Sunday, October 22, 2006
Checking in on 'the neighbors' and Game One
My relationship with the Tigers is complicated.
The Mets are like family. We live far apart, but we still keep in touch and I still feel close. We’ll always have that unbreakable bond.
But the Tigers are like my neighbors. I kind of know them. I see them outside when the weather is nice. We have nice conversations. I go to their house every once in a while. I wish them well, but I’m not overly involved.
I probably know their kids better than I know the adults, which is also true of the Tigers, since their Midwest League team plays four miles from my front door.
The Lions, by the way, are like bad neighbors. They’re the ones who let the lawn go unmowed for weeks and leave the Homer Simpson Halloween decoration deflated and atop the garage roof year-round.
But I’ve shared some nice moments with the Tigers, attending several Opening Days and even the last game at the old stadium.
So I was extremely excited about the opportunity to see World Series Game One on Saturday. I'm still mourning the demise of the Mets. We should have been there. But the World Series is the World Series, and any chance to witness baseball history is a glorious thing.
I’m also lucky that my bosses allowed me to work at the game, which allows me to run around looking for people doing crazy things and ask them questions. Reporters are nosy by nature. We want to ask these questions. A pad gives us the authority to do so. It also gets me into some places that would be difficult otherwise, such as the rooftop deck of Cheli’s Chili Bar across the street form Comerica.
I met some fun folks. One woman from Romeo, Mich. hosted a tailgate party by converting her mini-van into a giant tiger. She told me she bought 40 yards of tiger-striped material, buying the entire stock of four Wal Marts.
I had several hours to scurry around talking to people like this, then filed my stories from the laptop. Thank you to the staff at the downtown Au Bon Pain for allowing me to use their wi-fi!
I also checked out a couple of the vendors. Don’t think for a minute that every time a saw a cap or shirt with the Cardinals’ logo I didn’t think there was a version with an orange inter-locking NY going to waste a warehouse somewhere.
There were corporate sponsors handing out t-shirts. It’s amazing to watch people go into a feeding frenzy for a crappy shirt advertising GM or hot dogs.
I ran into a number of people wearing Mets jerseys who bought their tickets last week expecting our boys to be there. We all lamented what should have been.
Just entering the ballpark for a World Series game is an emotional thing. Some people get all teary. OK, that was just me. But I stood awhile and watched other people get their tickets scanned, walk through the turnstiles and let out a holler and pump their fists.
You also get some primo freebies, like a an XM satellite radio in addition to the ever-present towel, which is guess is better than the Thunder Stix we had to endure a couple years ago.
I spent the time before the game walking around the stadium, watching the people. It’s a different kind of charged atmosphere. People pause and take photos of everything.
There are also a lot of VIPs running around. I also ran into Vinny Castilla, for some reason wearing a media credential. He was very nice. Newly unemployed Dusty Baker was posing for photos, and I swear Curt Schilling walked past in the concourse.
The pregame festivities were moving. Bob Seger played “America the Beautiful” as a massive American flag was unfurled that seemed to cover about 80 percent of the outfield. Some F-18 Hornets roared overhead as he finished.
That tugged at the heart of the couple sitting next to me. The husband and wife took turns holding a bright pink sign, reading that a brother was watching the game while serving in Iraq.
Doing the nosy reporter thing, I found out that he is in the Air Force and as been outside Tikrit since August. He also served two tours in Afghanistan. He’s a huge Tigers fan, and if he couldn’t make it to the Series, they would in his place.
The game was a battle of rookies, with Anthony Reyes for the Cards and Justin Verlander for the Tigers. We know what the Mets did to Reyes last week, so I wasn’t surprised when Craig Monroe hit a double in the first inning and came around to score two batters later.
But, as we’ve seen them do, the Cards answered with a run in the second and Verlander mistakenly and famously decide to challenge Albert Pujols in the third.
Fat Albert’s bomb took the crowd right out of the game, and Reyes started mowing down the Tigers. It got so bad that people around me started talking about college football. They should have been escorted from their seats! You do not, for any reason, discuss the lesser sports while attending a World Series game.
The Cards tacked on three more runs in the sixth when Brandon Inge decided to throw the ball around and interfere with runners.
Shortly after that, my seat-neighbor’s cell phone went off – it was her brother calling from Iraq, saying that he was watching the game on Armed Forces Network. It was fun to watch them being able to share the moment despite the brother being in harm’s way on the other side of the world.
Craig Monroe launched a monster shot the bottom of the ninth. But that still left the Tigers down by five and sending the fans home disappointed – and me still just overjoyed to be there.
I finally made it home around 2:30 am, physically and emotionally exhausted and grateful for every minute of the day.
The Cardinals impress me. I didn’t give them much of a chance of getting past the Padres and no chance at all of getting around our Mets. They’re still overwhelming underdogs, but I can’t count them out.
Other World Series notes:
-- My buddy Rich once said that if he ever attended a World Series game, he'd never leave his seat because he wouldn’t want to chance missing one of those iconic plays that will be discussed for generations.
That’s a good rule. But, damn, there’s a lot of time between innings. You know the John Mellencamp song from the Chevy ads? They played it in its entirety once between innings and still had time to kill.
--Eminem is an idiot. He had some kind of rambling video message played before the game that ended with him swinging a toy bat and missing a ball, then saying that’s how the Cardinals would be hitting, then did the same, connecting, and implying that’s how the Tigers would hit.
--The Tigers get points for taking the field to Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" pounding from the Comerica sound system. Now, you'd think that would be an obvious selection to pump up the crowd, but I had never heard it played at a Tigers game until this year. Then again, the organist at the old Tiger Stadium thought playing "Mexican Hat Dance" over and over was clever. Playing Kiss is always a good thing!
--Tiger fans have their own version of the taped-on red Spiezio soul patch – Magglio Ordonez wigs.
--The souvenir selection was somewhat disappointing, and stupid-expensive, at least as the ballpark. That didn’t stop long lines from forming at the concession stands. I bought a program and cap with the Series logo and cap emblems for each team. In that respect, it’s good the Mets were not there because I would have been far more tempted!
Feel good for these fans. Detroit certainly has problems, many of them self-inflicted. But it’s been a baseball town in hibernation.
It’s been a tough couple years for many Michiganders. The state’s economy is in transition and the struggles of the auto industry have really taken their toll in the people in the state, even those who don’t work directly for the carmakers.
And the Tigers have been horrible pretty much since we arrived here in 1990.
These folks have suffered through a lot of things, and they are going crazy for this team, much more so than over the Pistons’ title two years back.
I’m a National League guy and I have ties to St. Louis. But I won’t feel bad if the Tigers ride this wave of emotion to a championship – now that it won’t come at the expense of the Mets.