Thursday, March 27, 2008

Play Ball!

Well, as I mentioned before, I love baseball. Love it. Love the Detroit Tigers, starting to come around on the Nationals now that they are putting a bit more of a compelling product on the field. A bit of background on my obsession:

When I was growing up, my father had this little beat up radio that he bought in Korea while he was in the Army. This radio didn't look like much, but every night, around 7:30-8pm during the summer, when the sun started setting, that little Zenith started picking up Detroit's WJR 760.

Each night, the familiar sounds of the ballpark would start to become audible over the interference, and that silky smooth voice that Tiger fans all over would recognize in a second would make your night. Ernie Harwell would tell us about what was happening in the game, describing the scene so that you could imagine yourself sitting in grimy old Tiger Stadium, telling stories. He was a magical announcer - it's no surprise that he's in the hall of fame. My father and I would sit at the table and listen to every game that we could get on the radio (sometimes when they played the Yankees, we'd cheat and listen to the 770 New York broadcast because that came in more clearly - sorry Ernie). It was a great time for me growing up - every son should have something like that - something they can always look back on and smile. I cherish those times every day.

The year after I started listening was the magical 1984 Tigertown team that fired out of the gates at 35-5 and never looked back, coasting through the ALCS and easily defeating an overmatched Padres team. That magical run - hearing Ernie describe the double play combination of Alan Trammell and Sweet Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon patrolling the outfield, Jack Morris and Dan Petry pitching deep into the game, and Guillermo 'Willie' Hernandez closing games en route to the MVP and Cy Young awards - made me a huge fan of baseball, and ever since then, the day after the baseball season ends, I pine for Spring to return so it can begin all over again.

Well 1984 was the last year that the Tigers made it to the series until a couple years ago, and we Tigers fans would prefer to forget that week, as it was gut-wrenching and disappointing. Last year was an admirable showing, and who knows what might have been had some key players stayed healthy. As for the intervening 22 years between 1984 and 2006 - well, those were some tough years. Sure we had 1987, until those rotten Twins messed up the party and went on to win the World Championship. Have I mentioned that I hate the Twins? No? Well I do. I digress. After 1987, we had few bright spots (Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder), some incredibly comical rosters (who can forget this team, with such luminaries as Bill Gullickson, Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia, and Milt Cuyler??), and some historically bad teams. Now, we enter the start of the season hopeful once again, with such stars as Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Justin Verlander back, and the new faces like Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and Jacque Jones (still withholding judgement on Dontrelle Willis). I fully expect the Baseball Gods to reward my persistent fanhood with a World Series win. If not, at least I don't have to go to RFK for Nationals games anymore. Man that place sucked as a baseball stadium.

I leave you with this nugget related to baseball and new beginnings: It can't be a mistake that you can't say 'Hope Springs Eternal' without SPRING!