Baumhower: Tigers’ run is much more than just sportWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought out loud, “Please don’t send in Papa Grande. JV has got them to the ninth, please Jim, no Papa Grande.”
Then Jimmy Leyland walked out to the mound with one out in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, to take the ball from his ace. As the skipper began his slow trek, he lifted his left arm, notifying Phil Coke that his services were needed. My prayers were immediately answered.
My family room has become more of a church lately, except for the occasional excessive swearing, where my son and I pray to the baseball gods with simple requests like, “Please give Delmon Young the strength to not swing at the first pitch,” or “Please give the skipper the ability to hear my thoughts and the courage to follow my every direction.”
My La-Z-Boy, soiled with beer stains following blown saves in the American League Division Series, acts like a very comfortable pew and nearby wood acts as an “anti-jinxing” knocking place. The rules of the church and my family room are very similar. Do not talk during the game unless directly asked a question. Yelling is allowed during appropriate moments. Cursing is allowed at any age level if done immediately and without proper thought. If you or your actions “jinx” the Tigers, you will be excommunicated from the Baumhower family forever or until your jinxing has been reversed.
In 1984, a 9-year-old version of myself was given the equivalent of “baseball crack” as the Tigers had the dream season. PASS Sports filled our living room almost every night, an additional cable purchase that I still have no idea how my dad got approved by my mom. I remember wanting to eat only Lay’s Potato Chips because they came with a circular, exclusive Tigers’ baseball card. Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon and Lance Parrish were a huge part of my family that year and became a part of the fabric of my life. Then a magical thing happened and the Tigers beat the Padres to win the World Series.
The next year came and I was convinced the Tigers would win it again but somehow they came up short. This trend has continued ever since, with some occasional moments of hope, like 1987, 2006 and last year.
The 2006 World Series appearance and loss to the St. Louis Cardinals was a breakthrough in my life and family. After numerous disappointing seasons through the 1990s and of course the dismal 2003 season, I had sworn off baseball. I was married, we had a young son who was struggling to communicate (we had just been given the diagnosis of the “A” word for him) and had his baby sister.
Baseball seemed almost a waste of time, as it distracted me from fatherly duties. Having a 4-year-old son with obvious social issues can give any father concerns; my biggest fear was that this sweet-souled boy would be bullied when he went to school.
Then it happened. I stumbled upon a Tigers game and it caught his eye. He was mesmerized. This excitement snowballed into an immediate shopping spree at Dick’s, and our game of catch began. Then the greatest thing occurred. Our game of catch turned into conversation and ultimately an obsession. The progress he made from memorizing baseball card stats, which he actually was reading, to imitating Mario Impemba’s play-by-play was the breakthrough we were praying for. The 2006 World Series was a turning point for him, almost a confirmation of his love. The game, in fact the very team, that was a huge part of my childhood was now a huge part of his.
I had often explained to women that the Detroit Tigers were my mistress, but in actuality they have always been a part of my family. Some families “summer” in Maine, the Carolinas or Florida. We “summer” in the “D.”
I have no idea what to do if 2012 becomes the year of the Tigers. I had always hoped my son would witness such a special year, so he would be cursed for life as a Tigers fan, as I was in 1984. The moment feels incredibly closer than in the 28 previous years. I honestly think I would cry a little if it happened — probably a lot. I know for some it is only a game, a “pastime,” but for some of us, it is much more.
Nov. 1 will mark the one-year anniversary of my son’s Papa Bob’s passing. He was a man who shared his love of the Tigers with his grandson, confirming it was OK for men to love a team or a sport. Nov. 1 is also the scheduled date of Game 7 of this year’s World Series. My religious beliefs have evolved from my Catholic upbringing to a loose self-fitting set of thoughts. I choose to believe in karma, signs and that everything happens for a reason.
There will be no greater test of my faith than if the Tigers are in a Game 7 scenario, because I know someone upstairs will be pulling strings for his grandson.
I wanted to dedicate these words to the memory of those Tigers fans who couldn’t wait the 28 years to see this. I know they are helping from somewhere, where ever you believe them to be.
God bless these boys!
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