Letter from Detroit III: The Worst Years of our Lives

I turned 30 this year. Against all type and standards of how my gender is supposed to act, I’m not ashamed to admit it. Normal people will say time is running out but those people obviously were not born when I was and have not lived through what I have lived through. I speak specifically of growing up in Ann Arbor, born too early to appreciate the Tigers when they were good and too late to jump on the Indians bandwagon before they owned the American League Central division.

My life with the Tigers has not been pleasant, and even the high points carry at least a twinge of ironic failure. It’s not living with constant pain though, like some other teams (see: Indians, Cleveland or Cubs, Chicago), just a long stretch of nothing punctuated by a lot of really, really, REALLY bad moments. My moments mostly look like these ones:

September 18, 1996: The Tigers are 51-101, 36 games behind the Indians. Roger Clemens strikes out 20 Detroit Tigers, tying his own major league record. Tiger fans make their own history, setting a record low for Tigers Stadium with a reported attendance of 8,779.

October 27, 2006: Cardinals pitcher Jeff Weaver, released earlier that season by the Angels, becomes the worst pitcher to ever win a deciding game of a World Series and does it for an 83-win Cardinals team, also the worst team to ever win a World Series. The Tigers that year won 95 games, which was only good enough for a Wild Card berth. Most in the media said the Tigers could have won the Series if only they had better fielding from their relievers. Just a few years earlier, the Tigers actually had a slick-fielding pitcher who could also pitch deep into games. His name was Jeff Weaver.

August 11, 1994: The Tigers lose to the Brewers and sensing a lost season, a few of my Tigers fan friends actually said “thank God for the strike.” We thought it would stop the bleeding and give them a chance to regroup and rebuild. The Tigers did not have another winning season for 11 years.

July 31,1996: Cecil Fielder, the greatest obese home run spectacle in all of the Major Leagues, is traded to the Yankees for two months’ worth of Ruben Sierra and a pitcher who never even made it to the bigs. Ruben’s veteran presence helped the Tigers rally to an 18-37 run down the stretch. That includes a 4-22 September. Jesus.

July 19, 2000: I went to my first baseball game after moving to New York as the Tigers were visiting Yankee Stadium. The Tigers lost that game, 9-1 while Yankee starter Roger Clemens gave up 6 hits and 1 run in 8 innings. Damn you, Roger! Damn you to Hell!

And the rest generally goes like that. My two older brothers still talk about the Kirk Gibson/Jack Morris/Lou Whitaker/Sparky Anderson teams of the early and middle 1980s, but to me they sound like those people who talk about how hard their college used to party or how hot some guy or gal used to be. Sure, it sounds nice, but what good does it do me when I missed out on it?


Denise Haberlain is a junior advertising executive and Tigers fan living in New York City.