By: Kurt Snyder
It seems only appropriate given the rain out in Cincinnati and the unseasonable amount of rain here in Michigan, that I share another story from what I might start calling, The Ralph Snyder Archives.
I was just a young boy at the time, probably 11 or 12, I don’t really remember for sure. But the circumstances are clear. The Tigers had just finished a long home stand and Dad and his grounds crew had spent some long nights at The Corner.
Sometimes, 8-10 game home stands can really take their toll on the guys who have to run the show and take care of the field. And when the team goes back on the road, it’s a welcomed breather for everyone working at the ballpark. Night games during the week meant Dad wouldn’t return home until well after midnight; long, 16-17 hour days.
So, the opportunity to recharge the batteries, relax and enjoy the family for a few days was invaluable for him. And it was great for us as well, because our chances to see Dad at home during the season for any real length of time were few and far between.
After the team left town on a Thursday evening, Dad and crew spent a normal day at the ballpark on Friday getting ready for what was to be a rainy stretch of weather, in fact it was raining already. Looking for a little rest and relaxation away from home, a lot of the grounds crew headed up north for the weekend, maybe up to a cottage or anywhere they could throw a line in the water or hit the links somewhere out of town.
But this will always be the state of Michigan, well known for its unpredictable weather. And this particular weekend more than upheld the state’s reputation. The lesson learned? Never trust Mother Nature. She can have an evil sense of humor. And what a Saturday she had planned for my dad.
He went to bed that Friday night actually looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home watching it rain. The forecast had called for 2 days of rain with little break. So, what woke up Dad on Saturday morning? The worst possible scenario: a cloudless sky and lots and lots of sunshine.
It was late morning and the storm system had completely moved out of the area. It made no sense. Dad opened the drapes in horror; certainly not something you would normally do on a sunny summer Saturday.
But in Dad’s world, this was bad. Real bad. Because downtown at Tiger Stadium, the bright summer sun was burning the tarp covered infield grass.
In a mad fury, Dad started making phone calls. And every other phone call was greeted with constant ringing with no answer from the other end. We were in trouble. Finally, Dad got a hold of a skeleton crew of groundskeepers that luckily had decided to stay in town. There weren’t many, but they would have to do. But he needed just a couple more. It’s no easy task for a small group of guys to pull a tarp off a baseball field that had been sitting in the rain all evening. So Dad called on his boys. But only my brother Kent and I were home. Dad said, “let’s go guys, we gotta get to the ballpark.”
As nervous as Dad was about what would face him when he arrived at the stadium, I could not have been more excited. I was about to help pull the tarp off the field at Tiger Stadium! But I was only 11 or 12, so really how much help was I going to be? And as it turned out, they didn’t need me. But I was there to watch.
Dad and Kent and maybe 5 or 6 of a normally 20+ man crew struggled but ultimately succeeded in removing the tarp from the infield. And Dad’s fears were certainly justified as the hot sun had indeed begun to burn the grass. But luckily, we had caught it in time and it was nothing a little water couldn’t cure.
As much as we couldn’t understand why Dad obsessed so much about the weather, it was an event like this that helped fuel his fear and made us understand his concerns a little more.
Was trusting the weather a risky move? In hindsight, yes. But there was no indication whatsoever that the forecast had any chance of changing as much as it did.
But on this particular Saturday, in the middle of a weekend that was to be showered with a continuous summer rain, the clouds disappeared and the sun baked the earth.
It paints a pretty picture doesn’t it? Well not this time. A beautiful Saturday morning was the last thing Dad ever wanted to see. And Mother Nature would never be trusted again.