Oh man, what a series that was to see live.
So, yeah, the Tigers played the Red Sox in three games at Fenway, and I went to see all three of them. All photos in this post can be clicked for a bigger version.
The first one was close. JJ melted down in the third (3 runs, 3 hits, two walks, two sac flies, nothing leaving the park), and all seemed lost, but Wake went right back out there and obligingly melted down in the fourth (4 runs, a walk, a hit, two home runs). For those who wondered, the controversial Curtis Granderson home run looked good to me. From my seats we could look right down the first baseline, and I thought it bent just fair at the pole. Everyone around me thought it was foul, though, and every subsequent foul ball was greeted by the sight of all of Fenway waving their hands in the air in the ’round the bases, it’s a homer’ sign. Hilarity.
Jeremi Gonzalez was terrible for the Sox, but they cut their losses before it got too bad. Chris Spurling was excellent for the Tigers, but by then the damage had already been done, thanks to JJ, and 8 runs wasn’t enough to overcome the Red Sox 9. It was a little galling that the Tigers hit 4 home runs and the Sox didn’t have one single round-tripper, but it was hard for me (as a fan of both teams) to be too upset about this game. It was played right down to the wire, and when my two teams meet, that’s really all I can ask for: a good, exciting game.
It was also my first baseball game with the new, exciting, high-zoom, relative anti-suck camera. I used it to take photos of Brandon Inge’s Magnificent Ass. Among other things.
The second one was just pure, utter insanity. Bronson Arroyo was dominant for the first three innings, and then in an eerie parallel of the previous night, melted down completely in the fourth (5 runs, 5 hits, a walk, a home run) after having seen Douglass melt down in the third (6 runs, 7 hits, two home runs). The Tigers were down 6-0! Usually that’s time to pack up your bags and go home, be you Tigers fan or Tigers player.
But nope, not tonight, and the Tigers batters just kept crushing Jeremi and Remlinger, the original Mr. Suck (he was cut from the team after this outing). DaMeat’s grand slam in the fourth was huge… with the bases loaded, I turned to my seatmate and said, “Hey, Dmitri’s up here, something good could happen,” which may sound prophetic, but really all I was expecting were maybe a couple of RBI. That ball, though, when it was crushed out of the park… things got really, really quiet in Fenway, sort of like the crowd couldn’t even believe it. Heck, the few Tigers fans on hand could barely believe it.
I really didn’t see many Tigers fans at all, maybe a total of 6 in the first two days. At the second game, though, I did see a little kid up by the Tigers dugout, wearing a Detroit hat and a Barry Sanders jersey, which I got a kick out of.
I was most impressed with Craig Dingman. Not just his outing (4 batters retired in a row), but his fastball. Now, I’m not all that great at calling pitches out of a pitcher’s glove, and I’m not that great at speeds either. But I do have some idea of what I’m looking at, and I can tell the difference between, you know, a Tim Wakefield fastball and a Kyle Farnsworth fastball.
Dingman’s fastball was, according to the park pitching board, clocking in at around 87 or 88 mph. To me, though, it looked a lot faster, like it was coming in around 94 or 95. It even kind of sounded like a scorcher, popping a little in Pudge’s glove. It must have looked the same to the batters, because there were some terrible, wildly confused cuts taken at it when he threw it in there.
And then Sunday.
Sunday was a mess for the Tigers. None of the pitchers had anything worth noting, and David Wells, well, did. Brandon Inge (Magnificent Ass in tow) had a great game, to complement his great series, but most Tigers didn’t. I’m still not altogether sure why John McDonald was starting over Omar, but I’m assuming there’s a good reason. Please. Let there be a good reason.
But, man, the game barely even mattered. It DID matter, of course, but… ah, we got to the game early, with the hopes of watching batting practice. It turns out that there was no BP, since the game the previous night had gone so late. But my dad and I decided to stand down at the Tiger dugout anyways, to see what there was to be seen.
There were Tigers. It was actually kind of funny, because none of them had their jerseys on, so if you didn’t know their faces you would have no way of knowing who was who. Me and my dad were the only two Tigers fans in the immediate area, so we had people all around us asking, “Hey, who’s that over there? Who’s that signing over there? Who’s that coming in from the bullpens?” I wasn’t at all surprised that my dad knew basically everyone on the team, but I was a bit surprised at how well I did just from faces. I had one unfortunate mix-up, but other than that I was able to pick out everyone just fine.
Jason Johnson popped out early, and started working his way up and down the dugout, signing everything anyone could shove across the dugout roof at him. He had little kids crawling over the roof, Sharpies clutched in their hands, he had baseballs rolling at him so fast they skipped off the edge of the roof and he had to duck down and dig them out of the dugout. He had a bunch of Red Sox fans nudging each other and whispering, “Who’s that?” and then once they were informed, shouting, “Mr. Johnson, sign this, please!” He had me and my dad knowing exactly who he was and telling him he’d done a good job this season.
He stayed for a long, long time, making sure that everyone who wanted something signed got it signed. He wasn’t terrifically personable, but he smiled and nodded and made sure everyone got their proper pens and baseballs back, and I was basically ambivalent to him before, but he rose a long way in my estimation for that.
Mick Kelleher trotted up to the dugout, and all the Sox fans along the dugout noted the gray hair, saw he wasn’t Alan Trammell, and turned to watch Nook and Craig work their way around the third baseline wall. The combination of my extreme dorkitude and my dad’s vast Tiger knowledge meant that I knew exactly who he was.
“Mick! Mick Kelleher! Hey, go Tigers!” Possibly it will help you to imagine the scene if you picture me screaming that, leaning on the dugout, surrounded by Red Sox fans, clutching a largish camera in one hand, wearing a violently neon yellow U of M football tshirt and a violently neon orange Tigers hat (clashing most horribly, I should think). I’m pretty sure I pointed at the D on the hat too. That is exactly how big a dork I am.
He got this enormous grin on his face, pointed back, and said, “Arright, go Tigers! Atta girl!” Then he sort of waved, grinned again, and continued on into the dugout. He looked so completely surprised and overjoyed to be recognized and acknowledged, especially in Fenway Park.
My dad reckons it might’ve made his weekend.
Vic Darensbourg had been warming up out by the Monster before wandering back to the dugout. No one, but no one had recognized him… we weren’t even sure who he was, and had to puzzle it out with the aid of the roster sheet that came with the program. But we got it in the end and as he came towards us my dad said, “Hey, I bet if you know who he is, he’ll sign just because of that.” So of course when he got close enough I yelled, “Vic! Vic Darensbourg!”, waved, smiled, and generally looked like a hugely moronic Tigers fan.
He, too, looked a little surprised at being recognized, but he smiled agreeably, signed my program and the baseball the kid next to me rolled at him, and that was it.
Chris Spurling spent a long time signing along the wall by third base, so long that it looked like he was going to just go right down into the dugout when he got there. Again, though, the fact that I knew his name and yelled it at him seemed to get his attention. I don’t think a lot of the Tiger relievers and backup guys are used to being recognized in foreign parks. He is a huge guy in person, even bigger than he’d seemed on TV. He also has this elaborate tattoo on the inside of one of his wrists that looks like it must’ve hurt something wicked.
An older guy standing near me held out his ticket and asked Spurling if he could give it to Kirk Gibson to sign. Spurling laughed and said, “Gibby? He don’t sign for nobody,” which I thought was just delightful. Earlier Gibby himself had walked by, and had turned a deaf ear to this guy’s pleas for an autograph, but had turned around and sort of laughingly snorted when the guy yelled, “Hey! Gibby! That home run for the Dodgers!”
I’m sorry, but you have to understand. Granderson signed. He signed even longer than JJ. He went up and down the dugout, he went back to get people he’d missed the first time, he did both the dugout corners and all down the third baseline. He smiled at the little kids, bantered with them about not having pens, he fielded balls and hats and tickets and programs and a lot of flying markers, smiling the whole time, joking around with the fans, 2/3rds of whom had only the vaguest idea of who he was anyways.
He took a bit right in front of us, signing a slew of things for people, so we leaned in on the dugout roof. My dad told him he was doing a great job up with the Tigers, and I told him I hoped he’d stick around in Detroit, to which he replied, “Ha ha, well, I don’t have control over that, but yeah.”
I dunno, I’m not sure I can describe it, but he gave off this palpable vibe of enjoying interacting with the fans, of caring about all the little kids who just wanted a baseball signed by a major leaguer, of having a really good time out there. And he has a nice smile. And I think I love him a little now, so shut up.
After all that, it almost didn’t matter that they lost the game.
Three games in three days. Tigers/Red Sox at Fenway. What a way to spend my last weeked in Boston before I head back to Michigan for the school year.