April 03, 2016

40 Years!

40 years as a Tigers fan! 

Kirk Harold Gibson. Chet Lemon in the background. At the Corner. This must have been in 1985. 

It was the summer of '76. The year of "the Bird." I didn't know much about baseball because I was only four years old but the way that Mark Fidrych took Michigan by storm, I couldn't help but notice. I lived in Clarkston, Mich., at the time and the Bird was the Word. It was an amazing year, for sure. One I wouldn't understand for many, many years, but I became a die–hard Tiger fan that summer. And I've been a Tigers fan forever.

I've seen great seasons (1984), bad seasons (1989), even worse seasons (2003). I've watched Tram and Lou, Gibby, Jack Morris, Willie Hernandez. I've seen Brandon Inge, David Wells, and Gibby's return. The Bird tried to comeback for several years and became a Red Sox. So many memories of the Tigers. Lance Parrish was a great Tiger and when he left for the Phillies it was a sad day; it turned out to be a bad move for everyone involved. Gibby left for the West Coast and LA glamour a year later, then Morris "went home" for a year and moved to Canada after that. As great as the '80s were for the Tigers, the '90s were a struggle as were the first five years of the 21st Century. The last decade has been solid.  

Cecil Fielder arrived in 1990: an import from Japan. And in that one summer, Cecil Fielder became THE MAN. The Big Daddy. His boy even played for the Tigers for a season, too. Many memories, some good, some bad, some great, some incredible. But it all goes back to the Spirit of '76. The year of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. I don't remember Ralph Houk managing the Tigers, but I recall Les Moss, Sparky Anderson, Buddy Bell, Larry Parrish, Phil Garner, Luis Pujols, Alan Trammell, Jim Leyland, and Brad Ausmus.

I've been able to watch two future Hall of Famers for several years, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. During the baseball season, I am amazed every day that the greatest player plays for my favorite team. I've listened to great men announce the Tigers games, but no one has ever been better than Ernie Harwell.

Ernie Harwell. 

Annual rite of spring. 

I've gone to many Opening Days. Most, since the early '90s. I've gone to playoff games, World Series games. I've cheered for solid Tigers teams and the '03 team. The surprise of 2006 started with a trip to Kansas City to begin the season. And this year I'll be starting off in Miami. There is nothing like Opening Day in Detroit; it truly is a holiday. It's an amazing day. Every team has a chance at this point to go to the World Series. It's the beginning of six months of the greatest sport.

Open Day in KC, 2006. Lott, Thering, and Kreiner. 

The Corner of Michigan & Trumbull, 2008. 

I've watched the greatest baseball stadium be tore down for 10 years. I've sat through games in Comerica Park and never thought it had any tradition until 2006 when the Tigers somehow upset the Yankees, then the Athletics, and went to the World Series. Suddenly, the CoPa had tradition of its own. 

Just after the Tigers won the Division Series in 2006. 

It all started 40 years ago with Mark Fidrych. I wonder if I would have become a Tigers fan, or even a baseball fan, if Fid had stayed in the minor leagues all season …

Opening Day is all about friends and family. 

And you never know who will be an Opening Day hero. 

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