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With baseball comes fond memories of Tiger stadiums

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By Bjorn Skogen
Special to the Collegiate

Ed and Corinne used to come into the restaurant where I am employed and eat quite often.  They’d come in sometimes two, three, maybe four times a week for the longest time.  Every time they came in I hoped it wasn’t my turn in the rotation not because they didn’t tip, or that they were rude, or because they were needy, rather because they liked to talk.

Ed and Corinne were two elderly widows brought together by fate and destiny.  They’d tell me all the time.  Actually, they told me every time I waited on them.  The same stories about being widowed and how Corinne was Finnish coupled with Ed making a faint whistling noise to himself as though nobody could hear.

“Tell him about how we met Ed,” Corinne would ask repeatedly.  “Can you believe it?  Two friends together in the end.”

Ed wouldn’t drink anything more than non-alcoholic beer with a frosty glass, and he always graciously declined a fresh mug after each beer.  Corinne started with white zinfandel until one day she switched it up to liquor including: bourbon, whiskey, vodka, and even rum when she remembered.

“I’ll have 101 proof whiskey with 7-Up and don’t worry Ed’s driving,” is how she would order.

After two drinks it was story time and they tipped based on how well and how long you listened.  No matter how long or intently I listened I couldn’t muster a tip greater than $10 dollars.  Until one 90 degree July afternoon they came in on a day where I was the only server on and they being the only table there, leaving me with no apparent excuse than to hanker down and listen to the “remember when’s.”

For 20 minutes the conversation continued on in its typical and routine fashion until I brought up the Detroit Tigers.

“Hell, I remember when we would go to Navin Field for $2.50 a game,” Corinne bragged.

“Tell him about it Ed.”

“No, no, Corinne it was Briggs Stadium not Navin Field.  Briggs Stadium.  Right after the war they changed it to Briggs Stadium,” he would reply, shaking his head.

“Oh I remember Al Kaline and Hank what’s his name again?” Corinne would ask.

“I believe it was Hank Greenberg,” I responded with both of them letting out a long: “Ohhh yeahhh!”

I’ll never forget the rest of the 30-minute conversation; leading us to debate how many cigarettes Jim Leyland smokes a game and how Dontrelle Willis talked to himself.  I’ll never forget that moment when they left and I checked the credit card receipt and how they left $20 dollars instead of $10.  I didn’t quite understand why at that moment.

As the weeks drew on and into the fall Ed and Corinne would miss a week here and there, but still came in twice a month all the way until September and they hadn’t been seen in a month.  I hadn’t taken any notice until Corinne came in by herself with dark bags under her eyes and a certain lightness to her voice.  Ed had suffered a mild stroke and was partially paralyzed.  The hospital wouldn’t let him out for his own safety so we all chipped in and got Ed a sympathy card and sent Corinne back with Ed’s favorite: a bowl of chili no onions and with extra crackers.

That was the last time I Ed or Corinne.  Two great people brought together out of loneliness and death and to me through fate and baseball.  On opening weekend this year-just like every year-I’ll stand at the entrance to Comerica with my cap off, back straight, shoulders back and observe a moment of silence in front of the legendary Ernie Harwell statue.  This year I’ll remember to include Ed and Corinne and how it used to be Briggs Stadium and Navin Field.

Bjorn Skogen is a GRCC student and was Collegiate Sports Editor in 2010.