102-year-old Detroit Baseball Superfan is with Team Through ‘Good and the Bad’
| 4 min read
Soon-to-be 103-year-old Detroit Tigers superfan Eva Martin always had a coney dog in one hand and a beer in the other when she watched her beloved Tigers live in person.
“Her second husband worked for General Motors and when he retired, every year, all the GM retirees and spouses took a bus ride to Tigers games at Tigers Stadium,” said Martin’s daughter, Jan Maar Strickler, who retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) after a 27-year career in sales and marketing management.
Martin, a BCBSM member herself, remembers the first time that a busload of retirees walked the hallowed corridors of Tiger Stadium, roughly 50 years ago.
“First time they took us to a game they put us up high and we complained and complained,” said Martin, who is also a BCBSM member. “Three bus loads went. They came and moved us all where we could see. The games, I enjoyed every game I went to.”
Martin is coming up on her sixth year as a resident at Crestwood Village Assisted Living in Mount Pleasant. During a Zoom interview with BCBSM, while sporting her favorite Tigers T-shirt, Crestwood staff members huddled around Martin to vouch for her infectious fandom.
“She suckers us in every night to watch the game,” said Sidney Page. “She’ll press her button and I’ll come in here and we’ll start hooting and hollering, probably waking up the neighbors every time something happens. Up ‘til the wee hours of the night finishing the game.”
“When they play a late game, and she goes to bed before it’s over, when she wakes up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, they have to know the score so they can tell her, added Maar Strickler. “I think she’s converted a lot of people to watching the Tigers.”
Eva Martin poses for a photo with her daughter, Jan Maar Strickler.
The Tigers finished seventh in the American League standings in 1920, the year Martin was born, with a team record of 61-93-1. Tiger Stadium was known as Navin Field at that time. It wasn’t until years later that Martin became wrapped up in “America’s Pastime.”
“She is not a fair-weather Tigers fan,” Maar Strickler said. “She’s with them through the good and the bad. She listened to the Tigers on the radio even before she ever had a TV.”
Favorite players and memorabilia
As Martin strolled down memory lane, so did her daughter.
“We called Brandon Inge her boyfriend,” Maar Strickler said. Inge for the Tigers from 2001 to 2012, primarily at third base.
“I had a boyfriend,” Martin said. “I liked him, he couldn’t hit the side of a barn but he could catch a ball and throw them all out from third base.”
She said multi-time MVP and current Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is another one of her all-time favs.
The door to Eva Martin’s room at Crestwood Village Assisted Living features a vintage Detroit Tigers logo.
“I’m looking for Cabrera to have a big year this year,” she said. “I hope (he hits) one of those balls so far that it reaches me here in my lap.”
Maar Strickler and staff members at Crestwood took turns showing off Martin’s impressive collection of Tigers memorabilia during the BCBSM interview. Some of her most prized possessions included team yearbooks from the 1976 and 1977 seasons. She also had a framed, blown-up photo of an overhead shot of Comerica Park.
For her 102nd birthday in 2022, staff at Crestwood had a Tigers T-shirt specially made for Eva. The front read “L-O-V-E” Tigers, and on the back, in classic jersey format, read “Martin” over the number 102.
“I always have something with the Tigers,” she said. “I got about four or five shirts.”
Fondest Tigers memory
Martin – who turns 103 on June 5 – gushes when discussing her last trip to the ballpark. Memories of spending her 96th birthday in 2016 at Comerica Park are vivid in her head.
“We had signs everywhere,” she said. “We celebrated with ice cream and cake, it was a huge celebration. My son-in-law, daughter and grandson were all there, and my grandson took me through the whole stadium to see everything. That was thrilling. And they won.”
Flanked by family and friends, Martin’s birthday was recognized on the jumbotron. And most importantly to Eva, the Tigers defeated the White Sox by a final score of 5-2.
The Tigers open the 2023 season in Tampa Bay where they’ll face the Rays on March 30. Everyone who’s worked or lived at Crestwood for longer than six months – when the Tigers last laced up their cleats – knows that Eva will be decked out in Tigers gear and locked into the action on her TV.
If the team makes it to the postseason, their biggest fan may even meet them there.
“They better make the playoffs,” Martin said, with a smile. “If they make the playoffs, and I’m available to go in a wheelchair, I’m gonna go.”
Photo credit: Crestwood Village Assisted Living/Jan Maar Strickler
- Forming a Healthy Relationship with Food: West Michigan Dietitian Discusses Keys to Conquer an Eating Disorder