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I grew up close enough to Detroit, but far enough away that every time my family and I went to Tiger Stadium it was a special occasion.
“The Corner” of Michigan and Trumbull will always hold a special place in my heart and so will the 1984 Detroit Tigers. That was the year they went all the way, beating the San Diego Padres to win the World Series.
That year was magic for a 12-year-old boy who took his mitt to every game in the hopes that maybe - just maybe - that day would be the one he snagged a fly ball hit by Alan Trammell. Or “Sweet Lou” Whitaker. Or Darryl Evans, my personal favorite that season. I was a first baseman, and Darryl and I shared the same body shape so it was encouraging to see Evans play so well.
I remember how manager Sparky Anderson seemed so old and wise to me. And he was really.
Sparky seemed to me like a weathered old sailor who had braved the storms and finally made it through to dry land. They told me that he had skippered a Red ship years before. As far as I was concerned, he had always been the leader of “Our Boys” in Detroit.
I remember the games, how the sun crept through the shadows surrounding home plate. How the crowd started the wave as soon as Jack Morris took the mound. I remember the crack of each hit as it echoed throughout the full seats in that grand old stadium.
Surrounded by thousands of fans all there for the same reason, it was like being a part of something greater than yourself. I don’t remember ever seeing the Tigers lose that season.
What I do remember after every televised broadcast (with Al Kaline and George Kell calling the shots, of course) is how the “cartoon tiger” would roar and then grab a bat with his teeth, swinging it menacingly and ready to take on all comers.
Cheap thrills for a kid of any age.
Baseball has taken some hard hits in the years that followed that wondrous season, and so have the Tigers. Gone are the days at Michigan and Trumbull. They can never be replaced. Gone are the hundred win seasons (for now). Gone are the heroes of my childhood.
But the feelings that they left in that 12-year-old boy will always be with me. And maybe someday I will have a son who will have his own season, one filled with the magic that is created with 18 men, four bases, a bat, and one shining white ball.
Written by Brian Converse, who – ironically – now resides in San Diego. Comic book fan? Visit Brian's Web site, www.stonesoldiers.com: It's cool!
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Jul 13 2002, 03:26:51
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