Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Blast From the Past

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of “Hoarders” on TV and it got me thinking about the several boxes of old baseball cards I’ve been lugging around since I was a kid. It finally clicked in my pea-sized brain that the thousands of 1989 Topps Gary Ward cards were never really going to be worth anything and pay for my retirement, the way I imagined back in the day. So, I began sorting through them and pitching 90% of what I found.

In one of the boxes today, I found some old Sports Illustrated magazines. As I was tossing them, I noticed along with them, an old Detroit Tigers Magazine. This was a program that I apparently bought at a game in the late 90’s. As I began to leaf through it, I couldn’t help laughing at what I was reading.

Today, I’d like to share some of that with you. Prepare to facepalm.

This is the program, moments before my cat attempted to urinate on and/or destroy it. Filthy creature. As you can see, the cover story is “Tony Clark Blasts Tigers Into New Era”. Yes, the era of mediocrity and depression, as Detroit wouldn’t top 79 wins in a season again until 2006.

This book was purchased at Tiger Stadium on May 27, 1997. I know that from the scorecard that fell out of the middle where I apparently had the attention span to keep score for the entire top of the first inning. Quite impressive for the then-20 year old Rogo. I have no memory of the game, but baseball-reference tells me that the Tigers beat the Angels that day 6-2. Justin Thompson went seven innings to get the win, while Travis Fryman hit a home run. Third-year emerging star Bobby Higginson chipped in with a single and an RBI groundout. Awesome.

Back to the program. Opening it up, we are greeted with a letter from then-President and Chief Executive Officer, John McHale, Jr. My favorite part:

“We are very excited about the future of baseball in Detroit, and hope that you share our enthusiasm and optimism as we continue to build a championship-caliber organization.”

Yes, John. With Thompson backed up by Brian Moehler, Willie Blair, Omar Oliveres, Felipe Lira, and Scott Sanders in the rotation in ’97, we were all counting the days until the pennant was ours.

McHale went on to talk about the exciting introduction of interleague play, player autograph days, and thanking the Tiger employees for their charity work. How nice. You may all remember McHale for being an awful team president and a current MLB executive vice president.

Turning the page, we find an ad for a Sharp WideNote laptop featuring Windows ’95, an 11.2” screen, a 122Mhz Pentium processor, a 28.8 kbps fax/modem, and a 1.1GB hard drive. Technology was truly upon us.

Next is the cover story on Clark. The headline says that Clark “is learning to play the leading role in Detroit while living up to the greatness that has been thrust upon him.” In Tony’s defense, in ’97 he did seem like a big deal finishing the year with 32 homers and 117 RBI. However, four years later, he would be selected off waivers by the Red Sox before moving on to the Mets, Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Padres. I liked Tony, but always got the impression that he was going to nod off over at first base at any given time.

Some highlights…

“It’s been a long road already, and yet the journey has just begun for Tony Clark, cornerstone of the future for the Detroit Tigers.”

“…Clark is poised on the verge of stardom and a place among the long tradition of Tiger sluggers.”

“There are plenty of young players with potential currently on the Tiger squad and deep in the Tiger organization—names such as Fryman, Higginson, Thompson, Hunter, Drumright, and Greisinger.”

“…his start to the 1997 season has some eyes already looking ahead to the World Series.”

“There is little question, however, that when the Tigers do make a run for the playoffs, Tony Clark will be the one carrying the proverbial Tiger flag up to the top of the mountain.”

“For a club that has placed player development as its number-one priority ever since President John McHale, Jr. and General Manager Randy Smith came on board in 1995 and 1996, respectively, Clark is a shining example of how hard work can turn a player from a prospect with potential to a star on the rise.”

There is no author listed for the story. This is a shame. Because I would love to beat them to death with a wrench for this ridiculous propaganda and nonsense they exposed to us back in the late 90’s. Raul Casanova was our starting catcher, for crissakes. We weren’t going anywhere for a while.

Next up was a story on the team’s big free agent closer they signed, Mr. Todd Jones. Try not to laugh here…

“Few Tiger players have a more imposing, even menacing look than reliever Todd Jones.”

They must have seen him at the buffet table or something.

“At 6-3, 235 pounds, he has the build of a gridiron warrior, complete with a facial resemblance to the Chicago Bears' legendary Dick Butkus.”
Hercules, Hercules, Hercules!

Whatever. The rest of the article was an introduction to Jonesey and how he had progressed though the system of the Astros before arriving in Detroit. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Todd, but to begin by describing him like he was 1997’s Ndamukong Suh is just ridiculous.

Next up is a piece on the manager, Buddy Bell, and how he knows what it takes to be a winner. According to the article, “Bell has earned the respect of many players, coaches, and executives. He has been praised for his patience, his teaching and coaching abilities, as well as his professionalism.” This, of course, is the same Buddy Bell that resigned in 1998 because he “couldn’t stand the losing”. So yeah…another bullshit story.

We then get pieces on Pitching Coach Rick Adair, Third Base Coach Perry Hill, Bench Coach Larry Parrish, Hitting Coach Larry Herndon, Bullpen Coach Fred Kendall, and First Base Coach Jerry White. Herndon and Parrish are good guys, but I remember very little about the others. That is probably for the best.

Next is a page kissing the ass of McHale and talking about what a great human being he is. I don’t believe a word of it since the picture they use has him wearing a bowtie that even Ken Rosenthal would find obnoxious. It gets even worse on the next page where we are introduced to the team’s Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager (and Lord of Darkness and Stupidity), Randy Smith. We are assured that Smith is the man for the job and knows what he is doing.

/breaks down crying for 20 minutes

Moving along, there are full color pages showcasing Tiger "stars" Jose Bautista (crappy pitcher, not slugging Blue Jay), Willie Blair, Doug Brocail, Raul Casanova, Tony Clark, Deivi Cruz, John Cummings, Damion Easley, Travis Fryman, Bobby Higginson (why is this page sticky?), Brian Hunter, Brian Johnson, Todd Jones, Felipe Lira, Dan Miceli, Orlando Miller, Brian Moehler, Mike Myers, Phil Nevin, Melvin Nieves, Omar Olivares, Curtis Pride, Jody Reed, A.J. Sager, Justin Thompson, Bubba Trammell, and Matt Walbeck. WORLD SERIES, HERE WE COME!

After that, we get some stuff on the minors and how the Tigers are committed to winning from within again. Sigh. Small blurbs are then done on announcers Frank Beckman, Lary Sorensen, Fred McLeod, Jim Price, and the great ones, Al Kaline and Ernie Harwell.

Nearing the end, we come to information on Tiger Stadium. Seeing eye dogs are allowed, but no other animals. That’s good to know. Soft box and bag type drink containers are permitted and fans are also allowed to bring food into the stadium, as long as it’s not in a hard cooler. Today at the CoPa, they shoot you on sight if you try to sneak in a Tic-Tac.

EDIT: A representitive of the Tigers has since contacted me and let me know that I'm a Liar Liar, Pants on Fire. It seems fans are indeed still permitted to bring snacks and sealed bottles of water into the CoPa. My bad.

There’s a fun, full-page ad from the Oakland Press at the end. In it, they say “Sports writer Pat Caputo, our power hitter, is at bat, ready to hit a home run with the best coverage of game schedules, player stats, locker room exchanges, and team goals for the season.” Pat, if you happen to be reading this, please apologize for this corny nonsense from nearly 15 years ago.

Finally, there’s a seating chart of the old ballpark with ticket prices ranging from $4 for bleacher seats to the most expensive ones…$20 for Tiger Den seats. Yes, only a little over a decade ago, the most expensive Tiger seat was an Andrew Jackson. I blame Nate Robertson’s contract for the increases.

And there you have it. I hope this trip down memory lane wasn’t as depressing for you as it was for me. But the main point of it all, especially for you “after-2006’ers”, is to ENJOY THIS TEAM.

We didn’t always have it this good around here.


Damian56xx said...

Upon learning that '99 was going to be the last season ever for the now late and lamented Tiger  Stadium, I decided to go with a co-worker to a game in late August, I was soon getting married in September, on the 11th to be exact, so it became part of my two person  "bachelor party", since my co-worker also stood up for me in my wedding....and yeah, its very easy to remember that day and month, as being my wedding anniversary, esp. b/c of what happened two years later, and the fact that my driver's license, home address while growing up in Detroit, our phone number, and my SS # all have 911 beginning or ending in them...yikes!!

Anyway, it was to become the only Tigers baseball game that I attended in the 90s, after having attended literally 100s of them in the late 60s thru 80s. It was an interleague game vs the Cards, it was also very dog-day's of late summer hot, and I spent most of the game in the concourse, b/c we had seats in the upper deck of RF with the blazing sun right on us. I sweat easy, since I have a malformed thryroid and I got too uncomfortable to be able to sit for more than 20 mins at a time that afternoon.

I still have my plastic Tony Clark beer cup from that game as a memento. I use it in my basement sink, when I want a drink of tap-water or brush my teeth. His pose is like Clark would appear immediately after hitting the ball, and watching the trajectory of a sure homer..haha!!

I don't regret attending that game, but my marriage...well..that  is a whole different story...heh!!

Damian56xx said...

The propaganda articles in that old vintage '97 Detroit Tigers program are not unlike those that I read online while browsing the Detroit Lions' official NFL website during the very darkest depths of the Matt Millen-era of the past decade.

I know that you aren't a (long-suffering)  Lions fan, (outside of this nearly miraculous WC playoff-clinching season) but I often couldn't help but stifle a smirk,if not really lol, when I read their articles, and they tried soo hard to pathetically sugar-coat the ugliness of those horrifically awful inept HCs, their coaching staffs, teams and seasons, especially the historically infamous 0-16 debacle, It must have been quite a chore to come up with anything positive to post, but the editors of the site somehow always managed to find some little tiny shining beam of light amidst all of the gloomy losing, like if for example, they would devote nearly a half-page after-game articles about how Hanson kicked 3 FGs after the losing Lions were all too often already down by at least 21 points even before the second quarter..haha!!

rea said...

This certainly puts our current problems (who to start at third?  Inge or Kelly?) in perspective.

Jay Hathaway said...

 Yeah, I went to a couple Lions games during that '08 season, including the one against the Saints where we became the first team to go 0-15.  This sums up those games:  get up early, go to friend's tailgate bus in Rockwood, 8 a.m.; get to abandoned parking lot directly across from old Tiger Stadium remains, 9a.m.; drink and eat and drink, 9-11:30; go to Nemo's and drink another (or five), 11:30-noon; pop a quick 20 in a Greetown slot, noon-12:30; stumble into Ford Field, 12:50; heartburn and confusion, kickoff til end of 3rd quarter; leave early, head back to bus, fall asleep in bus til back to Rockwood, then home.

Good times.
Happy as hell for the playoffs this year.

tramandlouHOF said...

Don't apologize to Caputo. He probably wrote the damn thing. He's a buffoon and  a hack.