DETROIT — A perfect Father’s Day gift for a lifelong Tiger fan.
Fitted with a Tigers’ jersey and a cap emblazoned with the familiar Old English D, Bob Stolly checked the runner at first and then threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday night at the Detroit home game against Minnesota.
“This is very exciting,” Bob Stolly said. “It kind of puts me in the mind of being at the World Series.”
Stolly, 84, said he never dreamed of throwing out a first pitch and was surprised by the grand gesture from his family.
“It is all about the players, the team and the enthusiasm for baseball. I have been a Tiger fan all my life.”
Pushed by Bob Stolly’s children, and Liam Stolly, the lone grand child who is a Tigers fan, the family came up with the idea for this gift when they saw a Detroit Zoo charity event where individuals could bid on throwing out the first pitch back in June.
“The first thing was my sister-in-law, Kelly (wife of Ric Stolly) and I talked and found out about this through her brother-in-law who saw that this was an item through the Detroit Zoo and thought what a great way to help out the zoo and help out the foundation and so we just kind of put two and two together and thought this would be a great thing for dad to participate in,” said Fred Stolly, who came in from Florida for the event.
After winning the auction, the family presented Bob Stolly with the gift on Father’s Day. The gift was packed in layers and he peeled away the layers that included a glove, cleats, a ball and eventually the ticket and the certificate verifying the first pitch. But since it said zoo on it he initially thought he was going to the zoo.
“Having the opportunity to see this is something we will remember forever,” said Liam Stolly, who was fortunate to escort his grandfather down to the field along with Fred and Ric Stolly. “When we saw this opportunity we said this is a no-brainer and it happened. We have been cheering for the Tigers for a long time.”
Bob Stolly’s love affair with the Tigers began when he was a child and listened to the Tigers on the radio growing up when Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser and Charlie Gehringer roamed the diamond at old Tiger Stadium.
Bob Stolly’s fondest memory was seeing the 1968 World Series where the Tigers rallied from a 3-1 game deficit against St. Louis to capture the title. Stolly was in attendance when the Tigers won their next World Series in 1984 in Game 5 against San Diego. This was the game where Kirk Gibson hit two home runs and drove in 5 RBI to secure the championship.
Bob Stolly added that his favorite Tigers include Al Kaline, Bill Freehan and Harvey Kuehn.
Joining family members, more than 30 individuals came up to witness the pitch.
“When you think of an opportunity like this we are very blessed,” said Ric Stolly, also a Tigers fan.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.