Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Long It's Been: The Detroit Tigers Won the World Series

The World Series begins tonight, in San Francisco.  The Giants host the Detroit Tigers.  First pitch scheduled for 5:07 PM Pacific Time -- 8:07 Eastern Time, on the Rupert Murdoch network.

Phillip Phillips will sing the National Anthem -- because it's Fox, and because he won American Idol one of these years.

The Anthem singers for Game 2 -- and, if it gets that far, Games 6 and 7 -- have not yet been revealed by the Giants.  The Tigers, however, while not yet having revealed the Game 4 singer, are bringing out two big guns: For Game 3, gospel legend Marvin Winans; for Game 5, someone else familiar with gospel, Detroit's own Aretha Franklin.  (Could Game 4 be reserved for Jose Feliciano again?)

I can't yet find any reference to who will throw out the ceremonial first balls.  For the Giants, I suspect there will be at least one of these: Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda.  For the Tigers, it would make sense to have Al Kaline, Kirk Gibson, maybe a double act of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.


Two years ago, when the Giants won the World Series for the first time since 1954 (and they were still in New York at the time), I began my "How Long It's Been" feature.

The Tigers haven't won the World Series since October 14, 1984, when Gibson's 2 homers won Game 5, 8-4, and the Tigers beat the San Diego Padres at Tiger Stadium.

That's 28 years and 10 days.  How long has that been?

Major League Baseball had 26 teams.  The Colorado Rockies, Florida/Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays had yet to debut.  The idea that the Montreal Expos would move was not even being considered.  But the Minnesota Twins, in spite of having the relatively new Metrodome, were already listening to entreaties from Tampa Bay, whose dome hadn't even begun construction.  The Seattle Mariners were also listening.

The Tigers beat the Padres, who hadn't won the Pennant before.  Since then, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rays, Atlanta Braves (for the first time in Atlanta, anyway), Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and the team known in 1984 as the California Angels have won their first Pennant; while the Braves (again, for the first time in their current city), Jays, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Angels, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins have won their first World Series.

The Tigers hadn't won the World Series in 16 years -- brief compared to their current drought, and to their 1945-68 drought, and to their 1903-35 drought.  The Giants hadn't won the World Series in 30 years, the city of Milwaukee 27 years (with the Braves, not the Brewers), the Cleveland Indians 36 years, the Boston Red Sox 66 years, the Chicago White Sox 68 years, the Chicago Cubs 76 years.

Baseball had domed stadiums, but no retractable roofs.  Wrigley Field in Chicago did not yet have lights.  There were lots of black and Hispanic players in the major leagues, but as yet hardly anyone from the Eastern Hemisphere.  There was Interleague play, but we called it "spring training" and "the World Series."

Steve Goodman, a big Cubs fan the songwriter who wrote "The City of New Orleans," was invited to sing the National Anthem at one of the Cubs' National League Championship Series games.  But he died of leukemia a few days before it could happen, and the Cubs blew a 2-games-to-0 lead as the Padres won 3 straight in San Diego.  Goodman had battled the illness for years, and had written a black-comedy song called "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request":

The dying man's friends told him to cut it out.
They said, "Stop it, that's an awful shame."
He said, "Don't cry, we'll meet by and by
in the heavenly Hall of Fame.

I've got season tickets to watch the Angels play now
and that's just what I'm gonna do.
But you, the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs
so it's me that feels sorry for you!

Do they still play the blues in Chicago
when baseball season rolls around?
When the snow melts away
do the Cubbies still play
in their ivy-covered burial ground?

When I was a boy
they were my pride and joy
but now, they only bring fatigue
to the home of the brave
the land of the free
and the doormat of the National League!

The Cubs do still play at Wrigley, albeit frequently under lights, although they still play far more home day games than any other team. Surprisingly, there are only 6 stadiums in use by MLB teams in 1984 that are (barring a disaster) still going to be used in 2013: Wrigley, Fenway Park in Boston, Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in Kansas City, the Oakland Coliseum, and the two Los Angeles-area stadiums, Dodger Stadium and Anaheim Stadium (now Angel Stadium of Anaheim).

The defining players of my childhood were either retired, or winding it down. Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Bench retired the previous year. Pete Rose probably should have, but he wanted that hit record. Reggie Jackson and Tom Seaver had something left. Mike Schmidt had one more MVP season in him.  Nolan Ryan had another 2 no-hitters and 1,000 or so strikeouts in him.

The defending champions were the Los Angeles Raiders of the NFL, the Boston Celtics of the NBA, the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, and Larry Holmes was the heavyweight champion of the world. That was the first title for Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and company, while the Raiders haven't won one since.  The Champions of both England's Football League and the European Cup was Liverpool Football Club, while the FA Cup was won by "the other Liverpool team," Everton, over Watford, a team from Hertfordshire in the London suburbs, best known for being owned by Elton John.

The Olympics had just been held in Los Angeles, and have since been held in the U.S. twice more, Canada twice, Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China and Britain.

The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan, and he would defeat Jimmy Carter's Vice President, Walter Mondale, with 58 percent of the vote and 525 Electoral Votes -- nearly winning Mondale's home State of Minnesota, and winning all the others.  This in spite of unemployment being 7.5 percent, higher than the 7.1 percent he inherited.  George Bush was his Vice President -- we generally didn't add the "H.W." initials until his son, George W., became President.  George W. was drinking like a fish and running an energy company into the ground.  Bill Clinton was about to be elected to a 3rd term as Governor of Arkansas.  Barack Obama was at Harvard Law School.  Mitt Romney had just begun work at a new company called Bain Capital.  Former Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and their wives, and the widows of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, were still alive.

The Mayor of Detroit was Coleman Young, the city's first black Mayor.  The Governor of Michigan was Jim Blanchard.  The Mayor of, uh, the City of, uh, New York was, uh, Ed Koch.  The Governor of the State of New York was Mario Cuomo.  The Govuhnuh of New Juhsey was Tom Kean.  Strange that, of those three -- the proper patrician Kean, the nebbishy-looking Jewish intellectual Koch, and the Italian street kid Cuomo --  Cuomo was the one who had the best diction.

The Prime Minister of Canada, having newly turned out the Liberal Party of Pierre Trudeau and John Turner, was the Progressive Conservative Party Leader, Brian Mulroney.  The monarch of Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- and the Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher.

Major novels of 1984 -- all becoming movies of note -- were Gore Vidal's Lincoln, John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick, Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, and Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  David Mamet premiered his play Glengarry Glen Ross, which also became a good movie.  Dr. Seuss produced his last great children's book, The Butter Battle Book, about two cultures that go to war because of which side on which their bread should be buttered.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted as a comic book.  Ted Hughes, who had been married to Sylvia Plath, was named Poet Laureate of Britain.

In October 1984, U2 released The Unforgettable Fire, Chaka Khan I Feel for You, Talking Heads Stop Making Sense, and Julian Lennon his debut album Valotte.  Also released were Welcome to the Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Age of Consent by Bronski Beat -- not that there's anything wrong with that.

On television, the game show Jeopardy! had just returned after a few years off the air, with a new host, Alex Trebek.  Montana became the last State with a PBS station.  Farrah Fawcett starred in the TV-movie The Burning Bed on NBC, about a battered wife's revenge.  It was the first time a movie ever beat ABC's Monday Night Football in the ratings.  Shows that had just debuted included The Cosby Show, Who's the Boss?, Punky Brewster, Charles in Charge, Highway to Heaven, Miami Vice, Hunter, Murder She Wrote, Transformers, Tales From the Darkside, and E/R -- a half-hour comedy on CBS, starring Elliot Gould, but, aside from being set in a hospital in Chicago, had no connection to the later NBC drama ER.  Actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally shot and killed himself on the set of his new spy drama, Cover-Up.  He was replaced by Antony Hamilton, but the show was canceled after one season.  Hamilton, too, would die young, from AIDS.

Films released in the fall of 1984 included Amadeus (in reality, Antonio Salieri had nothing to do with the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and their rivalry was a cordial one), Joe Morton as the title character in The Brother from Another Planet, and All of Me, a comedy where Steve Martin's body is possessed by a dead woman played by Lily Tomlin. A few months after releasing The Man With Two Brains -- my mother said it made up for all the movies where he had none -- he was now a body with two minds.  And, naturally, there was a film version of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.  It starred John Hurt -- who, 22 years later, would play a "Big Brother"-like fascist dictator of Britain in V for Vendetta.

The first Terminator film was also released.  As you know, Bob, it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Who has been back.  What you may not know is that writer-director James Cameron originally wanted a real athlete, turned actor, to play the role: O.J. Simpson.  So why didn't O.J. get the role? Because focus groups, told about the idea, couldn't believe O.J. as a killer.  And yet, for all the trouble he's caused for himself and others, Arnold still wouldn't swap lives with O.J. today.

Desktop computers were all the rage in 1984, although the Internet as we have come to know it was still a few years away.  It was the first year that portable phones began to sell well, although they were still big enough to be called "bricks."

In the fall of 1984, the Space Shuttle Discovery made its first voyage into space.  The shuttle Challenger was launched, making Marc Garneau the first Canadian in space and Kathryn Sullivan the first American woman to make a spacewalk.  Dr. Judith Resnik was also on this mission; she would also be aboard Challenger's last mission.  Joe Kittinger became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon.

Poland's Communist secret police kidnapped and assassinated Father Jerzy Popieluszko, for his advocacy of the labor union Solidarity.  The Ethiopian famine was revealed to the world.  Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India was assassinated by 2 of her security guards, Sikhs, angry at her actions against Sikh separatists earlier in the year.

Janet Gaynor, and Richard Basehart, and Francois Truffaut died.  Katy Perry, and Lindsey Vonn, and current Giants pitcher Matt Cain were born.

October 14, 1984: The Detroit Tigers won their 4th World Series.  Now, they are in position to win their 5th.  Can they do it? Or will San Francisco prove a Giant, insurmountable roadblock? Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Clay Eals said...

Great to see your blog post that invokes Steve Goodman's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." Goodman often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music." The book delves deeply into the genesis, context and effects of "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" and its semi-sequel, "Go, Cubs, Go."

You can find out more at my Internet site (below). The book's first and second printing sold out, and a third printing was published last summer. It won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography.

If you're not already familiar with the book, I hope you find it of interest. 'Nuff said.

Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515 home
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