I love Baseball. As I work through all of my Baseball T-shirts, I am sure that my love for Baseball will become abundantly clear if it isn't already.
In 2006, I did not feel so alone in my love for Baseball, and especially, the Detroit Tigers. Not so much at the beginning of the season, but by the end of the season, many "closet" Detroit Tigers fans were making their appearance and gloating that THEY had tickets to one of the World Series games featuring the Detroit Tigers versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Where were you in 2003?" I would ask these suddenly emerged from the closet Tigers fans wearing their new, crisp, creased Tigers gear.
Where was I in 2003? Listening to games. Watching games. Often, my favorite of tandem of TV on mute and radio broadcast on full volume. I listen in the car. I listen in bed at night. I carry my portable radio around with me from room to room, outside, on trips, at the ultimate field, at the dinner table. I listen to or watch games whether the Detroit Tigers are winning or LOSING.
In 2003, my beloved team lost a lot. Despite significant changes to the team and leadership, the Tigers set a new record for most losses in American League history with 119. EIGHTY-SEVEN years had passed since an American League team had been so futile: the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics lost 117 games. The Detroit Tigers narrowly avoided setting the major league record of most losses in a season held by the 1962 New York Metroplitans with 120 losses. Entering the last week of the 2003 season, the Tigers were well on the way to over 120 losses, if not for a mini-winning streak with victories in five of the final six games of the season, which saved the team from making ignominious major league history.
I loved the 2003 Detroit Tigers as much as I loved the 2006 Detroit Tigers as much as I loved the 1975 Detroit Tigers or the really awful (though not epic in losses) 1996 team. Still, I felt there was a lot to like in 2003. Illitch had finally jettisoned Randy Smith, the worst GM in all of Tigers (if not all of Baseball) history. Enter Dave Dombrowski, wiz kid of the Florida Marlins and a graduate of Western Michigan University here in Kalamazoo. Awesome. Dombrowski hires Alan Trammel, my favorite Baseball player of all time, to manage the team with several other of my favorite Tigers as coaches, such as Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish. The Tigers had some young talent with potential, such as Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Cornejo, Carlos Peña, and even Matt Anderson, who was the inexplicable Number One draft pick of Randy Smith in 1997, the same year the teams that followed selected players, such as Troy Glaus, J.D. Drew, Vernon Wells, Michael Cuddyer, and LANCE BERKMAN.
So back to my question for these fans coming out of the woodwork: "where were you in 2003?"
Was I bitter? Maybe, a little. Bandwagon fans. Not a fan of the band wagon. But did I want them to stop supporting the Detroit Tigers? Not really. I could do without how the fair-weather fans drove up ticket prices and made tickets more scarce, and yet I will take all the Tigers fans the team attracts. The more the merrier. We are an exclusive club, united by one sole common virtue: we all LOVE the Detroit Tigers.
This brings me to 2006. After some rebuilding and smart acquisitions, the team had performed better in 2004 and 2005, but they had not earned winning records yet. Sure, 70 some wins are a near 30 win improvement over the dismal 43 win season of 2003, but I tend to be a realist, especially about the Detroit Tigers. Let's not get too excited.
On Opening Day, someone I knew claimed the Tigers would go to the World Series. I scoffed. 2003 was still too fresh in my mind. In the early part of the 2006 season, things did not look good at all for a post season run of any kind let alone a WORLD SERIES appearance (the first in 22 years). But the Tigers started to win and win A LOT. By August, the team was 40 games above .500, and yet they almost let it all slip away. The Tigers lost the division in an epic September collapse, and they entered the post-season as a Wild Card. Given how the team was playing, I had little hope that it could beat its first post-season opponent: The New York Yankees.
The Yanks and Tigers split the first two games of the ALDS. I attended game three, the first home game, in which Kenny Rogers smoked the Bronx Bombers. SMOKED! Embarrassed. AWESOME. Other than the last game at Tigers Stadium, this game three was the single best baseball game I had ever attended. Suddenly, winning some post season games did not seem so unlikely. The Tigers won game four also and a trip to the ALCS.
|This is the 1968 commemorative World Series hat for the |
Detroit Tigers, which I wore on Opening Day 2013.
Is 2013 the year that the Detroit Tigers wins it all?
I am excited.
But let's not get too excited.
It's Baseball. Anything can happen, and it usually does.
-chris tower 1304.06 10:25