Mar 14, 2009

On Toledo Edison Power, Tiger Stadium, and Traditions

I came across this old manhole cover in downtown Toledo the other day, and the letters "T E POWER" reminded me of how much time has elapsed both since I have lived in this city and since someone plopped down that manhole cover.

The Toledo Edison Company merged with Centerior Energy in 1986, though they still sent out bills with "Toledo Edison" on the letterhead for many years. Then Centerior merged with some other power companies in 1997 to form FirstEnergy, and the electric bills have this new name. However, most local people still call the electric company the traditional "Toledo Edison" or "Edison" just like they still call the Westfield Franklin Park Shopping Center the "Franklin Park Mall," its name before being bought out a few years ago.

Sometimes new names take a long, long time to catch o with the public.

Of course, I grew up only knowing the name Tiger Stadium to reference the old ball park at Michigan and Trumbull where I watched so many games as a kid. As an avid reader of baseball programs, I knew on an intellectual level that the facility and its forebears used to be named Bennett Park, Navin Field, and Briggs Stadium, but I never heard any old timers say something like: "Let's go to Briggs Stadium and catch a game."

No way, man: it was always Tiger Stadium, and the place will forever have a cherished corner of my heart.

My favorite memory of Tiger Stadium, by the way, does not involve the 1968 or 1984 World Series Championship teams, though I certainly have some memories of each team from those years. No, this was the night of July 3, 1976, the day before the Bicentennial celebration, and there were fireworks and music after the game that would turn even the most cynical person into a flag-waving patriot.

Left: The Bird

But I did not go to the game for the fireworks. Instead, my dad took us to see Mark "The Bird" Fidrych pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in front of a crowd of over 51,000 screaming kids and their parents.

I closely followed The Bird's season, and I clearly remember watching him pitch his very first game, which was a 2-1 victory over Cleveland on a Saturday afternoon. This was a televised game, and as a 12-year-old, I began to idolize the quirky, lanky righthander who captivated the baseball world with his good-natured antics.

In looking over the box score, I see that Fidrych only struck out four Orioles on that summer night, and the passing of 33 years has me believing he must have struck out 20 or more batters. Still, I remember the rumbling of the building from the stomping feet, and the loud cheers that accompanied every 1-2 and 2-2 pitch The Bird hurled. From the amount of noise, you would have thought he struck out the side nine straight innings.

This was a marvelous 4-hit shutout and a complete game, no matter if The Bird only fanned four hapless Baltimoreans. Fidrych went on to win the AL Rookie of the Year in a 19-9 season that was the only bright spot on an otherwise poor 74-87 Tigers season.

The fireworks? Meh - I had seen plenty, and had blown off even more, but seeing Mark "The Bird" Fidrych slaughter the Orioles? Priceless, and the tradition of fathers and sons going to baseball games cannot get better than that hot July evening.


steve said...

It's funny how magical baseball is when you are a kid; and the 70's seem like the most magical erra of all- ..Probably because I was in elementary school for most of the 70's. My favorite pitcher of the erra was Tom Seaver. His delivery was so powerfull that his trailing knee would be stained with dirt from bearing down so hard.

Middle Aged Woman said...

Baseball is still magical to me, and I still occasionally refer to Comerica Park as Tiger Stadium.

microdot said...

I am so damn old, I remember referring to and going to Briggs Stadium.
I still have a ball signed by the 1962 Tigers...Remember Rocky Calvito?