One of the ways I like to blow off steam when I’ve had my head in the books too long is to watch You Tube videos of old NFL and MLB playoff games. Recently, while doing so I made an unexpected discovery.
I’m a big fan of all Detroit sports teams, and one of my most vivid childhood memories is of the Tigers nearly making it to the World Series during the 1972 season. In the American League Championship Series the Tigers pushed the Oakland Athletics to a pivotal game 5, only to be stymied in a 2-1 loss. The A’s tying run was scored by Reggie Jackson, who stole home in the 2nd inning, which resulted in a severe injury for Jackson, badly tearing his hamstring muscle as he collided with Tigers’ catcher Bill Freehan while sliding into home.
It occurred to me that I have never seen footage of that crucial play at the plate, so I decided to look for it on You Tube. When looking it up, I discovered short highlight reels of all of the games in that 1972 ALCS. So I proceeded to watch them in order. As I began to watch the game 3 highlights, I recalled that I actually attended that game with my 4th grade classmate (at Harlan Elementary in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) named David Basile and his father. (David, are you out there?) Detroit pitcher Joe Coleman hurled a gem in that game, and the Tigers won 3-0.
I also remembered that we had good seats, directly behind the Tigers’ third-base dugout. It was a weekday afternoon game (all playoff games were played in the afternoon back then), so there were not many kids in attendance, as this meant skipping school (which we were happy to do, though not without our home room teacher’s permission. Thank you, Mrs. Knight!)
Anyway, as I watched the highlights of the game, I made a mental note to keep a lookout for myself in the crowd in the unlikely event that there were some crowd scans behind the dugout where I was sitting. Well, as it turns out, there were. And, sure enough, I found myself in a brief moment during Detroit Bill Freehan’s trot around the bases after hitting a late game home run. Here is the video, and to the left is a still from around the 3.29 mark. To the right of me is my friend and his father next to him—both of them are looking up for some reason, while I seem to be looking right at the camera.
While I was exhilarated by the Tigers’ victory that day, their ultimate demise in the series crushed my 9-year-old psyche (especially because the Tigers were robbed by a bad call in the 4th inning of their 2-1 game five loss—check out the bad call in this video starting at the 1.38 mark). I was far too emotionally invested in all my Detroit sports teams, and I think I’ve carried this into adulthood. (As Wordsworth said, the child is father to the man.) So each time the Tigers eliminated the A’s in the playoffs decades later (three times in the last decade), this was therapy for me, after carrying the wound of that ’72 series with me all these years. And it is further consolation to have found a brief glimpse of myself, a face in the crowd, in that game three highlight reel.