Thursday, October 18, 2012

#ROW80 POST 12 WEDNESDAY CHECK IN – 1984, THE YEAR THE DETROIT TIGERS LAST WON THE WORLD’S SERIES


Something has been out of kilter this week. Hell, it has been for the last several weeks. Me. Like a boxer in a 15-round heavyweight title fight, I’ve been struggling from the 12th round on. I’m fighting to keep my form and stay on my feet. For a couple of rounds, I’ve had trouble going back on the offensive. Defensive fighting sucks and I hate fighting peek-a-boo style; think Pee-Wee Whittaker. Gah. I’ve had enough of this; it sucks. This quick jab, cover, duck and dodge doesn’t cut it with me. I think I’ve found a way to re-assert my ring generalship and go back to offense, but damn if I didn’t go down and almost take a full 10-count.   

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been around boxing and boxers somewhat. I liken it to music, oddly enough. I relate most things to either music or math. Applying analogies from the familiar to something new are how I learn; we all do and the pronation (rotation in the wrist, elbow and shoulder) in boxing is what I recognized first in the similarity to music. It is one of the hardest things to learn, for bowing in string playing; and the most powerful tool you can develop in boxing. If you’re a natural puncher, so much the better. The second most familiar analogy I picked up on was the rhythmic style of each boxer (1, 2, 3 or 1 .. 2, 3, wait for it ... 4) and the third, and actually probably the one that sucks the most to train, endurance. I've run into many a musician at boxing matches. It goes like this:

Me: "Conductor So-and-so. What a shock! What are you doing here?"

Conductor So-and-so: "Me? I could say the same thing about you. What are you doing here?"

Me: (Cheesy grin) "I like boxing." No shit. I thought you liked knitting. So does Conductor So-and-so. Lots of musicians and other types you wouldn't associate with blood sports do. Conductor So-and-so and I hate each other a little less after that. It's practically in the contract that all section musicians detest their conductors. Joke. He's an awesome conductor. I wouldn't want to conduct a symphony full of me. I digress.

Right now, the Detroit Tigers are ahead of the New York Yankees 3-0 in the AL Playoffs. The San Francisco Giants have come from behind to win their series and they’re one step closer to the World Series. This got me reminiscing… back during the summer of 1984, I was pretty much just working, practicing and hanging out in Ann Arbor. The Detroit Tigers came out of the gate with a roar.  This was THE year, OUR year and everyone knew it. The Tigers had ended the previous season on a high note. The 1983 season had started typically shitty for the Tigers, 0-43 or something horrible.

In 1983 Sparky Anderson had had 88 fits in the dugout and Dave Rozema, Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris had been bailed out of jails and sewn up in hospitals more times than anyone cared to count. I was watching “Magnum P.I.” and when I wasn’t drooling over Tom Selleck and his ‘stache, I was out playing baseball. Ann Arbor is baseball city and I played the shit out of baseball. Yeah, I’ve heard all that. “Ooh, your hands! You’re a musician!”

I’d stand out there in Center Field with my shades and my Detroit Tigers hat with an orange “D,” not this and glove and attitude, all 5’4” and say “Fuck you, I can catch,” lose the ball in the sun, get hit in the face and break my nose. That happened twice. Once during a game. I’m tough. So, I had a coach one season who noticed that I was little and thought I was going to be part of the Whitaker-Trammell baseball city (you can look it up) wannabes and put me as short-stop, which I was pretty good at.

Anyway, Daddy is still out in California, bugging me about how he’s going to Spring Training at the Cactus League and following Nolan Ryan around and all of this cray-cray (see A-R theWorld4Realz here) and he’s calling me every other day to needle me, because the Tigers just signed 2 hotdogs from the SF Giants named, Enos Cabell and Larry Herndon. I’m already hating what I’m seeing. If I remember rightly, and God forbid I should Google this and louse up a funny story, these 2 were just horrifying. I was all like, “What in the Hell was Tom Monaghan (the owner) thinking? These guys suck!” Daddy’s like, “Ha ha, they just count their money. And Enos? He hits at everything! That bastard has never seen a pitch he doesn’t like. It could be 50 feet on the outside. Enos is going to go down swinging away at it!” Daddy goes on, “Larry will have a pocket full of gloves and stand out in Center Field and count his money, he won’t catch a thing. Hee hee. Ho ho.” Great. Thanks. I'm laughing, because, he's laughing. It's our way of bonding. 

He loved the Giants. He loved stupid English more. He used to get all kinds of hysterical over misprints in the newspaper. "Ha ha ha ha, The GAINTS. Ho ho ho, Tee hee hee." Far less than whatever warranted his delight, was whatever he was laughing at, if that makes any sense. Alas, I have inherited that in spades. The fact that I have "PD or, non-PD" just makes it so much worse. Emotional roller-coaster, they say? Nay, I say. Everything is perilously hilarious, to the point where I damn near lose consciousness, or cry me a river and die. Thanks. I laugh far more than I cry, but Jesus wept... or not.

Anyway, back to our tale of the "2 hotdogs from the SF Giants." It all comes to pass. I’m just livid. Spring training of 1984 is just horrid. This was supposed to be OUR year. God. I’m up in Ann Arbor watching this shit-fest on lazy afternoons drinking beer, staring at an empty Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. Al Kaline and George Kell are trying there damnedest to put lipstick on this bulldog. I’m thinking they need to take it out and shoot it.

One afternoon in late March, I’m watching one of these games. Poor George; he’s fumbling around. He was no announcer. He certainly knew baseball and I learned tons about the game from him, he spit out this gem, “We’ll be right back. Be sure to tune in for the Andro-Media Strain this Saturday.”  M’kay. The umpires suck. They must have driven over to the School of the Blind and picked up a bunch of students from over there. After about the 12th blown call, a strike that was right up the middle the ump said was an inside ball, one of the 2 guys in the stands right behind the catcher, Lance Parrish hollered “Catcher, give the umpire your glasses.” The cameras were so close, you could see Lance grin. I loved the easiness of those spring training games. The slow somnolence of the rhythms of the innings. Nothing was hurried, no haste. It’s one of the things I love about life in the south.

Spring training is for a reason; a strange alchemy occurred during the spring training season of 1984 in the Detroit Tigers organization. The addition of Enos Cabell and Larry Herndon from the San Francisco Giants, among several other players from other organizations proved to be the key. But the addition of those 2 were the pivotal tipping point. Here’s why I say that.

One afternoon, late July, I was sitting on my couch, watching a rare day televised game. I had been back and forth, talking to my father ever since the season had started. The Giants were doing what the Giants had always done, which is, I can’t remember. Not much. The Tigers tore out of the gate, and I don’t think they were ever out of 1st place the entire season. They went 35-5 which was unprecedented. That’s still not why I say what I said. Here’s why I say that.

There’s a knock on my door, as I’m watching this game in late July. I have the front door open, just the screen door is closed. It’s my father. He’s flown in from Los Gatos to take me to a game. I’ve been to bunches of games that summer; “game-parties” have sprung up like sudden late-summer thunderstorms do in Michigan. I’m gleeful. I haven’t seen him in quite a while and I’ve missed him. He looks older, worn and tired. I don’t care. We are both kids again. Caught up in the excitement of fun, riffing off each other and baseball.

Off we go and climb up into the bleachers, like the true animals we really are. This is the summer of the “Wave.” My father was not one for any of that. He just thinks it’s all beyond silly. We’re right down front. I guess so he can pour his beer on people. When the “Wave” comes around, he gives a half-assed “arms up” still clutching his beer in one hand, cigarette in the other, or it’s perched in the corner of his mouth. He’s been teasing me all fucking season about Enos Cabell and Larry Herndon.

Enos swings and strikes out. But damn; the Tigers are in first place in the AL East and it is historically the toughest league in all of baseball. Sparky knows how to manage a baseball team. He will go on to become the first to win Manager of the year in both the National and American Leagues. He won the World Series when he coached the Cincinnati Reds in 1970. Herndon drops a fly ball, that should have been an easy out. My father, the deathless heckler shouts, “Quit counting your money and catch!” Herndon, grinning, turns and executes a theatrical bow. I guess he’s used to hearing it.


My father is smiling in his urn that is underneath the flight path of SFO Airport

My check in goals are below, not much getting done. I hope to be able to explain why on Sunday. I was trying to link to something, but rather than fidget around for the next 2 hours and get frustrato, insert here, while less elegant, but much more expedient, will have to do for now. My Content Manager is out on va-cay right now. Asshole.


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