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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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Inebriation has filtered throughout the city. Detroit is drunk.
But why the zeal? Why now, when the tigers have yet to capture the American League pennant and the World Series? Detroit has known for months that the Tigers would go at least this far. Tonight, nobody is surprised, but everyone is enjoying the manic celebration.
Detroit is normally a lifeless town with about 5 million people in the metropolitan area. We can't hide that were gruff, gritty, and wholly without class. At noontime, downtown workers here form a sea of polyester. And in the evening, Detroit evolves into a sea of nothingness.
It's abandoned after dark, without elegant restaurants or high society. Most of the shops are boarded up; the Renaissance Center has gone bankrupt. There are virtually no movie theaters here. Oh, there's the old Fox Theatre, with its cavernous, yet ornately designed interior, but it's gone triple-X-rated.
We have Greenfield Village, the Institute of Arts, and the River rouge Plant, but that's about all there is here for the visitor. Instead, Detroit is known by those who do and do not live here for its 17 percent unemployment, murders, and rampant poverty.
It gives its citizens almost nothing in which they can take pride. Absent are the Greenwich Villages, the movies, the Sunset Strips, the Lakeshore Drives, and the Faneuil Halls.
Detroit only has its sports teams. And it seems an eternity since we have received satisfaction even from them. So when they win, as the Tigers have done, the city forgets its troubles, and the lethargy which normally immobilizes people briefly ceases to exist. Not we have something which has galvanized us as a community to show the world.
Because there has been nothing else to which I have been able to devote myself, I have only dreamed with the Tigers. Now they're finally answering these calls. Doing it for Detroit and for all the other s who have not been able to find something more substantive to occupy their time and thoughts in the city then to listen to a beat-up, retrospective, and fairly insignificant recording of this community, it's my moment too. It's one of our few.
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