It's summer. The weather is tolerable (albeit humid) here in the great state of Michigan. Barbeques, sunshine, swimming, drinking, and pastimes. More importantly, America's National Pastime, alive and kicking in Detroit. The Tigers, floating around .500, are slowly but surely making their way back into the hearts and minds of the locals, who remember clearly that Detroit was Baseball Town long before it was Hockeytown. Championships won at Michigan and Trumbull will be forever cherished for their impact to the Tiger follower in 1984 and their social impact on a city in ruin in 1968. I sit here now just pining for the rivalry with the Blue Jays and playoff run of 1987. But that was nearly twenty years ago, when there was just an American League East and American League West, when Wild Cards were reserved for reruns of Card Sharks, and the upper deck at a Tiger game was closer to the field than current seats behind home plate. Yes, but, the past is the past. And our Detroit Tigers have a beautiful new facility...and if you build it, they will come.
Enter the Midsummer Classic, the 2005 All Star Game. In Detroit for the first time since 1971, and full of more fluff than ever before, the All Star Game brought hope. Hope that downtown can be alright, hope that traveling to a big city for a weekend night doesn't necessarily mean you are heading to Chicago, and most importantly, hope that baseball is not dead in the "D", and championships will soon be arriving at Witherell and Montcalm.
We rounded up some familiar faces and spent two straight summer evenings at Comerica Park. First for the Home Run Derby, which in many ways surpassed, at least in entertainment value, the game itself, meanwhile proving that our Yosemite can be overcome with some left-handed power. The eight of us drew numbers in good old fashioned UMTailgate.com pool form, each number representing a participant in the derby. Godfather pulled number 1 like a Dogan, garnering him Bobby Abreu, who put up record numbers before knocking off hometown hero Pudge, owned by infrequent tailgater and Sparty apologist Wayne, in the finals. Wayne's loss continues right through this weekend, when he will give up single life for the first daughter of Riverview.
The All Star Game itself had all the pageantry of a bowl game, with famous anthem singers and stealth bomber flyovers, moments of silence and long lineup introductions. Though it felt over for most of the game, with the American League posting seven unanswered runs in the first six innings, the National League made a game of it with five runs of their own in the last three innings. A storm hit quickly in the ninth on our way out of the game that gave the A.L. home field advantage for the World Series, and continued dominance in this midsummer match up by way of a 7-5 victory.
Though the $8 beers flowed freely while in the park, we still found time for "extra innings" in the Delux Lounge, which was packed on both nights and proudly served Captain Morgan. Performing to the best of our ability for the off-season, and tailgating with out actually involving a vehicle of any sort, we persevered in the face of adversity, and got comfortable with the city in the process. Of course, we stuck to the road most traveled, the extent of which was Brush St. from the CoPa to Greektown. But you could see that area as acceptable for hosting an event of this kind. There is work to be done before the Super Bowl, but the outlook is not nearly as bleak as many once believed.
So what was all this for? Well, it was the All-Star Game, which may not return to the area for another 35 years, when UMTailgate.com Stadium adorns the downtown area. Though I do love baseball, it's an event you have to go to whether or not you love it, just for the sake of the event itself. It was also a great excuse for a mini reunion, or in the Godfather's case, another excuse to not drink Captain and Coke alone. But most importantly, with just days separating us from our corner of the golf course and an opening weekend with a 3:30 kickoff, it was a practice. Practice makes perfect. And for the best damn tailgate in all the land, perfection is something we strive for on a week-to-week basis. There's 43 days to go. I hope your practicing too.