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Joy in Motown

Another Prescription

DETROIT--And the windup, and the pitch...He swings--a line shot, base hit! Right field. The tigers win it. The Tigers win it! Here comes Kaline to score. And it's all over! Don Wert has singled. The tigers mob Don. The Fans are streaming onto the field, and the Tigers have won their first pennant since nineteen hundred and forty-five. Let's listen to the bedlam here in Tiger Stadium. Oh, what a moment!" -Radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell describing the Detroit Tigers' pennant-clinching moment, September 17, 1968.

The record, "The Year of the Tiger," on which those words have been captured, is warped now, Excessive use has worn it, left it gashed and gouged, and you have to turn up the volume to bear Ernie's voice. It sounds like a 1930s radio broadcast, with tic, tic, tic, and the muffled voice of the commentator.

But none of that really ever mattered. Hundreds of times, I would submerge myself in it, draped on the sofa, my legs dangling over the arm. Time to listen to Ernie on the RCA. Time to fantasize.

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The sung on the received would go: "We're all behind out baseball team. Go get 'em Tigers! World Series bound and picking up steam. Go get 'em Tigers! There'll be joy in Tigertown. We'll sing you a song when the Bengals bring the pennant home, whe...whe...whe..."

Every time, I allowed myself to fall in this fanciful, wonderful world, forgetting about the scratches that riddle the disk. I would get up to gap the needle, instinctively, never abandoning Ernie and the Tigers.

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"Whe...whe...where it belongs. We're all behind our baseball team, go get 'em Detroit Tigers. Go get 'em Tigers!"

Do dreams and really meet? I never though so. I have, for more than a decade, revelled in the inauspicious play of the Tigers. The Hope that they would win always seemed enough to secure my devotion.

Until now.

I have descended onto the outfield of Tiger Stadium with thousands of others who may also have listened to Ernie's description of 1968. Our team has just secured the American League Eastern Championship, and we're all engulfed in raging euphoria. Celebrating, Dancing, Cheering.

Some kid pitcher from Evansville notched the victory, O'Neal I think. Tommy Brookens hit a solo shot, and Lance Parrish drove in two runs. Final: tigers 3-0 over the Brewers.

Clinched.

Other cities celebrate their champions, but Detroit glorifies and sanctifies them. Detroit is honoring its warriors the Kirk Gibsons, the Allan Trammels, and the Looooou Whitakers. They have given pride to our city and now is the time to enjoy this glorious moment.

It's an hour after the game, about 10:50 p.m. Most of the fans have remained in the stadium, still on their feet, hooting, expressing their jubilation. We don't want to leave this temple, Tiger Stadium, for the moment is to be relished.

One might read these words with skepticism, sensing only an emotional exaggeration of the sentiment that has enveloped the city. But you must be here to appreciate the thunder, and you must understand the city of Detroit to understand why we have been captivated and why I, like the rest of the city, have been swept away.

The stadium lights have been turned off and we transfer our raucous celebration into the streets and into the few area bars. Horns are honking, they never stop. Strangers are buying each other drinks. Everyone you pass in the singing, strutting through is greeted with a high five, as the streets are jammed.

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