Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baseball Place No. 53: Frank Navin's resting spot; and No. 53A: "Dead" Cubs fan at Wrigly Field, seats behind home plate

Josh Pahigian comes right here to Michigan, and I confess it’s to a spot I’ve never visited.

He picks former Tigers owner Frank Navin’s crypt at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield as spot No. 52 in the “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

I’m sure he picked Navin’s crypt because of the two Tiger statues standing guard. But doing a little research, I learned the cemetery has as many Tigers interred than are standing on the Comerica Park Field during gametime.

Aside from Navin, fellow owner Walter Briggs also has a crypt, sans the statues. Tiger Stadium once was called both Navin Field and Briggs Stadium.

Then you have Hall-of-Famers Charlie Gehringer and Harry Heilmann. Rounding out the roster are Vic Wertz, Dick Radatz, Billy Rogell, Barney McCosky, Steve Gromek and Al Cicotte.

“Leaping Mike” Menosky never played for the Tigers, but he’s buried there, too. Golfer Walter Hagen rests there as well.

So someday I’ll have to make it over there and pay respects to this fine gathering of ballplayers.

I did spend time with someone at Wrigley who I thought was about to join these guys in the great beyond.

Alternative place No. 52A: Wrigley Field, seats behind home plate.

Here’s another tale from the archives!

My assignment was to check out a charter school in Chicago that was run by a company setting up a similar school in Flint, where I worked at the time.

It was just a coincidence that the Cubs were in town on the day we were scheduled to be there.It also was just a coincidence that I wrapped up the last interview in time to make it to Wrigley before the first pitch.

These things happen.

What also happened that day was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen at a ballpark.

Since I was buying just one ticket, the Cubs were able to sell me a seat about five rows right behind home plate — among the best seats I’ve ever scored. Chris Berman of ESPN was in the next section.

It was a beautiful May day, and Jon Leiber was throwing against the Braves and future Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine.

Glavine was not at his best that day, giving up five runs including a blast from Sammy before being chased in the fifth. Not that we Mets fans have ever seen anything like that from Glavine.

But the real story took place in the seat in front of mine.

Early in the game, a guy wandered to his seat with a beer in each hand. He looked a lot like the Jim Belushi character in "...About Last Night," wearing a Starter red Bulls jacket and sweat pants.

He didn’t spend much time in his seat, disappearing for an inning at a time to buy more beer and smoke in the concourse — which was fine with me. I was enjoying the unobstructed view of Chipper Jones taking a collar with two strikeouts.

Later in the game, the guy came back and slumped down in his seat to take a nap. I remember thinking, "What a waste of one of the best seats in Wrigley."

As this guy slept, he apparently tried to get more comfortable, stretching out instead of slumping. His arms went out over the seats on either side of him. Keep in mind, Wrigley is an old ballpark with small seats and narrow rows. His head now stretched back so far into my personal space that I had a hard time keeping score in my program.

This went on for an inning or so, with people sitting around me making jokes.

Suddenly the guy’s arms started shaking and bubbly spittle was forming on his lips. I knew this wasn’t good.

Then we heard something spilling and saw a puddle forming under his seat. Did he knock over his beer? No. He was wetting himself.

Now, one of the things I remember best from Mr. Ousteckey’s eighth-grade science class is that the first thing you do after dying is wet your pants — the body just releases everything.

I remember thinking, "This guy is dead. There is a dead Cub fan practically in my lap."

The guy in the seat next to me started freaking out, waving frantically for an usher. One came over and radioed for the paramedic on duty. A lot of people in the section were trying to move away.

I was scared, but apparently had the presence of mind to continue keeping score, as my program would indicate.

The paramedic was pretty calm. He leaned over the guy, poked him a little and said. "Hey, chief. I work for the Cubs. Let’s go for a walk."

The guy -- apparently not dead -- woke up, groggily stood up and started walking with the paramedic. Then he stopped, turned around and went back for the half a cup of beer in the cup holder. He walked off, oblivious to what had transpired. Someone came by with a cup of water to pour under his seat and dilute the puddle.

Apparently these guys have some experience with drunken Cub fans.

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