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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 4, December 2012

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Ed Markowski
Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.A.


Detroit' s Summer Of Love

Prior to the Summer of 1967, we played pick-up baseball every day. With an explosion of baby boomers in the neighborhood. Finding eighteen players was never a problem. All summer we would play quad headers from mid morning until we couldn’t see. The whole thing was great, a league of our own. No parents. No umps. We could light a Kool or a Marlboro without fear of retribution. We could chant, sing, and shout . . . fuck, goddammit, bullshit, son of a bitch, prick, and asshole without having to explain why to the shadow on the right side of the screen in the confessional caskets at St . Augustine’s Catholic Church. None of us played organized baseball, but that wasn’t due to a lack of talent. We just preferred the freedom of organizing, playing , and umpping the games far beyond the sight of authority and supervision. Bruce, Gary, and Dale Garmen, all excellent players, kept impeccable stats. Batting averages, rbi ' s, stolen bases, doubles, triples, homeruns, era' s, walks, strikeouts, and wild pitches. The neighborhood girls knew where to find us. There were plenty of days when a standing room only crowd of fifty breeze blown pony tails swayed and swooned in the rickety bleachers behind the rusty chain-link backstop. We had created our own corner of heaven at Blue Star Park on the east side of Detroit.

In April of 1967, I decided to try out for the St. Augustine Darts. I pitched and played third base. Denny McLain had become my baseball spirit guide. I adopted his high leg kick, his slow curve, his side arm and overhand fastball, and his "try to hit this motherfucker" attitude. I made the team with ease. I was the starting pitcher in thirteen of the twenty regular season games, played third the other seven, hit .433 , and was the starting pitcher in two of the four East Side Catholic League playoff games we played. The 1967 St. Augustine Darts finished third in the city. I was 15 that Summer. My sister Laura had finished her first year of college, and our baby sister Carol was five. My father never came to see me play. He worked the afternoon shift, and that was more than fine by me. During the second week of July, our parents and our sister Carol went on vacation. I remember coming home after a game (against the Living Waters Baptist Oaks . . . our coach Mr. Reed told us before the game, “boys, those Baptists hate the Pope, they hate Father Bretz, and they hate all of us because we' re Catholic ." ) and walking in on my sister Laura, my brother in law Walt, Karen and Denny, Chris and Susan, and Paul and Darlene sitting around the kitchen table smoking hash, talking SDS, Jim Morrison was ranting, “We want the world and we want it NOW!” After the Doors, there was Rubber Soul, The Electric Prunes, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Highway 61 Revisited, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Mitch Ryder, and more until five in the morning. Laura didn’t have to say a word; she knew I could keep a secret. Our parents and Carol came home three days later. On Friday July 21st, my father and my Uncle Stan went to the Upper Peninsula to visit some old hunting buddies. On July 22nd, my Ma made the best pizza I’ve ever eaten to this day, and Annika, the All Scandinavian Girl Next Door and I made out in the basement for the first time while Smokey and The Miracles sang More Love over, and over, and over, and over again.

On Sunday July, 23rd, the Tigers played a day game at Tiger Stadium. Mickey and the Yanks were in town. I had heard a voice on the radio say that the cops had “Quelled" a "Civil Disturbance” that had flared up “After the Detroit Police raided a Blind Pig on 12th Street." 12th street is two blocks West of where Tiger Stadium stood at the time. The radio voice went on to say, "The Detroit Police Department has the situation under control. Our parents taught my sisters and I how to catch, ride, and transfer city busses. Our school was 22 blocks from our house. In bad weather, we rode the Nevada Street Express. So, at 11:30 that Sunday morning . . . John, Randolph, Glenn, a kid we called Flea, and I rode the Nevada Express to Woodward Avenue. We took the Woodward bus to Michigan Avenue, and walked the last six blocks to Tiger Stadium. We heard sirens, we saw smoke rising in the West. We didn’t think about anything other than seeing Mickey Mantle. That day, the Yankees had five African Americans in their starting line-up. Roy White played third, Horace Clarke played second, Ruben Amaro at short, Bill Robinson played left, Elston Howard was the catcher. And . . . a guy named John Kennedy replaced Roy White at third in the 7th inning . The Tigers had five African Americans on their entire roster. Lenny Green played left that day, and Willie Horton pinch hit late in the game. The other African American players were: Gates Brown, Earl Wilson, and Jake Wood. During the course of the game, smoke billowed thicker and thicker beyond the left field roof. Sirens, sirens, and more sirens, swallowed both the cheers and the boos.

During the 7th inning stretch, amidst sirens wailing in every direction, there was this public address announcement . . . “Bus service from Woodward Avenue West to Springwells Avenue has been suspended." When we stepped back out onto Michigan Avenue, the anonymous voice I’d heard that morning was wrong, way way way wrong, as was the anonymous public address announcer. There was no bus service. We walked home, and we walked past . . .

A man bleeding from his forehead pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with shoes, pants, shirts, and sport coats.

The man who bricked a liquor store window, pulling a Radio Flyer wagon filled with bourbon bottles.

Two kids carrying a Zenith Television.

People streaming in and out of Wing's Dry Cleaners .

Three shirtless kids my age selling bottles of beer, and cartons of cigarettes.

Two women replacing the Cross with sheets of plywood in the window of a storefront church.

A woman in a blue striped dress selling transistor radios for two dollars.

Three men walking down Trumbull Avenue, each carrying a suckling pig.

Two men filling Frosty Root Beer Bottles with kerosene.

Flames shooting out from the red interior of a blue and white 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood.

More windows breaking.

More windows breaking.

Sirens moaning.

Sirens wailing.

Sirens screaming.

People dancing and laughing.

Streaks of smoke banding the sun,

And . . .

A smiling woman in a red dress selling looted American Beauty Roses.

There was no police detail at Tiger Stadium. They were all on 12th Street, Euclid, Ferry Park, Grand River, Clairmount, and West Grand Boulevard. Our little world was spinning out of control. America’s fifth largest, and our beloved city at the cusp of the cliff, on the eve of extinction. Our Magnificent Motor City, settling into the electric chair. On July 29th, the 43rd and final fatality of those six days was recorded.

On the last day of the ‘67 season, the Tigers split a Sunday double-header with the L. A. Angels that they needed to sweep. The night before, one of Vito Giacalone's rooks stomped on Denny's foot. The stomp went down in the parking lot of a topless joint in Flint. Payback for Denny’s delinquency on paying back the jack he had begged and borrowed from Vito's banditos. Denny didn't have it in the second game. The stomp wrecked his pitching rhythm. The Tigers lost the one game that the city needed them to win.

That was the Summer . . .

I went 11 and 2 for the St. Augustine Darts,

I hit .433 in my one and only season in organized baseball,

John, Glenn, and I hung out with Randolph and The Flea for the last time, because by November, our families crossed the great divide and set up camp, in the suburbs,

My brother-in-law to be screamed, "Hell no I won't go."

My sister Laura screamed, "Neither will my little brother,"

The Tigers lost the pennant by a game to a shoe in the parking lot of a topless joint in a city sixty miles north of Tiger Stadium,

Annika and I kissed for a first time that lasted five years,

Jim Morrison yelled to the nation, "This is the end my only friend the end,"

And

That was . . . Detroit's Summer Of Love.

Drought
In The Gardener's Cardinal's Cap
A Dozen Rose Red Bud Bottle Caps

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