By: Kurt Snyder
This is Part 2 of a series I have delayed writing for quite some time. It’s a behind-the-scenes type story if you will, that describes my dad’s firing immediately following the sale of the Tigers to the Ilitch family and then the aftermath and how my dad responded to the disappointment.
See Part 1 if you missed it: https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/beyond-the-fan-perspective-the-ilitch-firings/
“The game just never gets out of your blood,” Ilitch said during a news conference on the infield at Tiger Stadium. “You know when you leave that you`re never going to have that same feeling again.”
Those words had to be ringing in Dad’s ears as he left Tiger Stadium and headed home. I can’t imagine what was going through his mind. It was a day that had begun with so much hope, but could not have ended any worse for him and his career. A 46-year career had ended with a firing.
In the weeks thereafter, Dad continually called Ilitch’s office looking to get time with him. This was a big business move. It wasn’t where the boss sits you down and explains to you why they are going to let you go. Maybe that’s all that Dad needed. I don’t know. I don’t have any idea. But I’m sure the last thing Mike Ilitch wanted was to make any of this personal.
This was not personal. We understood it as a family. But Dad forever considered it cruel. He felt someone with 46 years of service deserved an explanation, not just a visit from someone with a clipboard, marking a check next to his name after breaking the news.
So we all moved on. And Dad divorced himself from all things Detroit Tigers. It was amazing. A man so dedicated to the ball club, so dedicated to his job and so proud of his ballpark, dropped it all just as fast as the Tigers had dropped him.
You see, Dad was one of those people never meant to retire. He would have worked for ever. He had no other interests, other than other sports. He loved the Pistons and Ohio State football. But baseball? The game made his heart pump. And the day he was told to leave, it took the life right out of him.
But my brother, Gary, commented on the site this week, reminding me to talk more about the good and not to concentrate so much on the bad, because there was so much good to talk about. And he’s right, my dad had a great career and it provided so many great memories for us.
For instance in 1999, Dad and his 4 boys attended a Tigers game together. Dad wasn’t working. He was there with his boys to just watch a game. And you know what? It felt really strange. But it felt really good, too.
And nothing would have been more fitting than having the whole family there at the end of that final year, together for the last home game of 1999, the final game at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. It would have offered Dad the perfect opportunity to say good bye, the chance he didn’t get when Mike Ilitch took over. It would have been one big ball of memories all wrapped up for him to take home and cherish.
But Dad, still holding that grudge, still distraught all those years later, refused to attend that final game. We all wanted to go, but none of us did. We couldn’t go without him. My mother pleaded for him to go, but he wouldn’t budge. His pride was too big, still too hurt. And it was a mistake.
It was a magical night at Tiger Stadium. We watched on television. Watching all those old Tiger greats emerge from the centerfield gate was a scene to behold. What stood out most for me was Willie Horton taking his rightful place in left field, immediately breaking down and crying when he arrived there.
Dad should have been there. It was his ballpark. But it closed without him.
Sunday: BEYOND THE FAN PERSPECTIVE – Part 3: WHY NOT THE YANKEES?