My dad suggested today that I read the cover story in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated called “Tigertown.” I did. You should too.
Detroit, Michigan has been hit harder and longer by the economic downturn than a 95-MPH fastball tagged by Manny Ramirez in his sweet spot in the strike zone. Unemployment hovers around 25%. The average home price is less than $12,000. That’s twelve thousand–no zero missing in that number.
Last year the Tigers came in last in their division. As I type these words they are in first place by 2 1/2 games with eleven games to go. And people in Detroit are stoked.
I love baseball. I grew up going to Dodger games with my dad, listening to Vin Scully call the plays on my transistor radio under my pillow when Mom and Dad thought I was asleep. I collected baseball cards. My very first, which I will always remember (since I no longer have it) was of Al Kaline, outfielder for the Tigers.
I view baseball as a metaphor for life and have wondered why no one has written the equivalent to Golf in the Kingdom about America’s favorite pastime. Baseball is filled with hope and passion, greed and cheating, politics, religion, drugs, and sex. It’s all there.
And there’s something about Detroit. John Fetzer once owned the Tigers. When he sold the team he used the proceeds to endow The Fetzer Institute, a foundation that focuses its energy on love and forgiveness. Mike Ilitch, the Tigers’ current owner, is investing in the team and the city in ways that don’t lend themselves to making a profit. The team has given away more than 80,000 tickets this year and worked with more than 2,000 non-profit organizations.
I’m still rooting for the Dodgers. But it’ll be okay with me if the Tigers win it all this year. I don’t believe baseball can cure cancer, undo racism, or fix everything that is broken in Detroit or elsewhere in America. But at its best, baseball helps. This article will remind you why.