Excerpt: 'The Best Seat in the House'

In hindsight, the 1969 season was probably the wrong one to pick to start rooting for the Cubs. Dad was ecstatic that they were in first place in June, but as a seasoned Cubs fan, he also was wary. And if he was, so was I. In late June, I had to take a weeklong break from baseball and go to camp with Kate in the Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan. Most kids look forward to going to summer camp, but I was of two minds on this. I was excited to go, but I hated to miss a day, much less a whole week, of the baseball season. Dad knew how anxious I was, so he wrote to me three times (and to Kate three times as well), while Mom wrote two letters to each of us. With each letter to me, Dad sent the entire Toledo Times sports section, folded up.

On June 25, 1969, he wrote:

Christy, dear,

Well, the Hens dropped another one and Ike Brown fi- nally got shut out. At least our Cubs won another one but look out for those Mets, they are hot.

Did you know that General Custer made his famous "Last Stand" 93 years ago today?

It is bright and sunny today -- I hope you and Katie are swimming.

Love and kisses, Daddy

xoxoxoxoxo

Dad was right. The Mets were hot. This was 1969, after all. They were so hot that they became known as the "Miracle Mets."

But the fact is, we were growing up as American League kids. Jim and I watched the Tigers every chance we had on their telecasts into the Toledo market, and we listened every night we could to the legendary Ernie Harwell call their games on "The Great Voice of the Great Lakes," Detroit's WJR radio, 760 AM. The Tigers' road games emanated from even farther-flung cities than the Mud Hens' did, places that intrigued me even more, ballparks in big cities I dreamed of visiting someday. But it wasn't just the Tigers. There were games going on all over the country, and I wanted to know the score of each one. I was the kind of child who always stayed busy, who didn't want to go to sleep because I didn't want to miss anything. And here was a world in which every day, many times a day, there was another first pitch. In baseball, there always was something going on.

The Tigers' road swings out west were by far the most enchanting. I had never heard of something important just starting when I was going to sleep. This was exciting to me, and comforting. I wasn't any more afraid of the dark than your average child, but I wasn't any less afraid of it either. The truck that trundled by at 2 A.M. on a busy street near our house always provided a reassuring message that people were still awake and doing something productive as I slept. I felt the same way when the Tigers were on a West Coast swing, which meant their games from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum or the Big A in Anaheim began at 10:30 or 11 P.M.

In his bedroom across the hall, Jim usually fell asleep first while listening to Ernie Harwell; I sometimes would go into his room to turn off his clock radio, then walk into my room and turn mine on before nodding off myself. Mom or Dad came up later to turn off my radio. Harwell must have lulled to sleep countless children night after night in the Great Lakes states in those glorious baseball seasons in the late sixties and early seventies.

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