Detroit Tigers Vendor ‘Excited’ for 61st Opening Day with Team
| 4 min read
April 18, 1960.
Ask 87-year-old Detroit resident Amzie Griffin if he remembers his first day as a vendor for the Detroit Tigers and he’ll shoot that date back at you like a line drive to center field.
“I started off that day selling popcorn,” Griffin recalled, while sitting at his kitchen table in Detroit. “And my net pay that day was $25, we got paid in cash. I said, ‘Hey look, I made $25.’ That was real good money at that time.”
Griffin, an Alabama native who moved to Detroit in his early 20s, even recalls players on the Tigers’ roster that day. Detroit defeated Cleveland 4-2 in that game.
“That’s the year we got Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn,” Griffin said, as he rattled off members of the team’s infield.
That April afternoon in 1960 marked the first of 60 straight Opening Days for Griffin as a vendor. That’s 39 Opening Days at historic Tiger Stadium and 21 more at the Tigers’ current venue of Comerica Park.
Opening Day is a certifiable holiday to most Detroiters, Griffin included. He said there’s nothing like it.
“Opening Day is the day,” Griffin said, his energy ramping up a few notches. “We have people come on Opening Day that don’t come for another game that year. Maybe the last game, at the end of the season.”
The End of Griffin’s Consecutive Opening Day Streak
Griffin didn’t have a say in the end of his 60-year Opening Day streak, which came in 2020 when the pandemic-shortened COVID-19 season was played without fans in attendance.
Then in 2021, partial capacity was allowed at Comerica Park for Opening Day against Cleveland. But Griffin opted not to return, citing lingering concerns over COVID.
“I didn’t feel good about it (last year), so I came back in July,” Griffin said. “I felt more comfortable then. That’s why I was holding off.”
This year, though, when the Tigers welcome the Chicago White Sox into Comerica Park for Opening Day 2022, Griffin will make his triumphant return to section 141, where he operates a kiosk that sells Tigers merchandise and apparel.
There, he’ll sell hats, keychains, and memorabilia to Tigers fans while keeping tabs on the game based on the “ohs” and “ahs” of the crowd.
“I don’t have to look at the monitors,” he said. “I know when a player got a hit, I know when he got thrown out at the plate, I know when there’s a foul ball, because of the sound of the crowd. If you listen to it enough, you know what’s going on.”
Looking Back on 61 Years in Detroit
Griffin applied for the vending job when he was 25 years old. He responded to a “Help wanted” sign. At that time, he was laid off from his job at the Ford Rouge Plant, so vending became his sole source of income that summer. Ford eventually brought him back in the fall of 1961.
Obviously, Griffin didn’t call it quits when he returned to Ford, instead vending on weekends and for some night games that season. He managed to spin it into a lifelong, part-time position that outlasted his career at Ford, where he retired in 1999.
This year will mark Griffin’s 62nd year as a vendor. He’s worked during four World Series’. He’s seen a whole lot of wins and in recent years, a whole lot of losses. But beyond what’s happened on the field behind him during his incredible tenure, Griffin’s most cherished memories have occurred on the concourse.
“I enjoy the people,” said Griffin, who has left an impression on decades worth of Tigers fans.
Griffin can recall more than one occasion when adults recognized him based on their experience at the ballpark as children.
“I’m upstairs at my stand for a game and this young man greets me. And after a moment he says, ‘You don’t remember me, do you?’” Griffin said, launching into one of his favorite ballpark memories. “I said, ‘No I don’t remember you, should I remember you?’ He said, ‘Man, if it weren’t for you, I don’t know where I’d be.’ He told me, ‘I used to be the boy you’d yell at and say stop doing this, that or the other.’”
Griffin believes the 2022 Tigers will make the postseason, a feat the team hasn’t accomplished since 2014. And he will be right there when that journey starts, out amongst the people for the first time in three years, soaking in the Opening Day atmosphere.
“It’s almost indescribable,” Griffin said. “What Opening Day is like, it’s like this feeling in the air. It’s optimism. It’s, ‘Man, they’re going to go all the way this year.’ It’s a feeling that gets in your blood. ‘I know we can do it this year.’ I’m excited every Opening Day.”