Sunday, April 22, 2012

Individual Tiger Memories

I made fun of a Grantland article last week and occasionally badmouth Bill Simmons due to being sick to death of the constant Ellsbury Nation nonsense in the media. But in his latest piece at Grantland after the 100 years of Fenway celebration, he said something that I thought was quite good. This is Bill remarking about seeing the hundreds of Sawx heroes walking onto the field and talking about it with his father afterward.

We have been having the same conversation about Freddie Lynn since I was 13. He should have stayed. These are the things you think about when your entire life is flashing before your eyes. Football is more popular, basketball is more marketable, hockey is more exciting, soccer means more throughout the world. But baseball has a way of making you think about everything that ever happened to you, every conversation you ever had, every place you ever lived, everything. 

At least with me, that couldn’t be more true. I love football, college and pro, but have never really felt any real attachment to the players of my teams for some reason. My fandom of basketball and hockey comes and goes. But with baseball, my love for the sport has never waned, even with the Tigers being dreadful for the majority of my watching the team. And neither have the attachments and memories that I associate with so many players. I was at Comerica Park for the 1984 Tigers reunion. That was awesome. But if the Tigers were to ever have a celebration of the team’s history like Boston just did…I would do anything to be there for it.

There have been so many Tigers over the years that have left lasting impressions on me. Obviously, with a majority of them, there’s more than one great memory, but most have one clear moment that pops into my mind first. I’d like to take a break from complaining about Inge/Raburn/Valverde/etc for a day and share a few with you, in no particular order.

Alan Trammell: The last week of the ’87 season, standing at home plate while a sold out Tiger Stadium chanted “MVP” during his at bats.

Chet Lemon: The intro to the old PASS Tigers broadcasts. Silly, but I used to love that intro with Chester batting and would sit on my grandmother's floor in front of the TV for so many games and throw a fit if I missed the intro.

Bobby Higginson: My estranged best friend and I making up after a fight by leaping up and hugging each other in a bar after a Higgy walk off.

Magglio Ordonez: The feeling of elation and joy along with the rest of Comerica when he hit the homer to send the Tigers to the World Series in ’06.

Joel Zumaya: Joel jumping into the crowd after Magglio’s homer, being a foot from my face, and us screaming “FUCK YEAH” at each other.

Placido Polanco: Jumping for joy rounding the bases after Magglio’s homer. (Okay, no more Magglio ones.)

Carlos Guillen: His last great Tiger moment, taking Jered Weaver deep and staring his ass down.

Jamie Walker: “HOLY SHEEPSHIT!” That was his response after asking me how much I paid for a beer at Tigerfest in 2004.

Travis Fryman: The only clear memory I have of going to a Mud Hens game as a kid. My dad thought Scott Lusador would be a star one day. I told him that I thought Fryman would be. Rogo 1, Rogo Senior, 0.

Ivan Rodriguez: Playing second base when Polanco got hurt in a game in ’06. Not sure why, but it made me love him more.

Tom Brookens: Had to catch in a game in ’85 when Sparky burned through all of his catchers in the game. 8 year old Rogo thought it was hysterical seeing little Tom catch and his mustache sticking out through the catcher’s mask.

Dave Bergman: I don’t remember the year, but Bergman is the only Tiger I’ve ever seen pull off the hidden ball trick. I’ve been desperate to see it again. Prince, get this done.

Doyle Alexander: In ’87, I used to imitate his pitching delivery in my backyard because I couldn’t figure out how he was getting so many guys out.

Frank Tanana: Threw an eephus pitch in a late ‘80’s game that had my Dad laughing on a rare day that he watched a game with me. Again, I was off to the back yard to imitate it.

Paul Bako: Hit the first foul ball I ever caught in a game at Tiger Stadium.

Alex Avila: Second foul ball, obviously this one was at Comerica.

Aubrey Huff: Walkoff homer against the Blue Jays. Only memorable because I was there with my old roommate…a Blue Jays fan.

Miguel Cabrera: The walkoff against Chicago last year. Amazing ending to one of my favorite games ever.

Ryan Raburn: The homer that led to Miguel’s walkoff.

Brandon Inge: His walkoff last year after returning from Triple A. Even I had a grin on my face after that one. Little shit.

Armando Galarraga: The look on his face when Jim Joyce ruled “safe”.

Damion Easley: Watching the game with a friend and seeing him hit for the cycle. We went nuts.

Todd Jones: Blowing a save at Tiger Stadium and me losing my cool, climbing the left field fence, and threatening to kill him, before being pulled down by a friend. Sorry, Todd.

Darrell Evans: Hitting his 40th home run at the age of 38 in ’87. I remember being so impressed that a guy that old could hit that many homers. Today, being two weeks away from turning 35, I find that thought less amusing.

Kyle Farnsworth: Tackling the shit out of Jeremy Affeldt in an ’05 brawl.

Cecil Fielder: Hitting #50. I still have the newspaper saved somewhere.

Nook Logan: Watching him hit at the CoPa one afternoon when my buddy next to me yelled out “C’mon Spook!” I freaked out and he didn’t understand why. When I explained how racist that was, he then freaked out, having never made the connection before yelling it. Lesson: Rhyming stuff for no reason is not funny. Also: White people are stupid.

Austin Jackson: The catch he made in the Galarraga game barely beats out throwing the runner out at home last year to extend Valverde’s streak. Both were amazing “OH JACKSON” moments.

Kirk Gibson: That at bat against Goose Gossage in ‘84. I didn’t see it live, but the tape of it with Sparky yelling at Gibby is burned in my memory.

Kenny Rogers: The emotion he showed on the mound in the ’06 Playoffs as he willed himself to excellence.

Jack Morris: Kind of a cheat, but his 10 inning shutout as a Twin in Game 7 of the World Series is the most awesome pitching performance I’ve ever seen. Jack was and is “Always a Tiger” to me.

Justin Verlander: Watching his second no-hitter with my son…and that little shit not caring and wanting to return to his video game. I hope to rub that in his face as he gets older and starts enjoying baseball more.

Mike Maroth: One-hitting the Yankees in ‘04. There have been very few Tigers I have wanted to see succeed more than Mike after he fell on the sword for the team in ’03. One of my favorite games I’ve ever watched.

Lance Parrish: Imitating his swing and mannerisms in Little League in 4th grade when I was a catcher for the first time.

Walt Terrell: Losing a no-hitter in the 9th inning with two outs against the Angels in ‘86. I was freaking out and watching the game with my grandmother thinking I would see my first no-hitter. Instead, Wally Joyner broke it up and made me hate him for the rest of my childhood.

Carlos Pena: Hitting three homers in a game at Cleveland. I was there and was elated…until the Tigers found a way to blow the game.

Mickey Tettleton: Getting yelled at by my baseball coach for doing the Tettleton stance in a game.

Dmitri Young: Hitting 3 homers on Opening Day in ’05. Was awesome until I blacked out drinking…

Sparky Anderson: So many moments. But now, it’s the ’84 reunion. Before the game, we were told that random ex-players would be at certain areas of the ballpark. My friends and I walked over and who do we see? Sparky. He looked frail, but had the biggest smile on his face and still seemed so full of life laughing with his old players and the fans. And though it probably didn’t happen, when I yelled a “Love ya, Sparky” at him, it almost seemed like we locked eyes and he smiled. Whatever, it was still one of those moments. A year later, he would pass away.

So that’s the ones off the top of my head. I feel kind of weird rattling that many off, now that I look at the list. But that’s baseball. That’s the Tigers to me. I hate to admit it, but Simmons was right.

You just don’t get that in any other sport.


Dustin said...

You should also note that Ozzie Guillen was the victim of Bergman's hidden ball trick. Doesn't get much better than that. 

Sportsfan said...

I remember Sparky going out after Rob Deer got hit by a pitch and pulling him to the mound telling him to fight.

EightMileCats said...

Sadly, being a bit younger, I don't remember any of the stuff from the 80s...  Obviously some of the recent stuff like Maggs walk off and JV no hitter are going to stick.  AJax with the throw to the plate and Armando's 28 out perfect game.  Sadly, the thing that is going to stick with me for Zumaya is the look of pain on his face after destroying his elbow again...
Cecil hitting one literally out of the park will stick.  The Easley cycle game from 01 and the Guillen game from 06...  I vaugely remember the Fryman cycle, but not enough to make my list.

Phil Johnson said...

No Leyland memory? That's all I need to know. FIre him. -MliveCommenter

Brasky68 said...
Found a link to a video that shows David Bergman fooling ozzie guillen with the hidden ball trick

SRogo said...

 Awesome. Haven't seen that in years.

Uncle Omar said...

Two things of recent Tiger vintage that I would suggest for your is Porcello beating the crap out of Youklis--you even have the picture on your sidebar--and two, Frank Tanana drilling MIke Greenwell right below the "n" and between the 2 and 9 in August, 1991, as retaliation for Clemens drilling T-Bone Shelby in an April game in Fenway after Tram had taken him deep with the bases drunk.  Or, after Tanana had fanned him and made him look like a fool, Tony Fernandez yelling at Tanana "Pitch like a man!" and Tanana laughing at him.

Jay Hathaway said...

I moved to Toledo from the Poconos in '87, and my new best friend there was a huge baseball fan, as was I, and he managed to convert me from being exclusively a Phils fan to a Tiger fan.  I remember him telling me about George Kell and Al Kaline on the broadcasts.  I remember how much he wanted to play like Tom Brookens (!).  I remember wanting to make diving infield plays like Tram and Lou (Side note: I now play the outfield on a beer league softball team...oh, how far I've fallen).

I remember my first trip to Tiger Stadium and seeing them play the A's.  I watched McGwire take BP, because we got there so early (at my request), and being in awe of his huge, Popeye-esque forearms.  That was a good day.

Nowadays, I make new memories with my son and step-daughters going to Comerica.  My 3-year-old son now occasionally blurts out, "Go Tigers," when I interrupt his cartoons for Rod and Mario.

I also share a lot of the same memories you mentioned above.  I really love that you mentioned Kenny Rogers stepping it up in '06.  That was awesome.  I remember that a friend said something like, "Man, what's gotten into Rogers?" to which I simply responded, "He's pissed."

Michigan Jim said...

Great, great post. I remember a ton of them. When you talk about trying to imitate Mickey Tettleton it brought to mind MY attempt to imitate Dick McAuliife's strange batting stance. Or the way Ruppert Jones would stare at his bat before getting into his stance in 84. Or Sean Casey and the intermidable step out of the box tighten the gloves. Every single at bat.

Or Dave Bergman and that incredible at bat against Toronton on Monday Night Baseball. Or Daryll Patterson coming into a game against the Orioles with the bases loaded and nobody out and striking out the side in 68.

But there are sad Tiger memories too. Daryll Evans desperately trying to field a ball in the playoffs against the Twins. Dick McAuliffe hitting into a double play to end our hopes in 67. The NON hit by pitch of Brandon Inge in game 163 that would have given the Tigers the lead. Armando's 28 out non perfect game.

And poor Brandon Inge popping up or striking out as he desperately tried to stay on the roster in 2012 before mercifully getting released.

Simonson is right - No sport beside Baseball leaves such deep meories.

Michigan Jim said...

Porcello / Youkliss was terrific.

Another was Willie Horton trying to get to Bert Campaneris after Campy threw his bat at Lerrin Lagrow in the 72 playoffs

Or Al Cowens going to first base after a walk and then suddenly making a beeline for a Chicago WHite Sox Pitcher that had hit him the year before.

Or Disco Demolition nite in Chicago. The only FORFEIT win I remember

Adam Dubbin said...

+1 for being against Ozzie Guillen.

Adam Dubbin said...

My #1 Tigers memory was being a bat boy for a minor league game back in the early 90s when I got to meet Alan Trammell, Travis Fryman and others. But the best part was sitting with Sparky and Dick Tracewski for 20 minutes in the dug out and talking Tigers baseball. 

#2 would be Cecil Fielder's 50th and 51st HRs on the last day of the season, living in Florida, I couldn't see it on TV, but I remember getting the news off Prodigy (early internet for you whipper-snappers) and nearly losing my early adolescent shit.

Ricklehman said...

My #1 Tiger memory was meeting Ray Oyler, back in the 70's when he was working as a scout for the Tigers, and checking some kid out way up north here.  He had stopped to get a burger at a bar here, and I recognized him.  One of the Tigers best defensive infielders ever.

Biff Mayhem said...

No love for Dean Palmer and Robert Fick wanting to fight the entire Chicago White Sox team and fan base? (Not to mention the Fick granny in Sept 99)

Quietadah said...

I was raised in a house that never had sports on the television save for the occasional weekend football game (Until my father started watching hockey, baseball, AND football regularly.... after I moved out.  I still hold this against him!).  I had been to a few games in college but didn't really fall in love with baseball until after I was married.  I think this makes my relationship with baseball even more special, because many of my favorite baseball moments are memories of some of my favorite times with my husband.

Watching Kenny Rogers, my first baseball love, run around and spray the crowd with champagne in '06.

Sitting on the living room floor, rocking, and generally gibbering incoherently during the Twins tiebreaker game.

Lazy evenings hanging out in Lakeland, watching the Flying Tigers with a grand total of like 20 people, including one spent watching Guillen rehab.

Walking into the house after class one night and having my husband FREAK OUT at me, sit me down, and make me watch what had just happened to Galarraga.

Inge's curtain call after his home run last season, me grinning like an idiot. 

Guitarin_goalie said...

One of my earliest Tiger memories as a boy was Milt Wilcox throwing 26 outs of a perfect game  in '83 before giving up a single to the would-be last batter.  I was just a kid at the time and it took a while before I realized that kind of thing didn't happen all the time.

Django McTunes said...

Definitely both Verlander no hitters. I drove my coworkers crazy during the second no hitter, pumping my fists and generally going batty (we were working overtime, hence why I was there in the evening).


Jose Macias walk off grand slam.
Ajax throwing out the dude at home.
Jose Lima throwing a complete game against the Yankees.
Verlander's 12 strikeout game against the Yankees in the playoffs.
And, of course, Kenny Rogers brilliant run in 06. Man, I think they ought to build a statue in Comerica for him just for that.