skilled
job. Ifaguy was about to pitch I held
up an arm and said, "Please wait for
the pitch," so that people wouldn't
walk in front of others and they
wouldn't get nailed in the head by a
foul ball. It happened once, and I
saw some guy who got hit being
carried down the stairs by a friend.
His eye was already swollen shut
and blood gushed from his nose into
a red-stained rag. Well, that was
The next thing you know I was
pacing back and forth on top of the
Tiger Dugout before the game. John
the field-crew guy told me I should
feel pretty lucky with such a presti-
gious position because up until this
year there were no women ushers at
Tiger Stadium. What? I was amazed.
In this year, One A.I. (After Ilitch) not
only was there the return of Ernie
Harwell and the addition of the di-
verse Tiger Plaza, but gender equality
had reached The Corner. I felt like a
pioneer. I felt special. I felt like a little
part of baseball history.
Patrolling the dugout, I must men-
tion, is a great amount of responsibil-
ity. Not only did I have to keep overly
anxious autograph hounds at bay, but
dugout and how do I get a player?"
they would ask.
I just shrugged. "You'll have to
work on that one on your own.
Another popular question was
"Why don't they sign? Don't they
know the only reason they have jobs is
because of us fans?" How was I sup-
posed to answer that? Sometimes they
sign. Sometimes they don't. Some-
times some signed a little and some-
times everyone signed a lot. A lot of
times, however, there are valid rea-
sons that they don't sign. Let's just
say that not all the autograph seekers
are innocent, baseball-loving kiddies.
Some of them are downright scary,
speaking to the players as if they've
all been great friends for years and
Of course we're all friends, and I'm
really excited for the off season be-
cause I'm hoping we'll get a group
discount at Disney World. Sure.
Mostly, working on the dugout was
fun. I'd get free Bazooka, and plenty
of fun conversation with the bat boys
and the field crew, not to mention
rubbing the top of adorable outfielder
Milt Cuyler's "kiwi-head" scalp be-
fore the game for good luck and a
guaranteed victory. The only stipula-
tion was if it rained even a drop third
baseman Scott Livingstone would
have to sign at least 50 autographs to
seal the win. I think sometimes he
The most annoying thing about the
dugout position was having to watch
ushers and away from this unpleasant
conversation. Someone hits into the
double play and as soon as I see the
out at second I run toward the field
sensing the security guard behind me.
Freedom is at hand as I run through
the gate and onto the gravel. Sud-
denly, however, I am a few feet from
third base and staring at Travis
Fryman. Wait a minute. Shouldn't he
be heading for the locker room and a
shower? Oh my God. Fear and embar-
rassment wash over my paralyzed
body. Finally, I look at Travis and turn
to the security guard shaking my head.
"The game isn't over is it?"
"Nope," he answered.
The guy at first was safe. Some-
how I managed to rush past the laugh-
"You should see him from the
front," added a fellow usherette.
"True," I agreed, "And he's hit-
I started to become knowledge-
able about baseball and even began
practicing for my own call in show.
"If someone like Travis goes to the
All-Star game as a short stop then
don't you think they should play
him at shortstop instead of third?
And why should a perfectly won-
derful boy like Livingstone sit on
the bench when he's hitting clgse to
.300 and plays great at third? The
guy at short stop should go back to
Toledo and put Travis there. Hey, I
want to talk to Sparky about this!" I
would argue to no one in particular.
When there wasn't fascinating
baseball to be watched and I wasn't
brushing up on my box scores or
planning the perfect lineup, there
were celebrities to be seen. Penny
Marshall came to agame and bought
out several souvenir stands. Tom
Selleck was at batting practice. I
even got to meet John Candy. But
the end all and be all of celebrity
sightings came when Chris Isaak
sang the National Anthem and the
Seventh Inning Stretch.
I noticed his drummer having a
cigarette so I sauntered over to
where he was and coyly sipped my
Diet Coke. Within seconds he was
talking to me and I pretended not to
know of his stardom. He informed
me that he was here with Chris
Isaak. He confided that they were
singing "Take Me Out To The
Ballpark," "but Chris doesn'tknow
the words." Quickly I reassured him.
"That's O.K., they put them up
on the screen so you can read along
if you get stuck. Or if you want,
they can give you a piece of paper
with the words on it."
"Yeah," he said, putting out his
cigarette, "But, that's not cool."
"Cool's a state of mind," I said
before walking off. I'm pretty sure
he was impressed with my hip wis-
dom. Right before they went on, he
introduced me to Chris who is 50
times more beautiful in person than
on MTV. I'm not sure what hap-
pened next because I melted, but I
distinctly remember that in the
middle of the song, they turned to
look at the lyrics on the big screen.
Devistatingly enough, as the sea-
son came to an end, so did my job.
But I will always remember the
beauty and peacefulness of the park,
even after it is gone. I will remem-
ber how I saw outfielder Rob Deere
leave the parking lot less than 20
minutes after being traded-while
batting practice was still going on.
And how every time avendor would
yell "Cold beer" I thought they were
saying "Where's Rob Deere?"
I will remember how unfair it
seemed thatthey sent Sean Bergman
with the beautiful square jaw back
to Toledo moments after he fin-
ishedpitching. I will remember how
sad Milt looked sitting on the bench
with his hurt knee, trying to smile
and be friendly. I will remember
how this job made me not fear go-
ing to Detroit. I will remember all
the good friends and interesting
people I met - from ushers to fans
- people I would probably never
come in contact with any other way.
Butmostly, I'll remember when
and why I started to like baseball.
Tony Phillips and Cecil Fielder bond after a great play. This was when they weren't too busy swilling beer and shoving down hot dogs with the ushers, that is.
I also had to keep them from standing
on the dugout or on the seats. Every
day, two hours before the game,
swarms of fans would crowd around
the dugout clamoring for pictures and
autographs. It was somewhat akin to
being a zoo keeper and trying to keep
people away from the endangered
animals. "Cecil! Cecil! Cecil!" was
all I could to hear and"Please do not
climb over the seats. Use the
aisleways!," was all I could say. At
home, my mother would tremble when
she was near any furniture. "Mom,
please do not, ... um, oh nothing." It
was getting to be quite stressful.
Everyday, people would ask the
same questions. "Are they going to
sign autographs? When are they go-
ing to sign autographs? How long will
they sign? When do they come back
out after batting practice?" Every day
my answers were the same. "Maybe. I
don't know. Possibly soon or possibly
not." It was also pretty interesting
when fetching young groupies slith-
ered up and would wave me over with
long orange fingernails to ask impor-
tant questions. "How do I get into the
asking them about personal matters
that don't get coverage in the papers.
Once a chubby little kid ap-
proached and showed me a brand new
glossy he had bought of Cecil. "It's
only worth five dollars now, but if he
signs it, it'll be worth 45 dollars," he
beamed. Suddenly I felt nauseous.
The parents were worse. If they
weren't trying to get autographs dur-
ing the game, they would try a mere
10 minutes prior.
By far my favorite question was,
"Do you know the players person-
ally? Do you hang out with them?"
This was a difficult one to answer. So
one day, while I was sitting on the
sprawling green lawn along with the
other 150 ushers, between opening a
beer handed to me by Kirk, and asking
Mickey to throw another hot dog on
the grill, listening to another one of
Scott's jokes and asking Travis for his
potato salad recipe, I queried, "Guys.
Do you think we're all friends?"
"Of course, Al. Here have another
beer," they replied. Then they slapped
me on the back and marveled at my
silliness in even asking the question.
the same "This Week In Baseball"
twice before every game. I have prayed
many times, for the death of Mel Allen.
But I would watch it six times every
day if it meant I could erase two very
embarrassing moments from my Ti-
ger past. Every Monday home game
was "Run the Bases" where kids up to
14 (even those with mustaches and
beer bellies) were allowed to run
around the field once. My job was to
keep overexcited parents off the per-
fectly manicured grass. Then a smartly
dressed guy with perfect hair just
started strolling across the field. "Hey,
don't walk on the grass!" I yelled. The
man turned around. "Oops, sorry Mr.
Kreuter. I didn't recognize you." Very
Sadly, that was nothing compared
to whathappenedjust two weeks later.
It was the top of the ninth, one out and
the Tigers lead. I was standing next to
a girl from school who was telling me
how she's about to start med school
and remarking about how interesting
it is that I work atTiger Stadium. Ijust
wanted the game to be over so I could
run out onto the field with the other
ing umpire and the cameraman who
was doubled over in giggles. I felt my
ears turn red and sat on the ground
behind the gate. After the game really
ended, I made my way back onto the
field and the umpire came over. "I was
wondering what you were going to do
when you actually got to third and I
had to call a delay of game." I would
have died. When I told my mom what
happened she was disappointed.
"Oh, you could have been on bloop-
ers," she lamented.
"Oh, I could have also been fired,"
The weeks progressed and the Ti-
gers went into a slump, but I was red
hot. One day a woman who traveled
all the way from Dallas to see
Livingstone play sat next to me. "Go
Scotty!," she sang even when he
wasn't close to the ball. "Oh, I just
love him. He's just got the cutest little
Department of Recreational
CROSS COUNTRY RUN
(Team and Individual)
(Distance: 2.25 Miles)