It happened a little more than five years ago, but Chuck Freedman remembers every detail.
Going to a Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park on a hot Sunday August afternoon with his father-in-law and good friend Richard Maltz.
Watching and worrying as Maltz became ill at the stadium before the game and was taken to a medical room and eventually by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he passed away of a heart attack that night at age 55.
Above: Chuck Freedman still has the tickets from the Aug. 18, 2013, Detroit Tigers game.
“After the doors were shut in the ambulance, I never saw Rich alive again,” Freedman said.
The Tigers were a big part of Maltz’s life. The back of his gravestone contains the team’s iconic old English “D.”
Maltz went to a Tigers game at Comerica Park two days before the fateful Aug. 18, 2013, game.
Nancy Schindler, his sister, took a photo of him at the Aug. 16, 2013, game.
“That was the last time I saw him,” she said.
Memories of his friend came flooding back to Freedman this summer as he went through scrapbooks put together by Maltz that contain newspaper stories and photos.
One of the stories was a column written by this reporter, who was the sports editor of The Daily Tribune at the time. The Nov. 18, 1988, column was led by a report on the new Oak Park-Royal Oak-Huntington Woods flag football league.
Maltz coached the Oak Park Broncos team in the league and was pictured along with players Sam Hirschman and Michael Sonna.
Coaching recreation teams is how Maltz met Freedman and so many others who became friends with him. Maltz was a baseball, flag football, soccer and basketball coach.
“I met Rich when he was an assistant coach on my baseball team in Oak Park. I think I was 12 or 13 at the time, and he was going to college,” Freedman said.
“Rich was great with the kids on our team. He made sure everyone got to games and practices and made it back home. We went to Tigers games, the batting cage, movies and the arcade with him and other coaches. Rich was one of the guys.”
Freedman went to many more Tigers games and other sports events with Maltz as the years went by.
“My brother loved people. And he loved helping people,” Schindler said.
“He was proud of being an older brother or father figure to the kids on his team. I know he took his ‘job’ of being a big brother to me, his little sister, very seriously.”
Among Maltz’s paying jobs was being a school bus driver. At the time of his death, he had a job driving a bus for Farmington Public Schools.
As he remembered his friend this summer, Freedman began what he considers a long-overdue journey.
He started a diet and exercise program in May that has resulted in him shedding 45 pounds. He now weighs 183 pounds and wants to lose 10 more.
“I think I weighed about 250 pounds when we went to that Tigers game in August five years ago. Rich and I had both put on some weight,” Freedman said. “I can’t say what happened to Rich that day was the only reason for me getting on this program, but it’s one of the reasons.”
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