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Opening Day

April 12, 2009

Yes, it may be a crappy time to live and work in Detroit, but we have as much hope as anyone in any city has.


It was the best of days; it was the worst of days.

Well, let’s forget for a moment about the worst of days, which involves a Detroit reality check: a lousy, disappointing season last year for the Detroit Tigers, a record win-loss ratio 0-16 for the Detroit Lions, a nearly cataclysmic last few months for GM and Chrysler and major auto suppliers in deep debt and near extinction, and the Detroit City Council, led by the belligerent President Monica Conyers bringing almost as much infamy to the city as ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick did.

When a judge allowed the city council’s rejection of the Cobo Hall compromise legislation that took five years of negotiations between the state of Michigan and the Detroit regional authority, Conyers was ecstatic. She slapped the courtroom table and yelled, “Yes! We won!” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson had a slightly different reaction. “In-friggin’-credible,” he sighed. “What City Council has done is overturn five years of hard negotiation that was Detroit’s last best chance to secure long term funding for Cobo Hall and frankly the North American International Auto Show.”

The auto show and the Detroit auto industry loses but Detroit is the winner, in Conyers’ eyes. I say, let her try to sell the lowest priced houses in America (many selling for the same price as a McDonald’s Medium Fries) to the same citizens from the city with the highest unemployment rate in the country. That’s what I call a win/win.

But close your eyes on Opening Day and smell the newly cut grass at Comerica Park. When Opening Day comes, allow the citizens of the Detroit Metro area to be hopeful. And that’s just what we were when we scampered downtown on a partly cloudy, partly sunny day that thankfully had no rain.

Anything is possible on Opening Day. My son, Kyle and I, parked at the parking lot of the legendary Leland Hotel on Bagley which was built in the glory days of 1927. When we got to Comerica Park, we searched the stones outside the stadium ground but couldn’t find the memorial stones that I ordered in 1999 before Comerica Park was finished. We searched for the three stones: “BLESS YOU, BOYS—SID G & HARRY G,” in memory of my Uncle Sid and in honor of my cousin Harry, “KYLE GOLDMAN—BAR MITZVAH ‘99”, and “KENNY GOLDMAN—A TIGER FOREVER.”

When we sat down amidst the sold-out crowd, we waited to see if they were going to honor my cousin, Harry, as we had heard, as one of 25 who had been to the last 25 Opening Days. That never happened but instead, we honored legendary Tiger player and announcer George Kell who had recently died. We viewed the new logos on both sides of the General Motors logo on the tribute wall under the water fountain which owner Mike Ilitch paid for himself. We stood for a moment of silence for LA rookie pitcher, 22-year-old Nick Adenhart, who was killed along with two others the night before after a drunk driver ran a red light and broadsided their car. Then, three long-time employees of Chrysler, Ford, and GM threw out the first pitches and were hugged by Detroit rock star Kid Rock. And the game finally started.

The Detroit Tigers made it a memorable Opening Day by walloping the Texas Rangers, who had just swept the Cleveland Indians in their opening series. There was great pitching and even better hitting, led by superstar Miguel Cabrera who kept up his torrid hitting pace with a grand slam hit over the left center field wall and another shot that was a few inches short of a second home run. It was one of those games with lots of cheering and smiling under the 54 degree sunshine and very little tension, as we took the lead and kept building on it until the 15-2 final score. My son, Kyle, got a little sunburn on his face but he didn’t care. He was thrilled to be at another Opening Day, his third already by age 22, and I was happy to share it with him. I felt like Ferris Bueller without any guilt. I had taken a personal day to enjoy the hope that a good spring baseball game can bring. The Tigers may not win the World Series but wouldn’t be nice if they did? After the riots of 1967, Al Kaline, Willie Horton, and Denny McLain led the city to an unbelievable come-from-behind World Series win. Why can’t Verlander, Cabrera, Granderson, and Gallaraga lead us this year? If they did, Monica Conyers could once again scream out, “Yes, We Won!” And the rest of the city and Detroit area would join in with her.

            Yes, it may be a crappy time to live and work in Detroit, but we have as much hope as anyone in any city has. We just have to turn back the clock to 1927, the Roaring Twenties, when the Leland was built, and imagine when the city was young, the auto industry was the fastest growing industry in the world, and the Tigers had just let go Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. Yeah, they trailed the league-leading New York Yankees by 27 ½ games at the end of the season, but so what? The world was ours.

            Today, the movie industry is making movies in Detroit. So if Motown can go to LA, Hollywood can come to Detroit. If we don’t become the next movie-making mecca, we still have Mike Ilitch’s Detroit Tigers to root for and if not them, we still have Ilitch’s Red Wings.

            Let’s forget cynicism. It’s been a very hard winter and now it’s Opening Day. Today, in this birthplace of renewal and hope, we can take the time to dream, just dream….




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