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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Go Tigers!*

Some of my fondest childhood memories are going to "the old" Tiger Stadium to participate in America's Favorite Pastime.* Dad (FOB) would help me use the scorecard to identify the players -- Al Kaline, Mickey Lolich, Gates Brown -- and patiently explain the finer points of rules and strategy -- sacrifice fly, designated hitter -- plus spring for hot dogs and caramel corn.* I don't guess this sets me too far apart from most red-blooded American men, whose inner 7-year-old is awakened by the smell of roasted peanuts and the distinctive sound of a hardball being dispatched to the upper deck.*

Ol' Blue Eyes, the colorful maternal grandmother of Bruck (GOB), rest her soul, lived with us while I was growing up (maybe some day she'll be immortalized in her own VOB column).* She caught every Tigers game she could, either on her "transistor," or on the TV in her sitting room.* While actual trips to the stadium were not an everyday occurrence, Ernie Harwell's smooth play-by-play regularly beckoned us into Nana's front room for some baseball and second-hand smoke.*

As I grew up, baseball was less of a draw for me; other interests -- high school sports, girls, music -- vied more successfully for my limited adolescent attention, but it was always in the background, and occasionally we'd pile into a friend's hand-me-down car and head down to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.*

While I was in college (Go Blue!), a new phenomenon developed at Tiger Stadium, namely, "the bleachers. "* The bleachers were the cheap seats, $5.00 at the time, in the upper deck, way out beyond center field, from which the players looked like little white ants, and where relaxed standards of behavioral decorum prevailed.* While most of the stadium housed stolid, reflective baseball fans, the "bleacher creatures" carried on like sailors on shore leave.* If the wind were right, you might even catch the occasional whiff of malted beverages or burning cannibis.* The Tigers' last World Series-winning season was 1984, and we watched a few stellar performances by the '84 Tigers from that lofty vantage point.*

After graduation, temporarily moving away from Detroit, getting married, pursuing advanced education, changing diapers, clawing and scratching my way out of "entry-level" in my profession, and the integration of self and family into civilized society left little time for watching baseball or any other sport, and by that time the Tigers had pretty well waned into oblivion anyway.* But, to quote everyone's favorite pot-smoking tax cheat, "you were always on my mind. "* Then the players' strike of 1994 drove my already-limited interest in baseball in the direction of other sports.* And I wasn't alone: recognizing that there were two sides to this labor dispute, the general sentiment was that the players were a bunch of overpaid crybabies, and the owners were modern-day Ebenezer Scrooges, neither of which group resonated with baseball fans, who stayed home in droves.* Personally, I haven't been able to name a single Tiger since the strike.*

Around the year 2000, my career took me out of research (sports? what are sports? are they governed by stochastic nonlinear differential equations?) and into product development (sorry I can't support your program review, my wife and I both have softball games), so opportunities to watch baseball improved somewhat with work outings and supplier largesse, and I managed to catch a game once in a while.* I even took a group of European employees to a game in 2003; the most candid of them offered, "that was really boring." -- a stinging indictment, particularly coming from someone who enjoys watching soccer!*

Things have been looking up for baseball lately - interest was revived somewhat by the home run derby between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in the summer of 1998, and in my case, the Tigers have been putting together some excellent teams lately to go along with their lovely new stadium, Comerica Park (although I still wouldn't be able to pick a Tiger out of a lineup).* So as long as nothing bad happens to the sport, no scandals, no cheating, no legal problems to tarnish its image, I think baseball is definitely poised to continue to make a comeback into the hearts of its adoring fans.* Meanwhile:

Go Red Wings!

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