September 24, 2011

An Epic Match–up

Eat 'em up, Tigers!!!

The Kreiner boys, with the Chicken Man in Detroit … last time. 

Roar. Roar. Roar. Roar. Roar. Roar. (Roar X 6) 

Everyone who knows — even acquaintances — knows that I am a die–hard Tiger fan. I've been a Tigers fan since Mark "The Bird" Fidrych's incredible season back in 1976. Now, it's true that as a youngster when my Grandpa would talk to me about "this kid Kirk Gibson" back in '79, I never expected him to become a super star.

Grandpa used to tell me about Kirk Gibson, this young Tiger. 

Gibby's Mom was a longtime customer of Morgan's Service in Clarkston, Mich., where she taught at the high school. It was like we knew Gibby as he grew up in the Tigers organization. I would get autographs once in a while and pre–release photos before they became the Topps baseball card that year.

As he grew up, though, and became a star (yeah, I remember the incredible article "Whatever Happened to Kirk Gibson" from 1981 or 1982 in the Detroit News; I remember when he and his buddy Rozema ran into some trouble with a bottle of medicine in a Spring Training bar — I never really knew what that was about …) Gibby was my favorite player. I always have said he played the game right.

His goal was to win. I remember that he could strike out four times (don't know if he ever did for sure) but if his team (usually the Tigers) won, he was fine. Vice versa, if he was four for four and the Tigers lost … It was '81 in the second half, after the strike, that Gibby took off and started to rocket to stardom. In '83, he has a nice run in the second half as the Tigers chased the Orioles. But, in 1984, he took charge. And his epic homers in game five will be moments I'll never forget. Especially the one that made the score 8–4. I knew that the Tigers were about to be World Champions.

His Dodger homer in '88, the year he won the MVP, is more famous — but it didn't mean as much to me as that shot in '84. 

Forward this to 2011. 

I joked during the summer when the Tigers and D'backs were both mounting big winning streaks that the they could meet in the World Series. "Wow, I wouldn't know who to root for," I joked. But, the media coverage, the stories that would result, the stuff people would bring back up … Epic! Well, both teams are in the playoffs now, and anything can truly happen.

As much as I would like to see a Tigers v. D'backs World Series, Gibby's team scares me. They play hard. They play tough. They scratch and claw. And, as Gibby said after clinching the NL West, "We're pretty damn good, I hate to tell ya …"

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