I’m pleased to announce the winners of the Tigers World Series DVDs for the essay portion of the contest. Thanks to all those who entered.
One of our winners is “Rings.” Here is his entry:
In 1984, I was the quitessential 15 year old, skinny dork.
On the day of Game 5, a Sunday, my first high school girlfriend and her parents
were kind enough to ask me along for to a Lions game, which I’d never seen
live, at the Silverdome.
As I recall, the woeful Lions defeated the still-dressed-in-orange Buccaneers
in overtime that day, but I was actually eager to get somewhere with a
television to catch the Tigers in the World Series.
As we were all from the Grand Rapids area, we progressed back on M-59 westward,
missing the first two innings before we finally stopped – bless that girl’s
father – at a BAR to watch the game.
Now, I’d been in restaurants, nice pubs, clubs, of course, but never one of
those “hole-in-the-wall” bars that you’d see on television. Now, I’d
lost my innocence twice in one day, as this was the first time I’d ever been
in a bar as this little slice of heaven – and a crowd of hundreds – would
serve as our host for the final 7 innings.
Much of the game was a blur, but I can remember the electric atmosphere of
anticipation, through the silky grey smoke and chatter that floated in front of
the television screen, which ultimately and literally exploded as Gibson’s
upper deck blast off of Gossage sealed the World Championship for the Tigers. It
was the first time I’d seen grown men hug, cry and throw their hands in the
air like my Little League teammates.
I was hooked.
Although the girl faded to a puppy-love memory and I remained a cynical
Lions’ fan, my love for baseball was confirmed as I would be a lifelong fan of
the Tigers…and not coincidentally, smoky old barrooms.
Our second winner is Ryan Smith. Here is his entry:
1984 is the principal reason I am a Tigers fan to this day. My family moved to
Troy in 1977, when I was five years old. The first teams I ever cared about
were Detroit teams: Tigers, Lions, and Pistons. I remember my first game at
Tiger Stadium. We sat in the lower deck, third base side – restricted view. In
the summer of 1984 when I was eleven, my dad was transferred to Chicago. Slowly
over time, my sports allegiances shifted. The Super Bowl Shuffle Bears and
Michael Jordan-era Bulls soon replaced the Lions and Pistons as my favorites.
But the magical 1984 season cemented my loyalty to the Tigers.
In was a hell of year to move out of Detroit. 35-5 start!?! I remember doing
the “Wave” at Tiger Stadium (back when that was cool). Lou Whitaker was (and
will always be) my absolute favorite. My brother liked Trammell best, and we
used to practice turning double plays in the backyard. I remember George Kell
on the TV and Ernie Harwell on the radio. I remember “Bless You Boys” (I still
have a copy of Sparky’s book of the same name, that recounts the entire season).
And in the middle of it all, I had to pack it all up and move to a new city.
I don’t remember much in the way of specifics about the playoffs or World
Series. But I do have one lasting memory of the night they closed out the
Padres in game 5. After it was over and we were watching the celebration TV,
one of my parents suggested that we try the radio. It must have been a clear
night, because we were just barely able to tune in WJR all the way in the
Chicago and faintly hear Ernie Harwell describing the scene. I still get chills
thinking about my family crowded around the stereo, straining to hear the sounds
from our former home.
While not a winner because he doubled the 300 word limit, this was a great story that deserves to be shared. So Joey Colista gets the Honorable Mention.
I didn’t call Larry Herndon “Hondo” in 1984. I’m not sure when I started referring to him as such, but throughout my adult life, I have always told people that the 1984 world series ended like this:
Hondo came racing in on a softly hit fly ball and my family held it’s collective breath. My dad, my brother, my mom, my sister and I were on our feet, inches from the TV screen—a snap-shot tableau of frozen anticipation.
I’m not sure if this is actually how it played out, but I remember my dog taking cover underneath our pool-table, fully aware of the storm that was about to break.
Hondo caught the ball and just kept running and that beautiful old ballpark erupted in a pandemonium I doubt any of us will ever see again.
Of course, it was damn near a riot, and when I watch the footage today, I find it a little disturbing. But when I was eight, I didn’t know any different, and watching all those drunk Tiger Stadium maniacs charge the field and force the team into the dugout before they’re on-field celebration was complete, seemed fully in synch with my own elation.
I screamed with joy, and my mom screamed with joy, and my brother and my sister screamed with joy, and my dad just smiled and smiled.
My pop, the son of Italian immigrants who couldn’t care less about America’s pastime, listened to Tigers games in the Greenberg/Gehringer era as an introduction to the English language. As a result, throughout his life he transposed baseball jargon into everyday conversation:
“Another D? I see you struck out again Joey.”
“How’d that date go? Let me guess…you struck out again Joey.”
It wasn’t all negative of course. When I did something he approved of, he’d say, “you really knocked the cover off that one boy!”
I guess what I’m trying to get at was the Tigers were a huge part of my father’s transition from old world Italian heritage to fully assimilated participant in American culture. And when the Tigers won the series in ’84 this connection was made manifest by what has become known as “the handing off of the bell.”
Hondo came racing in on a softly hit fly ball and my family held it’s collective breath. And when he caught that ball we all screamed for joy and my father just smiled and smiled…
And then he disappeared into the kitchen. After a few minutes he called our names and we went into the kitchen to find him standing on a stool, reaching for the giant, dented, brass bell that always rested on top of our kitchen cabinets. The thing must’ve weighed 15 pounds.
I had only recently been able to pick it up, so it seemed a remarkable feat to me that my grandfather could swing that bell over and over again while he hocked vegetables on the east side of Detroit back in the 1920s. It was an object from a bygone era that was passed down to my father from his father—a symbol of my family’s pursuit of the American Dream.
My dad stepped off the stool and handed me the bell and then led us to the front door of our home. He opened the door and told me to ring in the Tigers victory, and I gave that thing as much of a ride as I could. I think I got three or four rings out before the weight of it got the better of me, and I had to hand it off to my brother. And he rang it and we all yelled, and screamed and did our best to drive our neighbors crazy.
And that’s the way we celebrated the Tigers victory in the 1984 World Series–with my father tying our family’s immigrant past to its fully American present and future.
If you’re looking for the winner to the Final Cut contest, that is yet to be determined. As you know, the Tigers still have 3 extra players in camp who are likely headed for the DL. That of course doesn’t count for the contest, but one of those players is Edward Campusano who could still be cut and returned to the Cubs. Until he is placed on the DL, I’m going to hold off on awarding that DVD.