Friday, January 13, 2006

I have a confession to make. I'm a Detroit Tigers fan...

My first love as a sports fan was baseball. As the Pistons and Wings are kicking ass and the Lions are stumbling through ANOTHER search for their latest sacrificial lamb head coach (Which will get its own post, coming soon) lets talk Detroit Tigers.

My first memories of being a sports fan are of the 1968 Tigers, I was all of 6 that glorious summmer. They won the World Series in the most dramatic fashion. I became an Al Kaline fan for life. I even attended my first game that season and thus began a life of Detroit sports fandom, for better or worse. I thought it would always be that the Tigers = Winners. So goes the thoughts of a deluded 6 year old.

Actually, it wasn't bad at all being a Tiger fan through the years. I've seen 3 Division Championships, 2 World Series wins, and save for a few years in the mid 70's, they were almost always, at the very least, competitive. The Tigers were a respected charter member of the American League and never a laughing stock. To top it off, there was the great Ernie Harwell to listen to on summer nights.

I was in the stands when they clinched the Eastern division in 1972. I watched Mark "The Bird" Fidrich groom the mound and talk to ball during his unforgettable 1976 season. My first opening day in person was 1978. I damn near lived at Tiger Stadium in the 80's, when the Tigers were perennial contenders. 35 - 5 to start, a world championship to finish in 1984. No matter where we were, in a bar, at a friends, listening to Ernie on the radio, whenever Cecil Fielder came to the plate, everything and everyone came to a stop so we could watch him bombard the left field upper deck. Then everything changed. For the worse. Much worse. Apocalyptically worse.

Now it's the offseaon, spring training for the 2006 Tigers will be starting in 6 weeks. It's been the winter of a Tigers fan discontent for damn near 2 decades. The Tigers have been not just a bad team, but a laughing stock, for over a decade. Tiger Stadium is a rusted hulk of its former glory. (Please Detroit, just knock the SOB down.) Ernie is enjoying his well earned retirement as a baseball Hall of Fame member. There have been 6 managers, none successful, since Sparky Anderson retired, or more correctly, was forced out. They haven't seen the sweet side of .500 since 1993 and the wounds from the horrific beyond words 119 loss season of 2003 are still fresh. Still, things were beginning to look up. Last season was the first in memory where I actually had hope after Memorial Day. That hope lasted till the 4th of July... So once again all we could say was, "Wait till next year."

Next year is almost here. I'm optimistic that a .500 season is finally neigh. Back in the 80's, .500 would have been a disappointment. Now? It would be cause for celebration and a parade down Woodward! Unfortunately, the Central division is now the toughest in MLB. On the other hand, Mike Illich has started to act like the big market owner that he is and spend some major coin on both minor league development and major league free agents. (Even if those free agents are a combined 100 years old... Trust me, I'm barely exaggerating) There is a GM in Dave Dombrowski that I actually believe will make the right moves. Is Jim Leyland the answer as manager? He has a track record that says he will be. Could the Tigers make a run a the division crown? Can the Tigers stay in contention till at least Labor Day this season? One can only hope. An old platitude explains best how I feel. When it comes to the Detroit Tigers, hope for the best, expect the worst.

But it's baseball! As wiser people than me have said, hope springs eternal.

1 comment:

  1. I have a feeling they'll make it to the World Series against St. Louis, but come up short.