Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sox and Tigers and a Fine Day at the Ballpark

My trip to Comerica Park on Thursday started with a guy on the street handing me a free ticket and ended high-fiving White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

For a game that doesn't include the Mets, that's about as good as it gets.

I consider the White Sox in kind of a "second tier" favorite team, along with the Marlins and Cardinals, when they're not playing the Mets.

I started paying attention to the Sox when they swiped Seaver in 1984, and cemented the relationship when I attended a game at old Comiskey Park in 1988. I loved that place, and I could relate to how the Sox were treated like second-class citizens in Chicago, kind of like the way the Mets are treated in the Apple. These guys needed someone to give a darn about them, and I could fill that role without interfearing with my Mets devotion.

I make sure I get to a game at Comerica Park at least once a year. I've now lived in Michigan 16 years, and have probably watched the Tigers play in person as many times -- if not more -- than I've seen the Mets.

But I just haven't bonded with the Tigers. I've had some nice moments with the team, especially at Tiger Stadium. I know a lot about them from from living here and talking baseball with co-workers. The Midwest League team here in Grand Rapids -- which I have bonded with -- is a Tigers farm team, so it's always fun to watch familiar names progress through the system.

But for some reason, I just can't claim them as one of my own.

But the detachment allows me to attend Tigers games as a neutral observer, and absolves me of any guilt whatsoever for rooting against them when a team I do like, like the Sox, rolls into town.

And this game, with the American League Central Division on the line, was even more special.

So I used a comp day at work and made the 2-hour trek, donning a Seaver-era road cap. There's good luck in that cap, I was wearing it when Frank Thomas tossed the game ball on the magical, misty night more than a decade ago.

Walking to the box office, I was stopped by a guy offering me free tickets. Sure, I'll take one! He handed me three. I don't know where he got them, but they were marked "comp" where the price should be. I took a couple steps and saw a guy and a small boy walking to the box office and made their day with the other two ducats.

I grabbed an empty seat -- there were many -- behind the Sox dugout, and found myself surrounded by Sox fans.

The Sox all month flirted with stripping the '64 Phillies and -- heh,heh, -- the 2004 Yankees of the shame of being the biggest choke artists. But the team took care of business early, with ex-Met Carl Everett hitting a two-run triple in the first and Scott Podsednik adding a sac fly in the second. Paul Konerko launched a bomb in the sixth, and the Tigers made in interesting by adding a couple late runs.

I was a little disappointed in the Tiger fans. It's pretty much accepted around Detroit that Alan Trammell is getting fired after the season. Tram is beloved in Motown. And when he walked back to the dugout after lifting Jason Grilli, I though it was probably the last time he'll be in uniform at Comerica. I expected some kind of display of affection from the faithful. Nothing.

The Tigers put the tying run on first with no outs in the ninth, but the Sox fans finally exhaled when Bobby Jenks struck out Curtis Granderson and Dmitri Young, and Konerko made a leaping grab on a Placido Polanco line drive.

As the Sox celebrated on the field, I made my way to the first row behind the dugout, where fans who made the trip from Chicago were going nuts. Walking right past me was owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who I've long criticized as being one of Commissioner Bud Selig's main henchmen.

I gave Jerry a pass -- just for today -- given the spirit of the celebration. "Hey, Jerry! Congrats! Way to go," I said, holding up my hand for a high five.

"Hey, I didn't do anything," he said, slapping my hand. Jerry humble? He must have been overcome with emotion.

Amazingly, this is the second time I've seen a team clinch a division at Comerica. The vile Yankees did it in 2002, one time I was pulling for the Tigers with all my might.

There was one more happy tidbit to Thursday's game. Being the last home game of the season, everything in the gift shop was 25 percent off. Some of the remaining All-Star Game items were player t-shirts, and bright orange Pedro, Piazza and Beltran shirts were there for the taking.

It's been a stressful week at work, so I really needed a beautiful day at the ballpark. And this day was just about perfect.

In other words...

Professor Michael Hoban continues his statistical look at who should be in the Hall of Fame on, this time looking at pitchers. You can read it here. He provides hope for all of us who think Bert Blyleven is getting a raw deal.


G-Fafif said...

This both made me wish I were at this game and made me feel I was at this game. Can't do it any better than that. Thanks for the trip to Comerica.

I used to feel that way about the Sox, the kinship. Not so much these days. Particularly after they beat the Tribe, though the Tribe has only itself to blame. As mentioned previously, original Comiskey is my all-time favorite park. Tiger Stadium is No. 3. I'd like to see the Tigers come back to life just on principle. Does anybody still call Detroit "a great baseball town"?

jabair said...

dude.. youre a pretty good writer.. if i ever become famous.. im gonna have you write my biography!!!! LOL

i have a similar relationship with the Oakland A's... living in the bay area for 14 years... i could never root for the giants... mets being my first love... A's come in at a very distant second... i like the A's in principle because they contend with a small budget... im also a billy beane fan.... although i didnt appreciate what he had to say about steve phillips and omar minaya in his book..