Notes from Tigers home opener
The first Detroit Tigers home opener in ages without the living influence of either Ernie Harwell or Sparky Anderson wasn't without a reminder of the franchise's no-longer-living legends.
While the Tigers announced months ago, at TigerFest, that they'd wear a black arm patch on their uniforms this season in honor of the recently-passed Anderson, their former skipper, the team also raised a flag in his honor Friday, one that will fly at home games this season.
It won't be the last time they honor Anderson, however.
The team announced Friday that his No. 11 will be officially retired as well, in a ceremony prior to the game against the Diamondbacks on Sunday, June 26. Arizona, as you'll recall, is managed by former Anderson player — and Waterford native — Kirk Gibson, while former Tiger teammate Alan Trammell is his bench coach.
Current Tiger manager Jim Leyland was a longtime friend of Anderson's and was touched by the pregame ceremony Friday.
"It was great to see Lance (Parrish) and Dan Petry — I managed Dan in the minors, in the instructional league, with Lance — great to see two real good, proud Tigers come back in honor of Sparky, their manager," Leyland said. "You certainly think back, I was thinking back during the moment of silence to some conversations I had with Sparky, when I wasn’t his coach, when I was a Triple-A manager. So I went back in time, a little bit, thinking about him. It’s nice that the flag’s going to be up there all year in honor of him."
Another former Tiger from Anderson's watch was downtown for the Opening Day festivities. Former starting pitcher Frank Tanana, the Detroit Catholic Central grad who now resides in Farmington Hills, said his favorite opening day memory was of Anderson.
"Back in the '80s, I was picked to start on Opening Day. When he was asked why I got the chance to, Sparky gave the wonderful answer of, ‘Somebody has to’" Tanana said, tongue in cheek Yeah, thanks a lot, Spark. Thanks."
Tanana, who spent eight seasons with his hometown Tigers, had more fond memories of his former skipper, though.
"I think one of my favorite memories is one time, in spring training, Sparky gave the ‘I’m God’ speech, where, basically ‘don’t mess with me, I call the shots here.’ Until right after that, we went out and had batting practice, and the very first ball hit was a line drive that practically knocked him out. He got hit right in the head," Tanana recalled. "I let about 30 minutes go by, and then just walked into his office, see how he was, and nicely just kind of mentioned to him that he might want to drop the ‘I’m God’ speech, because he just got a warning, and next time, God might be serious, and so let’s let God be God."