In August 1988, I was a member of the Ohio National Guard and served as a military police officer. During that summer my unit was at Camp Grayling, MI for training. Some of us were lucky enough to drive our personal vehicles instead of traveling to and from Michigan in the company convoy. I was one of the lucky ones.
The night before we were to return to Ohio, my buddy who would be riding with me noticed the Tigers were playing the Red Sox on the Saturday “NBC game of the week”. A plan was quickly formed. My buddy along with two other friends driving in a second vehicle would go to Detroit and see the game instead of returning to the armory ahead of the convoy. I had never been to a Major League Baseball game and was looking forward to seeing the Tigers and Tiger Stadium.
Saturday morning arrived and so did bad news. Our other two friends that were going in the second vehicle got nabbed for cleanup duty and were not going to be able to make it to the game. My buddy and I decided we would go it alone and come up with an excuse as to why we couldn’t make it back to the armory before the convoy.
We drove into Detroit and found our way into Tiger Stadium. A bleacher seat cost me a grand total of $4.00. After we took our seats in the bleachers, my buddy said he wanted to look around and left me. I was sitting all alone thinking we’re going to get caught playing hooky. I had visions of NBC’s cameras zooming in on us and the jig would be up. Just then, a hand grabbed my shoulder from behind. I thought how could we have been caught so quickly? I turned around expecting a scowling sergeant only to see my other two friends had made it to the game on time after all. What a relief.
My friends asked if we had called the armory to tell them we weren’t going to make it back before the convoy. The answer was no. We hadn’t come up with an excuse. My other friend who was driving said he’d call the armory and tell them his car had broken down and we stopped to help. I’ll never forget his call to the armory from the concourse, fans cheering in the background, claiming he was broken down on the side of the road. The baseball gods were smiling upon us, because the sergeant bought it.
I watched my first Tigers game that day (the Tigers beat the Red Sox 3-2) and have been a Tigers fan ever since. The following year my unit was sent to Honduras and the one non-issue article of clothing I took with me was my Tigers baseball cap. I still have the ticket stub from that game and will never let it go.