Devoted Tigers fan has followed his team since 1927

David Harris
The Flint Journal

Russell Springsteen remembers the game like it was yesterday.

It was 1927 at Navin Field, the one-time home of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers were playing the Washington Senators.

"I was 9 years old and my big brother took me," said Springsteen, now 90, of Flint Township. "The big field was so green. I'd never seen anything like it."

Springteen recalls the Tigers trailing going into the bottom of the ninth. Then the Tigers scored three runs, including two home runs, in the inning to win.

"I thought it was great," he said. "The crowd went wild."

As the 2009 Detroit Tigers made their first appearance at Comerica Park on Friday, Springsteen is ready for another season.

He has been to at least one Tigers game every year, save for a few years when he was serving in World War II and last year when he was too sick, since 1927.

Through the years he's been to some of the Tigers most famous games.

He was at Briggs Stadium (which later became Tiger Stadium) in 1952 when Virgil "Fire" Trucks tossed a 1-0 no-hitter. In 1999, Springsteen went to the final game in Tiger Stadium.

Springsteen also has some funny stories. When he was 16, he went to a game with some older friends. He hopped into the car and they drove from his native Lapeer to Detroit.

His friends got drunk and he became separated from them.

"I knew exactly where we parked, and when I got to where the car was, there was no car," he said. "They must have gone to bar to finish getting drunk."

Springsteen hitch-hiked and walked to get home.

"When I was walking along (M-24) some dogs would come out and chase me a mile down the road," he said with a laugh.

He finally got home about midnight.

His favorite all-time Tiger is Gee Walker, a reserve right-fielder who played for the Tigers in the 1930s. He was a honorable player, Springsteen said.

Springsteen is a big fan of Comerica Park. He has had a seat in one of the luxury skyboxes for a couple games.

"They serve you food right there," he said.

It was quite a bit different from his first game -- way back in 1927.

"We were in the upper deck," he said. "I felt like I was a mile high."

Springsteen also has became a avid fantasy baseball player. He spends an hour or two each day tweaking his lineup.

"You get a chance to manage," he said. "You can a chance to move (your team) up the standings," he said.

The key to winning in fantasy baseball is pitching, he said.

"You got to spend a lot of money on pitching," he said. "Someone should tell that to (Tigers General Manager Dave) Dombrowski."


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