Book details life as a Tigers batboy

By Diane Strand It was spring. &#8220The place was Detroit. The site was Briggs Stadium, the home of the Detroit Tigers. There was Danny Dillman, the batboy in the visitors' dugout. Everybody in our school wanted his job-the dream job.” That's how Dillman's former school mate and faculty colleague at Northern Illinois University, Walt Owens, introduces Dillman's new book, &#8220Hey Kid!” A Tiger Batboy Remembers. Now a distinguished teaching professor emeritus, Dillman had to revisit his memories-and do more than a little research-calling back his exciting life from 1948-1950 when he handed off bats to &#8220the icons of baseball - Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Larry Doby, Dominic DiMaggio and Luke Easter.” Dillman doesn't mince words with the reader. If his book were politically correct, it wouldn't be accurate. He grew up in an integrated neighborhood of Detroit and bumped into some harsh racism by a few ball players that shocked him. But he also witnessed the breaking of the color barrier with the emergence of black players. &#8220In 1948, the Cleveland Indians were accused of pulling a publicity stunt by signing a 42-year-old all-time great veteran of the Negro League to a major league contract,” Dillman recalls. &#8220Satchel Paige went on to pitch his way to a 6-1 season as the oldest player to ever debut in the majors.” Dillman says his favorite sport as a boy was always baseball and he hoped to play some day for the Tigers, so he worked hard to build a throwing arm on the streets, alleys and sidewalks of Detroit. &#8220One day I expertly destroyed the plate glass in the Presbyterian Church's sign with a curve ball that didn't,” he confesses...”As it turned out, pushing a holy broom was good training for the visitors' clubhouse at Briggs Stadium.” Dillman was a smart kid and won an essay contest hosted by Tigers officials which gave him an entre to the role of &#8220clubhouse boy, ball boy and batboy.” The work was hard and the pay was $3 a game. The batboy's job meant unpacking trunks for the visitors, hanging uniforms, doing laundry, folding towels, shining shoes, mopping floors, swabbing toilets, cleaning sinks and showers, handling sweaty uniforms, sanitary socks, jock straps and sweatshirts, running errands, carrying luggage and repacking equipment boxes. Floor fans were all they had to cool off on some of the hottest and most humid days of summer. As a batboy, Dillman learned to respect egos and pecking orders. His boss Fat Frank told him, &#8220Careful where you put the rookies, kid! Some veterans won't sit near them. Remember, DiMaggio and Williams are always toward the end on the left side, managers and coaches on the left side of the U-shaped locker area up front.” Dillman explains, &#8220This was the place where I learned much about life and began to mature faster in an adult world than my peers....My experience enabled me to see heroes as ordinary people with failings common to all. Myth and fantasy attached to baseball were removed without erasing affection for the game.” The requests made to batboys could be unusual. Dillman remembers Ted Williams calling to him, &#8220Hey kid! I want you to do something for me.” He responded, &#8220Yessir Mr. Williams,” I said. &#8220What do you want?” and Dillman writes, &#8220He was about to send me on the most memorable errand of my career.” &#8220Here's $35,” Williams said. &#8220Take a cab downtown and get me the best five-pound box of chocolates you can find and a BIG box of rubbers. Can you do that for me, kid? It's very important. I've got a heavy date this weekend. Don't let me down.” Dillman immediately responded, &#8220You'll have them before game time, &#8220 while he thought, &#8220The drug store will never sell rubbers to a 15-year old kid.” He was terrified. Fat Frank heard the request and taunted, &#8220You'll never get the rubbers, kid and Williams will be pissed. He'll kick your ass into next week. Ha!” When the store clerk heard the request, he responded, ‘You're kidding, aren't you?” And Dillman &#8220blurted out, ‘Call my boss and check it out, please. I will be in trouble if I go back with only half of my errand completed.'” The clerk made the call to Fat Frank and &#8220smiled as they talked briefly,” Dillman wrote. When Dillman returned he left change from the $35 in Williams' locker. The ballplayer later called out, &#8220Hey kid. What the hell is this?” Williams said he'd never received change back when anyone else had run errands for him. Dillman responded, &#8220We want this to be the best visitors' clubhouse in the American League.” &#8220Well,” Williams replied, &#8220It sure as s---- is. You keep the money for yourself.” Dillman recalls, &#8220It was $6.50-more than twice a day's pay.”

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