December 05, 2009

How do you become a die–hard?

People know me as a die–hard Tiger fan. During the late '90s and early 2000s, I was one of the only people wearing the Old English D and Tigers gear. In fact, it was actually difficult to find Tigers gear for a few years there. When you lost 119 games (and 100 games yearly, consistently) people tune you out. I've been to games at the CoPa with fewer than 10,000 people. It's like a ghost town.

An early attempt at using a tripod. I wanted to get some "classic" pictures of the stadium using my new glass but with a balanced approach. This is in July 2008, just as they began to dismantle Tiger Stadium.

How did I become a die–hard Tiger fan? I attended a few games in the late '70s, saw Fidrych pitch, joined the "bird–craze" of '76, and listened to games with Grandpa and Grandma Morgan in Clarkston. Grandpa and Grandma were die–hards, and even went and saw the Tigers on the road. They were treated well, too, because they were friends with Joe Falls, the sports editor for the Detroit News.

Ernie Harwell signed an autograph for me in the '80s. Meeting him was as cool as meeting any ball player. I remember Grandpa Morgan saying he worked every day from 7 a.m. until "five minutes to Ernie." In fact, he was quoted in Sports Illustrated! Harwell is a voice that Tigers fans will always remember. To many, he is the Tigers!

Grandpa Morgan and I went to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, in 1997. We had a great time, talking about baseball and life. Our trips out to the East Coast were a lot of fun for both of us.

The Tigers weren't too good in the late '70s, but they had a core of ball players who would combine to win the '84 series. I remember watching the Pirates in '79 and thinking it was cool that Pittsburgh's team won the Series. The '80 Series is the first I really remember watching and rooting. Of course, I should have rooted for the Royals because they were an American League team, but I liked the Phillies. Their players were cool: Tug McGraw, Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton. They had persona. Sure, Willie Wilson and his band of Royals were cool and all, but the Phillies ... they had character.

Tug McGraw pounding his heart late in a game is an image I'll always remember. Here he was on the national stage HAVING FUN!

In '81, the Tigers improved. A young dude named Kirk Gibson had a solid year and the Tigers made a run for the playoffs. Of course, this was the year of the prolonged strike ... right at the beginning of my real interest in baseball. The Tigers lost to the Milwaukee Brewers (then they were an American League team) the last week–end and lost out on a chance to make the playoffs. I remember the bitter disappointment. They continued to improve in '82, and in '83 chased the Orioles to the end.

But, '84, you just had a feeling. This team seemed primed to make a serious run. Bill Lajoie had signed Darrel Evans to man first and/or third base. And on March 27, the Tigers made an incredible deal, bringing Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman over from the Phillies (that team again) for John B. Wockenfuss and Glenn Wilson. Wilson was a fan–favorite and up and coming ball player who was blocked in the D by Kirk Harold Gibson.

Gibson might be my all–time favorite Detroit Tiger. He played the game with passion and his main goal was to win. I've been told that he could strike out four times in a game (and he did) but be even keeled about it if the Tigers won. On the other hand, he could get four hits, but if the Tigers lost he would be (grumpy).

Hernandez arrived in Detroit and told Sparky Anderson: "Give me the ball." Hernandez won the Cy Young and MVP awards that year and the Tigers led from start to finish and demolished the Padres in the World Series. I was able to attend a playoff game and World Series game and I've been hooked ever since.

A true die–hard Tiger fan!

Only a die–hard Tiger fan can have a birthday cake like that one!

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