Photos by Larry Edsall
The fellow wearing a gray-striped T shirt, baggy long shorts and flip-flops pulled his head out from under the open hood of burgundy-colored 1952 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe. His blond hair was shaved and he wore sunglasses, but his long goatee gave him away, at least to my 12-year-old grandson, who took his baseball and Sharpie and walked over to ask for an autograph.
“That’s Phil Coke,” Nick told me.
For those of us who don’t pay such close attention to the runs, hits and errors of every major league baseball game, Phil Coke is a relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. He started his career with the New York Yankees but was traded to Detroit in 2010. In 2012, he set a World Series record by striking out the first seven batters he faced.
Coke may have missed the inaugural Detroit Tigers Classic Car Show, but he’s been a regular ever since, checking out the cars and chatting with their owners at what may be one of the most unusual but also one of the best venues for a classic car show — the parking lot smack dab in front of one of the nation’s major sports stadiums.
“America’s two favorite pastimes in the heart of the Motor City.” That’s the slogan for the Detroit Tigers Classic Car Show, held annually for the last four years the day before Father’s Day in the parking lot right in front of Comerica Field on Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue.
After being one of the judges at the Tigers classic car showcase this year, and after being a regular at the annual Field of Dreams car show at Tempe Diablo Stadium — spring training home of the Los Angeles Angels — that launches the Copperstate 1000 vintage rally in Arizona, I think baseball diamonds and stadiums are a great place for a car show and wonder why there aren’t more of them.
At Tempe, the Copperstate cars are arrayed around the baseball diamond’s warning track and foul lines while local car clubs park their cars in the stadium’s parking lots.
At Detroit, there were 69 cars arrayed within a 100-spot parking lot right in front of the ball park. Cars are in place by 11:30 am, the show opens at noon to the public. Because the show is outside the stadium, anyone can attend for free.
Judges meet at 1:30 and complete their work by 3:30. Participants not only get T-shirts, but the various winners drive home with trophies. Car owners and their guests also get tickets to the baseball game (full disclosure: so do the judges, and thus the presence of my grandson, one of his uncles and his other grandfather).