How I finally caught my first foul ball after 50 years of going to Tiger games

The author caught this foul ball at Comerica Park on August 7.

Fifty years ago last month I attended my very first Tiger game, and for half a century of attending dozens of Tiger games I had never come close to catching a foul ball…until last Tuesday night.

On a very warm and beautiful evening I took my 17-year old daughter to Comerica Park to see the Tigers face the Yankees. For me it was a special opportunity to spend time with her before she leaves in three weeks to become a college freshman.

As we sat in our seats seventeen rows from the field down the foul line between first base and right field, Kathleen asked me if I had ever caught a foul ball.

I told her that in all my years of going to games I had never had an opportunity to catch a ball and that usually the first person who has an opportunity typically misses it.

The Baseball Gods must have heard me.

In the bottom of the first inning, Yankee hurler Phil Hughes was looking in for the signal from catcher Russell Martin with the Tigers’ powerful slugger Miguel Cabrera standing at the plate. On the first pitch Cabrera hit a foul ball that hooked into the stands between home and first. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson then pulled out another new baseball that had been freshly rubbed with Delaware river mud two hours before game time. Martin tossed it to Hughes as Cabrera stared the pitcher down.

Hughes throws……………Cabrera swings and sends a high foul fly hooking down the first base line towards the stands………….suddenly, it looks headed our way…………the sphere is coming in faster……..the ball is looking bigger………….I stand up from my seat and look back three rows across the aisle as a twenty something puts both hands up to catch Cabrera’s rocket………… bounces off his hands, and ever so lightly pops up into the air………… and softly lands ………..into by hands.

I hear light applause and then I give it to Kathleen who can’t believe that her Dad finally caught that elusive foul ball. We both can’t believe that just minutes before she asked if I had ever caught one.

I’m thrilled, perhaps not unlike what that seven-year old kid sitting down the first base side at Tiger Stadium on July 7th 1962 might have felt had Rocky Colavito sent one into the stands and into those small hands.

For a split second I thought about tossing it back to the guy who missed it. If he was sitting with his little kid, would I have given it to him? (I sure hope so.)

I’m 57 years old so why does catching this ball mean so much to me now?

Is it because for just a brief moment, and in a very small way, I was part of The Show?

Or is it because another fond memory has been created by the magic of our National Past Time?

A Rawlings baseball released from Phil Hughes’s right hand, violently redirected off a bat from a powerful swing by Miguel Cabrera, bouncing off the hands of a complete (and disappointed) stranger, then into my hands before it is transferred into the hands of my smiling daughter…now headed off to college.

4 replies on “How I finally caught my first foul ball after 50 years of going to Tiger games

  • Gary Steinke

    Congratulation Bill! It really is exciting catching a foul ball. I didn’t have to wait as long as you did, my wait was only 44 years (I’m 56). Like you my ball also came from a foul ball hit by the best hitter in the Major Leagues (Miguel Cabrera). I remember reaching as far as I could (I’m only 5’8″ tall)for the ball and as I was coming down with the ball someone grabbed it out of my hand. I grabbed that person by his shirt and told him to give me MY ball. I would have fought for that ball but didn’t need to as the person gave me the ball back. The only thing left for me to do before I die is to see a no hitter. That would be sweet!!!

  • Wilma HarrisThompson

    I am a 75 year old native of Detroit who moved to Illinois in 1947. My Dad took me to see the Tigers play the St. Louis Browns in Sportsmans Park. I didn’t catch a fowl ball but one hit me on the wrist and I took it away from a lady who picked it up. My Dad was surprised because I was so shy. I remember Johnny Groth and Satchel Paige who pitched for St. Louis. Great memories.

  • Joe O'Gara

    Congratulations Bill and Gary…my wait was nowhere near as long as either of you, only 36 years. But on September 28, 2001 I made up for my “drought” – twice. My then-girlfriend (now wife) Sheri and I were attending the Red Sox-Tigers game at Comerica Park with a cousin of mine. Our seats were in the first row over the Tigers’ bullpen, which at that time was in right field. In the 5th inning Bobby Higginson (my favorite Tigers player at the time) hits a ball into the Tigers’ bullpen for his 16th homer of the year. One of the Tigers players in the bullpen tosses the ball into the stands, where my cousin Michael catches it. Michael turns to me, hands me the ball and says “I think you deserve this after all these years!” Imagine that, a home run ball that had been hit by my favorite Tigers player, in my hands. We could have left the game right then and there and I would have been happy. But we stayed for the entire game, and it turned out to be a good thing that we did. In the top of the ninth, Red Sox 2B Jose Offerman hits a fly ball to deep right field that is caught by Tigers RF Mendell Magee (who was substituted for starting RF Robert Fick) for the final out of the game. Magee turned around and tossed the ball into the right field stands several rows beyond our seats. Of course there was a mad dash to retrieve the ball. The three of us stood and watched the chase for the souvenir, which had proceeded to roll down towards us. Yes, I ended up with that ball too. What a night! After 36 years of attending Tigers games at both Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park, I left this game with two baseballs (and a Tigers victory, 4-1). The next day my wife and I attended the Red Sox-Tigers game. I brought both baseballs with me in hopes of getting Higginson to sign his home run ball and maybe getting other Tigers players to sign the “last out” ball. Before the game, Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline was signing autographs with proceeds going to a local police/firefighters charity (this was just weeks after 9-11). I stood in line, made my donation, and asked Mr. Kaline (my all-time favorite Tigers player) to sign the “last out” ball, which he did. I thanked Mr. Kaline and started towards the Tigers dugout in hopes of getting Higginson’s autograph too. I didn’t get Higginson’s signature but that was okay. The Tigers won 7-2 that day. What a way to end a 36-year drought!

  • Rick Roenicke

    Great story! Every kid dreams of one day doing what you have did and like most I have never been that fortunate. And to top it off you were able to share it with your daughter. It doesn’t get better then that!Congratulations

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