That’s it. The other teams can turn in their uniforms. The Tigers are a mortal lock now.
I am not talking about talent. I am not talking about stats. I am not talking about base running, power hitting, relief pitching, ball scuffing, or any such part of the national pastime. I am talking about rainbows.
“Did you see that thing?” someone asked.
“How could you miss it?” someone answered.
How could you miss it? It appeared Tuesday night as if on cue, as if predestined, as if, well, as if someone were trying to tell us something. It had rained almost to game time, and when the first inning began, with the Minnesota Twins at the plate, the sky was cloudy and threatening.
And then the Tigers came to bat.
“Look,” said someone as Lou Whitaker, the leadoff man, stood at the plate.
“See the purple?”
Crack! Whitaker hit a fly ball that was dropped by left fielder Tom Brunansky. Two-base error.
Crack! RBI single by Bill Madlock.
“Out there. By right field.”
Crack! Home run by Larry Herndon.
“Oh, yeah. Gosh. It’s . . . gorgeous. Purple, and red, and yellow, and green . . . “
Crack! Home run by Tom Brookens.
By the time the inning was over, the Tigers had scored six runs, Jack Morris could coast to victory, and the organist was playing “Hallelujah” — all under a colored stripe in the sky.
And as soon as the Twins came to bat, the rainbow disappeared, never to be seen again.
I don’t want to scare anybody. But I’m bringing a robe and some sheep to the ballpark tonight.
No need for talk
Call me odd. There are certain things you don’t argue with. Bikers. Guys named “Moose.”
Surely this was some kind of sign, right? A night the Tigers were playing for first place in the AL East? A night they were playing the Twins, the first-place team from the AL West? Hey. How much more do you need? Do you ask the Tooth Fairy for ID? Come on. A rainbow, for pete’s sake.
“Did you see it?” someone asked Morris after the 11-2 romp, which gave him his 14th win.
“I saw it,” he said, grinning. “Hey. If it doesn’t rain, I ain’t worth a bleep. Ask Muff (pitching coach Billy Muffett). He calls me ‘The Weatherman.’ He says whenever the weather gets lousy he knows I’m pitching.”
Well. OK. Whatever works. And whatever the Tigers are doing these days, it’s working. Working? They should bottle it, patent it, then drink a gallon of it before every game.
Six runs? First inning? Eleven runs by the finish? “Larry did his part,” said Chet Lemon afterward, “and Tram did his part and Bill did his part and Lou did his–”
We’ll check back in a minute, Chet. Meanwhile, remember, this was a game against the Twins, a possible preview of the American League Championship Series. Yeah. Well. If this was a preview, they better cancel the show. Or put in a lot of commercials.
The Tigers’ early barrage came off the Twins’ recent acquisition, pitcher Steve Carlton, a future Hall of Famer who seems to want to stop in every closet along the way. By the third inning, he had surrendered 11 hits to seven different Tigers. Mercifully, he was taken out. Carlton is known as a pitcher who does not speak to reporters. If he keeps this up, he won’t have any reason to.
(By the way, Larry Herndon, as most Detroiters know, is also reluctant to speak with the press. His three-run blast off Carlton may be the first hit in history to produce more RBIs than quotes.) No jinxes here
But back to this rainbow. You gotta wonder. Here was a game that gave the Tigers at least a few hours in first place — while they awaited the results of the Toronto game out on the West Coast. It was the first moments they have spent atop the AL East since the season began.
No one ever expected even that. So regardless of the Toronto outcome, let us say right here: This is a terrific team. It seems to be winning now almost by divine design. Some games it struggles until the victorious finish. And some games . . .
“Anybody tease you about being able to hold a six-run lead?” Morris was asked.
‘Well, it’s like Frank (Tanana) said, ‘It’s nice to have a touchdown in the first period.”
And so it is. A rainbow doesn’t hurt either.
“Did you know it appeared when you came to bat and disappeared when they did?”
“Really?” said Morris. He laughed. “Well. There’s your story.”
Ah, well. OK. Maybe not. Maybe it’s just superstition. Maybe it’s reaching for straws. Maybe — as I sit here looking at the coming rain clouds — the whole thing was some crazy weather coincidence that can be explained by barometers and charts and high pressure systems–
Then again . . .