If you’ve been to a Tigers game at Comerica Park over the past few seasons you’ve almost certainly seen James Van Horn. You probably don’t know his name, but you’d recognize him as the “Eat ’em up Tigers” guy. He was a street busker/panhandler who stood outside of the park with a change cup, usually held in an Incredible Hulk hand, chanting “Eat ’em up Tigers” creating an infectious beat by jangling his change.
Witnesses are telling 7 Action News that two men well known to Tigers fans have been killed in a hit and run. The men were James Van Horn, who was known for his distinctive shouting of ‘Eat ’em up Tigers’ , and another man known as Dreadlock Mike … Witnesses tell 7 Action News they heard a crash at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning in the area of Gratiot and Russell, about a mile from Comerica Park. They say it appears Van Horn was pushing Dreadlock Mike down the street when they were hit by a vehicle that left the scene.
It makes me think about other unofficial team mascots, superfans, promotors and otherwise self-motivated ballpark fixtures. I’m guessing most parks have guys like these. Maybe motivated by enthusiasm for the game. Maybe they’re merely guys who hang outside the park because they’ve realized it’s not a bad place to collect some spare change. Maybe they’re embraced by the team, maybe the team wishes they’d pick a different corner. There are probably as many stories as there are guys like this.
But they definitely form part of the ballpark experience. And, sadly, many of us probably don’t appreciate them for what they add until they’re gone.