The only time I caught a foul ball at Tiger Stadium

The right field corner in Tiger Stadium seen from the upper deck down the third base line.

The right field corner at Tiger Stadium in Detroit seen from the upper deck down the third base line.

I estimate that I went to somewhere around 500 games at Tiger Stadium, starting with Ladies’ Day games in the late 1950s with my older sister (women and girls and boys under thirteen, fifty cents for great upper-deck seats on the third- or first-base side). I remember during one of those games a foul ball was hit into the aisle in front of us, and a hot dog vendor, though lugging one of those huge old steamers around his neck, nonchalantly stuck out his hand and caught it!

The closest I’d ever come after that to catching a ball was when I was sitting in the lower deck in right field in the late 1970s. A home run ball came right to me, but I muffed the catch and dropped the ball.

Though I’d been near lots of balls hit into the stands over the years at Tiger Stadium, I’d never caught one.

That changed in 1993. During those years, the club operated a Fantasy Broadcast Booth. For a fee, you could buy an inning or more and sit behind a microphone in an auxiliary broadcast booth in the third deck behind first base (used as an overflow press box during the World Series and All-Star Games). Not only could you buy time in the booth and broadcast the game live, but you could take home a videotape of your effort.

As a birthday present that year, my family bought me two innings of broadcast time. On Sunday, July 4, I took my son, then nine years old, to sit next to me in the booth. Some of my friends, as was often the case in those days, were sitting in the upper-deck bleachers.

The Tigers were playing Texas. Late in the game, in the second of the two innings that I was broadcasting, Pudge Rodriguez came to bat for the Rangers and hit a sky-high pop up down the first-base line.

I’m broadcasting – saying something like “Rodriguez hits a foul ball down the first base line…” and while I’m speaking I can see the ball is coming straight toward me.

In front of me was a large pane of clear glass, but it ended a foot or so above the ledge where the mike sat, so there was an opening. I simply reached out my left hand through the opening, and the ball dropped into my palm. I didn’t have to reach or strain. It was the easiest catch I’d ever made in my life. The ball plopped softly into my hand like someone was presenting me with a gift.

My friends in the bleachers, who knew I was in the fantasy booth that day, could see me make the catch from all the way across the stadium.

The funny part of the experience is that the cameraman in the booth cut from a shot of me broadcasting to a shot of me holding the ball in the booth and smiling. The catch itself was not caught on tape—the camera didn’t have the time or range to record it. So on videotape it looks completely staged.

But I swear it really happened. That was the only ball I’ve ever caught at a major league baseball game. And I had to get as high up as you could get in Tiger Stadium to snag it.

It was, in every way, a miracle catch.