I would like to welcome each and every out-of-town journalist who has come for this weekend’s big Tigers-Blue Jays series. Unfortunately, that would really run up my phone bill. So instead, I offer a gift: a personalized MAP-TO-THE-STARS of the Tigers clubhouse. After all, we don’t want you walking into the showers.
Ready? First, get inside Tiger Stadium. Go past the Italian sausage stands. NO, YOU CAN’T STOP! FOR GOD’S SAKE, YOU HAVE WORK TO DO! Go through the clubhouse door. Take a sharp left. Smell the pipe smoke? This is Sparky Anderson’s office. Sit down. Start talking with Sparky. And we’ll come back for you on Monday.
No. Ha. Only kidding. Sparky is the first stop, however, because he is known, in the business, as “a good quote.” Of course, the quote he gives you may totally contradict the one he gave the guys from Denver five minutes ago. But hey. Those guys aren’t going to read your paper, right?
OK. Once done with Sparky, come out, and take a right past the Wispy Machine. The Wispy Machine is a landmark in the Tigers’ clubhouse. It is big and metal and dispenses Wispy, which is sort of lo-cal cold white stuff, not really, you know, ice cream, although it comes in chocolate, or, well, brown, I think it’s chocolate but . . . ah, I’m not sure what it is. It’s Wispy. Eat it and shut up.
Now look straight ahead. Ta da! You are on “Pitchers’ Row.” Frank Tanana, Dan Petry, Walt Terrell. Who’s who? Easy. Petry and Tanana are on the ends. Terrell sits in the middle, on his stool, holding a beer and staring into space. Before the game. After the game. Day. Night. Doesn’t matter. I think he sits there through the winter. Don’t disturb Doyle OK. Around the corner. Here you find the relief pitchers. Jeff Robinson is tall with light-brown hair. Mike Henneman is tall with light-brown hair. Eric King is tall with light-brown hair. Have fun. Also, you’ll find the catchers, Mike Heath and Matt Nokes. (HELPFUL HINT: Nokes is the one who could star in “Leave It To Beaver.”)
Next, you’ll hit Willie Hernandez. Everybody hits Willie Hernandez. That’s the problem.
Keep walking. Ah. Doyle Alexander, the hottest pitcher in baseball. A thin man whose facial expression suggests that he is suffering from severe cramps. Never mind. LEAVE HIM ALONE! CAN’T YOU SEE HE HAS TO PITCH! MOVE! YOU’RE BREATHING HIS AIR!
On we go. Turn past the showers. And presto! — you have reached shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker. Side by side. What a team! These two have been together so long, sometimes they put on each other’s clothes, take the wrong car keys, go to the wrong house, and come back the next day without ever noticing.
Stop writing that down. It was a joke.
And here is Darrell Evans. With a mob of reporters around him. Go ahead. Ask Darrell how it feels to be 40 and still playing so well. I bet it’s the first time he hears that one.
Keep going. Tom Brookens . . . Larry Herndon . . . Johnny Grubb . . . now we are hitting the fun corner. Jack Morris and Bill Madlock. This is the corner from which a flying sock is most likely to originate. You will notice a photo of the two men hanging there: over Madlock’s face is written “Mad Dog.” Over Morris’s, “Sad Dog.” On a slow day this summer, Madlock and Morris tried to sell signed copies to their teammates.
They’re such kidders. Watch out for rodents (HELPFUL HINT: You may notice two smallish, fresh-faced young men running around. They are not clubhouse boys. They are rookies. Scott Lusader and Jim Walewander. They are nicknamed “The Rodents.” Lusader thought that up. How about that, huh? Walewander has become a fan favorite for his excellent baserunning and fine taste in music, which includes
“Spit Sink” by The Dead Milkmen. You may notice a “Jim Walewander Fan Club” sticker above Sparky’s office. Heh-heh. Pretty funny, huh? Sparky doesn’t even pay dues.)
OK. Back to the tour. Gibson. Kirk. Big. Blond. Whiskered. See his locker? See that sticker? The one that says “I’M ORNERY.”
Slow down. He’s not chasing you. All right. We’re about done here. You’ll find Chet Lemon and Dave Bergman. It was Bergman who came up with the Wispy Machine. Quick! See if you can find your way back to the Wispy Machine!
Very good. Just testing.
Walk past the coaches corner, and, voila! The tour is complete. You are back to Sparky’s office, where you no doubt can pick up the conversation you began 45 minutes ago, without missing a beat.
So there it is. The map to what most people consider the most easy-going clubhouse in the league — and perhaps, soon, that of the AL East champions. I hope it helps. You may need it should the Tigers win this weekend and have a big celebration, with champagne popping everywhere and leaving you soaking wet.
By the way, should the Tigers lose and you still find yourself soaking wet, I have news for you.
You’re in the showers.