Thursday, November 15, 2012


In memoriam: Louis the Cat

I often go through withdrawal in early-November, missing the baseball that has been a part of my life for the previous six months.  Not this year, however, I think for two reasons.
First, I saw a lot of ball, 29 games, and they were nicely spread out over the course of the season.  Secondly, I saw four play-off games in person, which seemed after the fact to provide a sense of closure.  Those games also made me a Tigers fan, at least for the month of October.

In the span of nine days I saw a pair of games at Comerica Park (above) and a couple more at Yankee Stadium.  I didn't really know what I was doing.  I just bought tickets because I could and it all (for the most part) worked out.  It almost felt like circumstances were being guided by an outside force, but that doesn't happen, does it?

Melvin tipped me off to when Tigers tickets were going on sale and (apologies) I pounced, buying four each to the two home games without knowing who would join me.  Melvin said he and Watson might attend.  I have a cousin who lives in the suburbs.  Some neighbors who enthusiastically attended the 2010 post-season in Detroit were prospects.  And all of these people had family and friends in the area; I wasn't concerned.

Long story short, I ended up selling half the tickets to each game on StubHub.  It was the first time I have been a seller on the website and I misjudged the market, not even breaking even.  However, earlier in the year Melvin and I paid less than face value on StubHub for our Dodgers and Cardinals tickets.  My Mets tickets were an even bigger bargain.  Overall, I was still way ahead.

Besides, my airfare was incredibly cheap, despite being a last minute purchase.  My cousin Frank picked me up at Detroit-Wayne County and we chatted at his house before heading out for an early, pre-game dinner.  Just a few blocks from the stadium, I realized I left the tickets at his place.  Even this turned out well, however, because less time meant supper at Hunter House.

The 60-year-old grill serves what have been called gourmet sliders; single, double (above) or triple patties smashed into grilled onions.  A cardiologist's nightmare, they go down real easy.  Signs above the griddle boast of individual feats of gluttony.

In spite of the detour, we got to Comerica Park with time enough to tour about half of the stadium, which is quite nice.  The reason my Tiger-fan neighbors couldn't join me was they were attending a wedding.  They asked me to text the highlights and here is the game in seven messages.
Coco Crisp lead-off HR
Sent: October 6, 6:10PM

Cabrera hits into RBI double-play;
game tied Bottom 1

Sent: October 6, 6:30PM

Parker cannot shovel up chopper
by Q, scored an error but brings
home Infante, who hit a lead-off
double. 2-1 after three innings.

Sent: October 6, 7:18PM

Avila leads off the sixth with a solo
shot, 3-1 Tigers.

Sent: October 6, 7:51PM

Benoit on to relieve Verlander. His
line: seven innings, 120 pitches, 11
Sent: October 6, 8:40PM

Your boy Valverde on to close …
and entertain!

Sent: October 6, 8:56PM

Two strikeouts and a very high pop
out to Fielder; game over, Tigers

Sent: October 6, 9:04PM

That's an Andrew Bailey jersey, by the way, not Pat Neshek.
Whatever the name on the back, on the inside is an asshole.

One of the most entertaining features of the game was the Athletics fan in our section, predisposed to being provocative. The game hadn't even started and he dared a female fan, a woman ten- to 15-years his senior, to hit him.

By the end of the game, a good portion of the section was mimicking his earlier antics in unison.  With his team down two runs he proclaimed, "The scoreboard doesn't matter," pointing out the A's had won six more regular season games than the Tigers.  Of course the scoreboard matters; it is the only thing that matters, moron.
Box Score

StereoNegative (A Tribute to Tony Smith), 2012
Tsz Yan Ng with Helena Kang & Justin Kollar

Driving home from the game on Woodward Avenue we passed through DLECTRICITY. Earlier in the day I had mentioned to my cousin that I keep reading interesting things are happening in Detroit, that some degree of gentrification is occurring.  He told me not to believe it, that for as long as he had lived there someone was pointing to something as a sign of a revival that never, ever comes.  And yet, here was this startling festival of light.

Game 2 was scheduled for noon and we really only had time to drive home, talk with my cousin's wife (about upcoming weddings), sleep, shower and head back to the ballpark.  The sausage and pepper hero is an excellent breakfast.

The second game of the series was more of a nail-biter.  The Athletics scored a run in the third and the Tigers tied it in the bottom of the frame.  Following three more scoreless innings, the A's tallied a second run but this time the home team went ahead, 3-2.

In both of the games I saw, the crowd had little faith in the Tiger bullpen and their fears were made manifest in the eighth.  Joaquin Benoit came in and Yoenis Cespedes led off with a soft liner.  Two batters later, Cespedes stole second, stole third and came home on a wild pitch with Josh Reddick at the plate.  Reddick added injury to insult with a line drive home run to right.

In the bottom of the inning, Jim Leyland managed like he was still in the National League.  He matched two singles and a sac bunt with three offensive substitutions, a couple pinch-runners and a pinch-hitter.  For all that, the team scratched out only one, tieing the game at four.

The Tigers fans had no more confidence in Phil Coke than they did in Benoit but he got the first batter to strike out.  But then a walk, a fielder's choice and a line drive advanced the wily Coco Crisp to third and Leyland had seen enough.  Al Alburquerque got the ball, got Cespedes to bounce the third pitch back to him, 1-3, side retired.

Like Coke,  A's reliever Grant Balfour was able to strike out the first batter.  Omar Infante and triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera each singled.  Balfour walked Prince Fielder intentionally to load the bases, preferring to face the light-hitting (season: .186/.276/.248) Don Kelly, one of the earlier pinch-runners.  All Kelly had to do was hit a sacrifice fly; could he do it?  He could and he did.  Jubilation.
Box Score

Somewhere in the middle of the scrum is Don Kelly.

I flew home Columbus Day; the timing of the two games, not decided when I bought the tickets, also working out favorably.  I made the short week shorter by leaving work early on Friday for the deciding Game 5 of the Yankees/Orioles series.  The two teams went neck-and-neck during the last few weeks of the season and I had a hunch the division series might go five.  I guessed right; my good fortune continued.

As a die-hard Yankee hater, I was a bit torn.  Instinctively, I wanted to root against them, but I had tickets to the second game of the league championship series.  It was in my own interest for the Yankees to win and I adjusted accordingly.  The outcome was probably out of my hands anyway, for I had invited Carlton Gordon to come with me.

Carlton was at Game 6 of the 2009 league championship series when, with Andy Pettitte on the mound, the Yankees beat the Angels to go the World Series, which they would win for the 27th time.  He was also there in 2001 when the Yankees clinched the American League pennant against the Mariners.

Game 6 of the 1996 World Series?  Carlton was there to see the Yankees win their 23rd championship, against the Atlanta Braves.  The 1981 pennant clincher against the (then American League) Brewers, Chris Chambliss' walk-off home run in 1976 (below, Phil Rizzuto with the call on WPIX), you have to wonder why the Yankees just don't give Carlton a free pass to the entire post-season.

Back in 2012, Raúl Ibañez—hitting .429 in the series with game-tying and game-winning home runs, the first time ever off the bench in post-season play—got it started with an RBI single in the fifth.  The Yankees would build a short picket fence over the next two innings and then hold on as the Orioles scored their sole run in the eighth.  Carlton Gordon, Mr. October.
Box Score

The Tigers arrived in town and I made my way back to the Bronx on Sunday for Game 2 of the league championship series.  I thought about bringing my "Tigers towel," a souvenir from the previous weekend, but decided against it.  A guy in the first row of our section at Friday's Orioles game had Jim Leyritz join him and his kids for a couple of innings.  The former Yankee catcher, owner of two World Series rings (1996 and 1999), gave the young boys autographed pictures.  They had to be of his go-ahead, three-run blast to deep left in Game 4, the turning point of the 1996 world championship.

Who knows what the back-story is.  After Leyritz left, the father got out the New York Times and read it cover to cover.  His kids didn't care, didn't even seem to notice—they were looking down the third base line at Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.  But a couple guys in front of us were outraged and showered dad with popcorn and verbal scorn.  Yankee fans, just one of the many reasons to hate the Yankees.

The Tigers didn't need my towel.  The game was scoreless until Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed a run in the seventh, two more in the eighth.  For the visitors, Anibal Sanchez and Phil Coke combined on a four-hit shut-out, putting the Cats up two games to none in the series.  Ti-GRRRS!
Box Score

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority likes to make weekend subway travel an adventure and it took me four trains to get home.  As I was transferring from the 6 to the F, I passed under the advertisement above.  I am not one to carry a credit card for its purported benefits.  That piece of plastic is a tool; I also own a circular saw and a trigonometric calculator.  Nevertheless, I was able to buy great seats to the two Yankees games I saw because MasterCard holders got the opportunity to buy tickets before the general lottery.

Priceless?  Let's keep some perspective.  But I was deeply satisfied by how somewhat vague plans came together easily, permitting me to see four post-season games in nine days, four games in which the team I was rooting would win, all in the 300-level at the two stadiums and once in the first row.

I spent a very enjoyable weekend with my cousin, who made a delicious dinner on Sunday night; got to know Carlton Gordon better; saw a buddy from college.  I understand the satisfied emotion that MasterCard wants people to associate with its product, although it is manipulative of them to do so.

As we all know by now, the Tigers swept the Yankees in the league championship series and then got swept in the World Series by the San Francisco Giants.  Los Tigres won every post-season game I saw in person.  Perhaps like Carlton Gordon, they should have flown me to the Motor City and the City by the Bay.

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