The sight of a bat boy high fiving a major leaguer at home plate following a four bagger has for generations made young fans at the ballpark as green as the outfield grass.
I certainly will never forget sending a letter to the Detroit Tigers in the late 1960s asking if I could become a bat boy.
The plea — as you can imagine — went into the circular file along with many others I am sure.
However, former Tiger bat boy Dennis Clotworthy, 56 of Macomb, Michigan has provided the next big thing.
In an often moving and insightful account, Clotworthy shares his experiences serving as a clubhouse attendant and bat boy during the early 1970’s at Tiger Stadium with his recently released book, Al Kaline’s Last Bat Boy. (Wyndwidyn Press, 257 pages)
Raised directly across the street from the famous ballpark, Clotworthy, with his Corktown neighborhood buddies, chased foul balls hit out of Tiger Stadium and snuck into games, and served as a junior usher at the 1971 MLB All-Star Game before being hired at age 15 as a visitor’s clubhouse attendant and bat boy in 1972.
Clotworthy fondly remembers serving as the California Angels’ bat boy when Nolan Ryan threw his second of seven no-hitters in 1973 before being reassigned to the Tiger clubhouse, where in 1974 and 1975 he worked as the last Tiger bat boy for 1968 World Series Championship heroes Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Jim Northrup, and Gates Brown.
Among his numerous and often humorous stories, Clotworthy recalls Jim Northrup hitting golf balls out of Tiger Stadium, walking Norm Cash to a taxi when the popular slugger was suddenly cut from the team, seeing Ron LeFlore walk into the Tiger clubhouse just a few months after being released from Jackson Prison, hitting a “home run” during batting practice before nearly getting beaned, being taken to the Chicago Playboy Club by Aurelio Rodriguez, and working as the bat boy in Al Kaline’s last game as a Tiger.
Clotworthy subsequently worked at the Tiger Stadium mail room and ticket office before leaving the team in 1985. Today he is the owner of Decade Concepts in Auburn Hills, a printing company.
For a Detroit Free Press feature I wrote on what it’s like being a Tiger bat boy, I asked Dennis what his favorite part of the job was. He responded:
“Being on the field was great and hearing fans say they wish they could be a bat boy,” said Clotworthy. “But the best part took place in the clubhouse with the friendships I made and the constant joking around. It was such a great atmosphere, especially after a victory. I was paid only $12 dollars a game and often worked from 11 AM until 1 AM the next day. But I’ll admit something now. I would have done it for nothing.”
The soft cover edition of Al Kaline’s Last Bat Boy is available for $16.99 and the hard cover for $24.99 at www.alkalineslastbatboy.com, Amazon, and Ebay.