Jim Northrup passed away yesterday in Holly, Michigan, and the baseball world lost a legend in his own right. Dubbed the ‘Grey Fox’, Northrup was born, attended college, played baseball, and passed on all in the Great Lake State of Michigan. He was born in the farming town of Breckenridge, and attended Alma College where he was a five-sport athlete. Not only did he play baseball, but was the quarterback for the football team, played basketball, ran track, and was on the golf team. His first love was baseball, and he signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1961 after turning down offers to play football for the Chicago Bears and New York Titans. Northrups best season with Detroit was in 1968, when he hit four grand slams in the regular season and one in the playoffs. He also helped the Tigers win the 1968 World Series over the Cardinals with a two-run triple of Bob Gibson in game 7. He patrolled the outfield of Tiger Stadium with fellow great Al Kaline, Mickey Stanley, and Willie Horton. His playing time increased during the ’68 Series when Stanley was moved to play shortstop. Northrup also played a short time with the Expos and Orioles, but retired after the 1974 season. The kids and I were lucky we were able to meet him last year at a baseball card show downstate. He looked so different from his baseball card at this time, I don’t think Lily and Trevor realized they were meeting the same guy. Northrup was so nice to them, though, and loved talking baseball with his fans. His playing days were well before my time, but as a fan of baseball and the Tigers, meeting him as a real thrill.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
It was a beautiful day for baseball, so I packed the kids up and took the long trip back down to Grand Rapids to give Brian his first taste of Whitecaps baseball. This was a little new to him, with a bigger crowd, so I decided to get a harness so the little guy couldn’t just run off on us. He did pretty well, but wasn’t real happy that he couldn’t run free when he wanted to. A couple of the pics will show him pouting a bit, but he has happy to watch baseball, as were Lily and Trevor. I was Sunday, so we were able to get onto the field, but opted to play catch rather than stand in line for autographs. The kids liked playing catch with me and their Papa (three kids at a ballgame is tough, so I’m glad my dad was there to help out, too). It was fun to be on the field, but they wanted to play on the playground there, too, until the game started. It was pretty hot by our standards, so we ended up pouring cold water on each other and the kids had some ice cream to cool them off, too. We got seats at the very top row on the isle because I knew we’d be getting up and around a lot with the little guy. I hate it when people are constantly getting up and interrupting the game, so I wanted to show some courtesy. Even though we were higher up, there’s no bad seat in the house, and kept us out of the sun under the over hang. It was Autism Awareness day also, so the ‘Caps wore special jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. The Whitecaps’ bats were as hot as the weather, as they pounded out sixteen hits in the game. The kids were a little too tired to run the bases after the game, but we had a great time and look forward to more game together. Next month is Star Wars night, so that should give us a memorable night. Final score: Whitecaps 10, Kernels 3.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Fort Wayne TinCaps: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a Whitecaps game as part of our baseball trip, and it was good to be home back in Michigan. On the plane waiting to fly home, the pilot announced the weather in Grand Rapids as 77 degrees and sunny. When we arrived and hour and a half later, it was 69 and raining. I swear these storms have been following me around all week like some really bad Jaws movie (see: Jaws- The Revenge). You could also tell we were back in Michigan as I ran into an old friend from Battle Creek, as the Kelloggs employees were occupying the party deck in right field (Fact: I played Little League Baseball for Kelloggs when I was younger). After only a thirty minute rain delay, we finally got things started. It was Military Appreciation Night, so the ‘Caps were wearing special camouflage jerseys, we saw a WWII Vet throw out the first pitch, and had a fly over by some older military planes. It actually turned out to be a really nice night for baseball, and we were able to shed our corny yellow ponchos and enjoy the game. Despite the weather, 7, 313 fans were in attendance, but we were still able to get our free Whitecaps camo hats at the gate. The game was exciting, but error filled, as the young West Michigan team lost to Fort Wayne. It was a long trip, and we were happy to be home with all of our baseball memories. I’m already hard at work on the early stages of planning for next year, and we’ll be down to see the Whitecaps a couple of more times this season. Final Score: Whitecaps 7, TinCaps 9.
New Britain Rock Cats vs. New Hampshire Fisher Cats: New Britain Stadium-New Britain, CT
We had a really nice drive from Boston down to Connecticut. The weather was beautiful..until we got to New Britain, and it starting raining and lightning. I’m thinking, ‘Wow..here we go again’. Lucky for us the rain finally stopped, and the game between the Rock Cats and the Fisher Cats would take place. This would be our third Eastern League game on this trip, and our second time watching the Fisher Cats. If you’re planning on attending a game in New Britain, though, I advise you to leave plenty of time before the game starts. It took us almost forty minutes to get off the highway and into the parking lot. They have the most inefficient method of parking cars I’ve ever seen at a ball park. By the time we got into the stadium, the game had already started, which, along with the impending rain, put me in a sour mood. We got our shopping done and found our seats, which were pretty good. The weather again must have scared off a lot of fans, because the crowd wasn’t all that huge, but better than the other games we were at. New Britain Stadium was a nice place to watch a game, and I can’t imagine there is a bad seat in the place. It really didn’t seem as fan friendly as the other parks we’ve been to, either. Being in New England, maybe the fans aren’t too excited about the Rock Cats being a Minnesota Twins affiliate, but it seemed like a dull crown for a Friday night. I go again if I was in the area, but would rather catch a game in Manchester or Portland if given the choice. Final Score: Fisher Cats 6, Rock Cats 2.