Monday, June 18, 2007
The Detroit Tigers
A huge part of my boyhood in Michigan was the Detroit Tigers. I think it was impossible for them not to be. I don't remember the Tigers ever having spectacular seasons when I was young. In the 1970s, especially the late 70s, they seemed to be in a constant battle for fourth or fifth place with the Cleveland Indians.
But who cared? I lived and breathed the game. The best games to listen to were the night games. I'd hang out with my dad in our garage, the sounds of evening filling the air. WJR 760AM would be on our little portable radio. And then, it would cut through on the speaker: "Detroit Tiger baseball is on the air!" — a mighty roar — and then the familiar march. Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey. Legendary voices calling the plays. Harwell would call the first and last three innings, the baritone of Paul Carey in the middle.
The names of the players are still with me. Guys like Alan Trammell. "Sweet Lou" Whittaker. John Wockenfuss (I'll never forget his crazy batting stance!). Aurelio Rodriguez. Kirk Gibson in the later years. And, of course, Mark "The Bird" Fydrich. His pacing at the mound was the stuff of legend. I think they used to play "Surfin' Bird" or "The Bird is the Word" when he would pitch.
Being a baseball narrator is a true talent. Little did I know how privileged I was to be able to hear such legends as Harwell and Carey.
I did get to some games at Tiger Stadium. The stadium was one of the biggest in Major League Baseball, with a 400+ foot center field. You'd definitely want to sit in the upper deck, as the lower deck was so deep that it was possible to miss the majority of the action. It was quite the big, old stadium of the glory years of baseball.
For years, the familiar Tigers theme music has bounced around in my brain, especially during summer. I've searched for it on the Web, contacted WJR several years ago, and even made posts on Detroit Tiger fan sites. Many were familiar with the theme, but no one knew the name. Last night, the song started playing in my mind again (maybe the haircut from my father was channeling Michigan in my skull). I started looking on Web pages again for a copy of it — the song I haven't heard in more than 24 years. And I found it. On WJR's page under an audio history of the station. I've removed all the extras of the nine-minute feature, down to the core minute. You'll also hear snippets of Harwell and Carey calling a game — most likely from the 1968 World Series, when the Tigers beat St. Louis. You'll hear Al Kaline, long-lover Tiger Hall-of-Famer being name-checked.
Every note, every nuance was exactly as I remembered it.
So, here, I present the Detroit Tigers march from WJR 760AM. One of the most important pieces of music from my boyhood in Michigan.
Detroit Tigers march - Instrumental Version
Detroit Tigers march - featuring Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey