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An unofficial Tigers mascot is killed in a hit-and-run

Jul 29, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Comerica Park

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.

Sad news about him:

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.

Just awful.

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.

  1. largebill - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    “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.”

    Really? It is sad the guy was killed in a hit and run (Heck, I’ll go further and say it’s sad his life lead him to the streets), but to chastise us for failing to appreciate street beggars for what they add to the ballpark experience? Ridiculous. Most hardcore homeless either have serious psychological issues or long term substance abuse issues and add an element of danger to visiting downtown areas where most stadiums are located.

    • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      You realize, of course, that not all mentally ill people are violent and that you are making unwarranted generalizations. The chances of Dreadlock Mike going all Ortiz on you were pretty slim. Also, Van Horn was a well known figure and people would pose for pictures with him sometimes. I imagine that more people remember him from a game than 9/10’s of the others that were there. I am unaware of any allegations that he ever attacked anyone — and, fyi, he was an older dude. But, yeah, it’s so unpleasant when the poor are visible. Yucky.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        You mean the greater Detroit area?

      • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        Awww, man. How’d I know this was gonna turn to D-bashing? Don’t pretend you don’t have homeless/poor people in Philly. We have a good amount of it in the Frying Pan too, which usually turns tragic during our hot, hot summers. Since the State loves to feed the booming private prison industry, they’ve been locking up more of the mentally ill — which is creating a variety of problems for us and offers virtually no benefit to the homeless.

        BTB, I’ll take this to mean you love me again.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        I fawn for you like a fly into the Dionaea muscipula.

        And of course we have squalor in these parts, Hell, I basically liven in the nexus of Camden, Trenton, and Philly.

        That’s one hell of a triangle.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 12:54 PM

        hahahaha That’s too funny.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Bill, based on what I know of your politics I find this a rather odd sentiment. You don’t support a welfare state to help these people who you acknowledge are troubled. But when they take it upon themselves to help themselves, you offer derision. What would you have the poor and unfortunate do? Disappear?

      • heyblueyoustink - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Craig, in all seriousness, can you speak to the attempt on this man’s part to get help? Bill paints with an overly wide brush. But in my experience, help is always available to those who truly desire it. So be sure not to paint witha premature brush of your own, Ant death is tragic, I feel to politicize such things is careless without all the facts in place.

      • largebill - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        Our welfare, food stamp and other government handout programs have little or nothing to do with long term homeless. I support our local homeless shelter and think all of us should individually do more for our fellow man, especially those with mental or physical difficulties. I was merely responding to your comment that we fail to “appreciate” the street folks begging for money near stadiums for what they add to the experience. Some stadiums may have local characters hanging around who add ambiance, but that has not been my experience. John Adams in Cleveland (the Drum Guy) adds ambiance and has never asked for a penny.

      • Glenn - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        The mentally ill are often not capable of getting the help that is available – or sustaining that help. Mental illness isn’t pretty. Even people who have the support of families struggle.

      • hittfamily - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        High speed internet is a government hand out program. Do you consider yourself a beneficiary of government assistance, or do you still use dial up?

    • kyzslew77 - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      I think you have a typo in there: where you wrote “add an element of danger” you probably meant “make me uncomfortable, what with their ickyness.”

    • detroitr1 - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      Would that ‘element of danger’ include late 20-something guys in wheelchairs (missing legs or clearly immobile from the waist down) holding signs that read ‘Afghanistan veteran. Please help’ –because I’ve seen that at Comerica park more than anything else lately.

      James Van Horn had a job btw. He pumped up the crowds before the game and gave Detroit fans a rallying cry that didn’t exist before.

  2. mattjg - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    That’s really sad to hear. Pirates games wouldn’t be the same without Sax Man playing on the Clemente Bridge and it’s always cool to see (and hear) Sonny Forriest, Jr. rolling around the parking lots before Phillies games.

  3. anthonyverna - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    While I’m from Philly, I moved about 8 years ago. I know that the Yankees had the older man who passed recently (I forget his name – but several friends of mine had pictures with him) with the shamrock in the frying pan.

    The Mets have the guy with the cow bell.

    I went to college in Cleveland and remember the fan in the outfield with the bass drum.

    Mattjg – Sonny Forriest is the name of the sax player outside Citizens Bank Park? I did not know that. I know we can be a little cynical about these superfans, but they do bring their own personalities to the park.

    • twenty1miles - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      The man with the frying pan was named Freddy. My father was good friends with him. Nice guy.

    • mattjg - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Sonny Forriest Jr. is (was?) a guy with one leg who rides around on a motorized scooter singing songs karaoke-style. I moved away from Philly a few years ago and it’s been a while since I’ve seen or heard about Sonny.

  4. stairwayto7 - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Dbacks would not be the same without all the bums and homeless outside the stadium after the game!

  5. philliesblow - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Good quote from Max:

    • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:38 AM

      That’s cool. I saw his retweet this weekend, but I hadn’t seen this. Thanks.

  6. The Dangerous Mabry - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Many of these “unofficial” mascots are pretty great, like the dude who beats the drum in Cleveland. Cowbellman, however, is the worst thing to happen to Mets games since Doug Sisk. Loud, annoying, nonsensical, and I’ve seen him treat other fans awfully as well.

    I realize that’s a little off topic, but man, I can’t stand that guy, and I wish he’d just sit down and watch the game.

  7. ndnut - Jul 29, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    If someone kills the man with the electric flute playing baseball songs outside Target Field, I may go postal.

  8. weaselpuppy - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    RIP James…life needs more characters that get fired up over the little fun things instead of the constant parade of people that argue about the little unimportant things

  9. barrywhererufrom - Jul 29, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    I wish the world had no homeless people. I.wish their problems that were either self inflicted or brought on by no fault of their own did not exist either. Until then we must treat them with any other human being deserves. This is not a left right issue..its about loving our until.that day that no poor.people.exist I hope we.can give some happiness to our fellow man who is has fallen on hard times.God Bless them all!

    • cur68 - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      /hat tip

    • Reflex - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      First post you’ve made that I agree with fully.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        I’ll be honest, I couldn’t quite bring myself to approve it. You’re a bigger person than I.

      • Reflex - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        ….I think you just called me fat……

      • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:39 PM

        You did say “fully.”

      • Reflex - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:13 PM

        Well the “God Bless them all” part was a bit over the top, and his grammar and punctuation is a serious issue, but I wasn’t going to nitpick.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:12 PM

        No, no, I’m with you. Nicely done.

  10. hypefree10 - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Every Tigers, Lions, or Red Wings game you would see these two gentlemen. Not once did they ever go out of their way asking for money. They cheered on fans and cheered for the city of Detroit. A lot of you are sick twisted individuals with no class. Going to the motor city for a sports game will be so different. Eat em up Tigers!

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