Buy a hot dog at Comerica Park these days, and, if you’re sitting in the upper deck, you may get a dose of opera along with the mustard. The Tiger organization tried to shut him up back in 2004, but eventually realized that Charlie Macuse, whose remarkably operatic voice is equaled only by the infrequency with which he sings a recognizable tune, was the closest thing the new ball park had to a home-grown mascot. But, however much they hype him, Charlie doesn’t quite hack it. Even Paws (and for those to the south of us, Muddy) can’t hold a candle to the real thing.
They’ll never CATCH UP, ’cuz they can’t cut the MUSTARD!!!
How, I wonder, have the Detroit Tigers won anything in the years since Joe Diroff, The Brow himself, hung it up.
In the relatively intimate confines of Tiger Stadium, everybody knew him. Sweating in the sunshine of a day game or wandering about in evening shadows, his uniform was the same – white shirt and tie – a cloth hat or a raincoat as the weather dictated, and always in his back pockets or in his hands, some sort of prop. The most frequent were a yellow plastic mustard bottle and a red ketchup dispenser, there to be waved insistently at the fans as he made his rounds. If it wasn’t ketchup and mustard, sometimes it was an old-fashioned bicycle pump: “Let’s get pumped up!” Or a plastic banana: “Let’s go bananas!” Or when the Tigers had a chance to sweep a series, The Brow would have a broom.
You couldn’t not hear him. Maybe those stentorian tones came from 30 years worth of teaching seventh grade math, or maybe he honed them raising nine children of his own, but everybody knew what they were supposed to do. It didn’t slow him down if the team was behind. That ketchup bottle was a switch hitter. “Catch up! It’s time to catch up!”
It wasn’t just the Tigers who got Diroff’s support. Every team in town knew him well. Most gave him free stadium or arena passes. He went on the road, too, but quit taking in Lions games in Chicago when Bears fans pitched him over the top row of seats into the lap of a pretty girl. The reward wasn’t worth the risk to life and limb. Instead, he made the drive – sometimes even as far as Green Bay, Wisconsin – and saw the team off from their hotel.
In the September of 1987, things were hot for the Tigers. They were headed for the playoffs [they would face and lose to the Minnesota Twins] but first they had to stave off the charging Blue Jays. The Brow’s talents were in great demand, and he gave of them in full measure. Still, that year his greatest moment wasn’t at Tiger Stadium.
In September of 1987, led by delegations from Hamtramck (perhaps the most Polish city in the world after Warsaw) 110,000 of the faithful gathered in the Pontiac Silverdome to share communion with the Polish pope – John Paul II. It was world news, and every television station carried the service. And, as international cameras panned down the aisle, they passed a familiar figure. On his feet, arm in the air, sans ketchup bottle but with his accustomed animation, was The Brow himself – cheering the Pope!
The Brow had a stroke eight years later, and then, in 1997, the Field of Dreams finally got its official cheerleader, just the man to tell Cobb and the rest that they had better cut the mustard.