Eat Em Up

Why has the Tigers' amazing run energized this city more than similar successes by the Red Wings, Pistons and Shock? Maybe it is the 19-year playoff drought, or perhaps it is the Tigers' penchant to satisfy this region's deep thirst in times of great need. In 1968, headlines proclaimed the Tigers a salve to the region's deep riot burn. Despite Bubba Helms' best efforts, the 1984 World Series championship gave beleaguered auto workers something to celebrate. In these days of record unemployment, an unpopular war and faltering schools, the 2006 Tigers are doing it again.

But there's also the fact that this is baseball—not hockey or basketball. I remember the Bad Boys' championships of the late 1980s quite well, but few memories compare to breathlessly watching Sweet Lou, dreamy Lance Parrish, rapscallion Kirk Gibson and the ever-authoritarian Sparky triumph mightily. I was only 8 years old, and I know just where I was sitting — in a family friend's basement — when the series was secured.

That year, my Polish dance troupe performed on the field of Tiger Stadium, another indelible memory. The next 15 years weren't particularly baseball-ish for me. It wasn't until I moved to Corktown in 1999 that the baseball bug bit me as an adult. That last season of Tiger Stadium was, in many ways, my first.

I would often walk the couple of blocks to the stadium to purchase late-game $5 tickets that allowed you to sit anywhere you pleased. I sat in just about every section that year, and will never forget the hyper-green field that exploded upon your eyes when you exited the concourse to your section.

When the boys moved downtown, I followed. Sure, I thought baseball should remain at the Corner, but you know what? It wasn't my decision. And by then, I was a fan. It grew every year — more games, more traditions, and more Tigers buddies.

This was the first season I ever went in on season tickets. Talk about good timing. I think the best thing about season tickets is that you practically double your investment — almost everyone you take to the game reciprocates, or at least buys the beer.

Whatever the outcome of the World Series, this season has more than filled my brain with baseball memories to last a lifetime. I was there when Carlos Guillen's bottom-of-the-ninth single averted a Yankees sweep in early June, and the next day, when Rollercoaster Jones helped Boston squeak out a win. I traveled to Chicago — my first visit to Wrigley Field — to see the Tigs pound the Cubs. Hoping to see the division clinching game, I sat through five of their last regular-season games, all losses. And I witnessed Kenny Rogers reduce the mighty Yankees to teeballers during the second home game of the league championship series.

I went Up North the following morning with plans to find a bar that would be showing the game. I ended up at a small pub, watching the game with a mostly older, non-tourist crowd. It proved to be memorable, and not just because Detroit finished off New York.

Usually, when I tell people Up North where I live, I get stereotypical responses like "Aren't you scared?" or "I haven't been down there in years, and don't miss it one bit." Whatever. But this time, with the memory of Rogers' sweet victory still fresh, I got, "Wow, that must be exciting!" and rounds of beer, like I was part of the team or something. People were telling me their Tigers memories, which spilled over into Detroit memories — of the positive ilk. I gotta tell you, it was refreshing. If it took a baseball game to do that, I'll take it.

I guess I finally figured out something British football hooligans perhaps take all too much to heart: Sports can be more than just sports. Sports can help heal a region's wounds, and bring people together across lines of race and class and geography. And for that, I say, "bless you, boys."

Kelli B. Kavanaugh is Model D's development news editor and likes Magglio Ordonez— with or without the long hair.

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

Signup for Email Alerts