Photo: Detroit News

Road trip, thy name is trepidation.

What’s the source of this dread I’m feeling? It’s not the fact that I left my Alphabet City apartment in the predawn dark on Tuesday and pointed the snout of my rust-bucket 1989 Mazda west toward my hometown, Detroit, 600 miles distant. It’s not even the sheer lunacy of my day’s itinerary — across the George Washington Bridge and the Garden State, then over the corduroy hump of Pennsylvania, and finally across that enormous dinner plate of a battleground state called Ohio.

All of this just to go back home to see my beloved Detroit Tigers take on the Yankees on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

(Wait a minute, you’re thinking, a man in the 21st century wants to get from New York to Detroit to see a baseball game, and he drives? Well, yes, because I was born and raised in Detroit, and when a Detroit guy wants to go somewhere, he gets into a car and drives there. It beats showing up at La Guardia six hours before your scheduled departure and then being treated like a criminal. I rest my case for keeping my wheels on the road.)

Most surprising of all, my dread is not coming from a feeling that the Yankees’ batters are going to wake from their collective coma and start Ping-Ponging hits all over the park.

No, my dread comes from something much simpler, a question: What if my very first visit to Comerica Park stinks? What if the successor to Tiger Stadium is a “cookie cutter,” as I’ve heard it described? What if the fans are obnoxious? What if the whole experience is just another dreary episode in The Great Overpriced American Racket of Keeping the People Entertained?

To fully understand my anxiety, you need to understand that I grew up in Detroit in the 1950s and 1960s, attending baseball and football games at a glorious old pile of a stadium that hosted its first game in 1912, a few weeks after the Titanic sank. It was called Navin Field back then. When I first visited, it was known as Briggs Stadium, and the name was changed again in 1961 to Tiger Stadium.

It was a great green open-air room that held about 50,000 fans but somehow felt intimate because everyone was close to the action. The stadium was enclosed, meaning you couldn’t see anything but the game that was being played before your eyes. The world went away for a few hours when you were in that place, and that was a big part of its magic.

If you loved the Tigers in the years of my youth, it was a given that you also despised the Yankees. In the first decade of my life, the Yankees won the American League all but two times — in 1954, when Bob Feller and the Cleveland Indians awoke, briefly, and in 1959 when the Chicago White Sox had a rare and uncharacteristic summer of success.

Click HERE to read the full article on The New York Times!


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