Sunday, January 28, 2018

Detroit Tiger Batting Champion Stormin' Norman Cash

Mel Butiscaris at the Lindell A.C.--vintage 1990s.
Former owner of Detroit's legendary Lindell AC sports bar Mel Butsicaris has allowed me to share another of his Lindell A.C. Memories.

This time, Mel's guest post is about Detroit Tiger Stormin' Norman Cash--one of major league baseball's unsung heroes. As a young man, Mel worked in the Lindell for his father and uncle--Johnny and Jimmy Butiscaris. He has no shortage of stories to tell.

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Stormin' Norman Cash--Number 25.
One of my favorite baseball players of all time is #25 Norman Dalton Cash--"Stormin' Norman." I called him Uncle Norm out of love and respect, not only because he was a great ball player on offense and defense, but also because of the kind of a person he was. He had a heart of gold and cared more about his teammates than himself. Uncle Norm was a humble man who loved life and people. He had an incredible sense of humor with a big heart who treated people of all races and walks of life with respect.

I remember him tipping his hat and tapping his heart to say thank you to a group of fans in the left field upper deck of Tiger Stadium. The fans hung a bed sheet painted with "Who needs money when we have Cash?" He never forgot he was able to play ball because the fans came to see him.

It was Uncle Norm who initiated the souvenier giveaway after the Tiger Saturday matinee games. He would come into the bar after the game with other Tigers like Al Kaline, Gates Brown, Jim Northrup, Earl Wilson, Dick McAuliffe, and Willie Horton. The guys would carry in grocery bags full of game-used balls and batting practice balls. Kids would be lined up out the door waiting to get a free autographed ball from their sports heroes. If an adult would try to get one, he would be told politely that these balls were reserved for the kids. See us after a night game and we'll hook you up. And they did. I am still running into people today who are now adults telling me how they got a free autographed ball at the Lindell.

I have great memories of being twelve years old and playing catch with Uncle Norm when he would come to the house for a dinner party. I had a ball playing "pickle" (monkey in the middle) with him and Sonny Eliot.

One night in the late sixties when the Baltimore Orioles were in town, both teams came to the Lindell. Competing team first basemen Norm Cash and Boog Powell sat on top of the jukebox singing the Johnny Cash ballad "A Boy Named Sue" at the top of their lungs. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.

Topps Card--1961
There was another time when Uncle Norm pulled up to the bar driving a Detroit street cleaning truck with water and spinning brushes. He said he wanted to do his part to keep the city clean starting with the alley behind the Lindell. Apparently, the real driver spotted Norm and his wife coming out of a nearby restaurant. The city worker stopped and said he always wanted to meet a big-time ball player. Uncle Norm replied, "I always wanted to drive a street sweeping machine." They both got what they wanted. They enjoyed each other's company driving around downtown Detroit cleaning the streets for about an hour. Norm Cash didn't care about a person's social status, he just loved down to earth people like he was.

You may remember Norm Cash as one of the great Tiger players, but I have been blessed to remember him as an amazing true friend.

Here are some Norman Cash factoids:
  • Cash always used a corked bat.
  • He never chewed tobacco. At the start of every game he put five pieces of Bazooka bubble gum in his mouth.
  • He wore a specially made helmet covered in Tiger fabric with the Detroit emblem, so he didn't have to think about which hat he had on.
  • Stormin' Norman Cash is the only left-handed batter in the last eighty years to hit .360+ and 40+ homeruns in the same season--1961.
  • That same year, Cash led the American League in hitting and won the batting title despite New York Yankee Roger Maris hitting 61 homeruns that season.
  • Cash hit 25 homeruns a year for ten straight years.
  • He was a 5-Time American League All-Star.
  • Cash hit .385 with one homerun in the 1968 Tiger World Series win earning him a championship ring.
  • Cash played fifteen seasons for the Tigers.
  • He was the first Tiger to hit a home run ball out of Tiger Stadium (1961). He went on to hit the ball over the right field roof four more times in his career.
Sadly, Norman Dalton Cash drowned in a boating accident while vacationing with his wife in northern Lake Michigan on October 11, 1986 at the young age of fifty-one. God rest his soul.
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