by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

And now, three words about Darrell Evans.

Home Run King.

OK. So he doesn’t have the title clinched yet — there are still four games left — but he’ll get it, as long as God makes little green apples and Piggy loves Kermit and somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, good things come to those who wait.

Because Evans has been waiting 38 years.

And nobody deserves it more.

This is a professional, a leader, a guy who’d keep an even keel in an earthquake, who always faces the cameras, good or bad, who epitomizes the words gentleman, dignity, grace.

Which may explain why even a few sports writers smiled Wednesday night when Evans cracked his record-setting 40th homer of the year.

It soared towards the seats of Tiger Stadium on a glorious arc. Gone. Out. No questions asked.

One for the good guys.

Evans watched it go. He clenched his fists and raised them to his head, then quickly pulled them back and finished running the bases.

That, by the way, was a big display of emotion.

For Darrell Evans.

Swat Man.Next-best thing to a flag

Now sure, it would be nicer if Detroit were celebrating another division title right now.

“I’d trade this for that in a second,” Evans said Wednesday night.

But they’re not. And with all the bad news on baseball’s doorstep this season, we shouldn’t let Evans’ feat get swept aside too easily.

Tell the juries to take five. Put the lawyers on hold. Drugs. Money. Put them aside, just for a moment.

Let’s remember that a home run is still the biggest play in the biggest sport in the most sports-crazed country in the world.

It is baseball’s Stud Meter. One swing. Pow! The most macho you can get while wearing a cap.

And this season, at age 38, in a year that many predicted he would simply crust and fade away, Darrell Evans has more home runs than anybody. More than Dale Murphy, Pedro Guerrero, Darryl Strawberry — that whole pile of young muscle.

It has to be sweet, because Evans came here under the toughest of circumstances — as the Tigers’ first dip into million-dollar free agency.

He was a rich curiosity, like a farmer bringing home a cherry-red Corvette. Everyone expected fireworks. Instead, Evans hit just 16 home runs and batted .232 last year. And he started this year in a terrible slump.

There were whispers. What a waste. He’s through. The Tigers had him all but traded.

And how did he handle it?

Grace. Manners. Courage. You try being asked “What’s the matter?” by a dozen reporters every night. Or being told the team owner has called you a
“bad investment”.

He never balked. Never bit back.

He is a baseball player. He kept swinging.He’ll keep the ball in play

The reporters were around him again Wednesday night, swarming him in the hallway. He tried to get back to his locker. But every time he took a step, there was another question. So he stood and answered them all, while his teammates dressed.

He had just become the first man to hit 40 home runs in both leagues. How did it feel?

“Oh, it was great, really great,” he said, “Running around those bases. I’ll never forget that.”

And you’re 38 years old.

“Yeah, but maybe you get better as you get older. I hope so, anyhow.”

The obvious question. What did it all mean?

“Well,” he said, “I love this game. All I want is to keep playing it. I really want to play longer. If this helps me get that chance, it’s great.”

I love this game. Evans can say that, and you believe him. You really do. In this age of cynicism, that may be the highest compliment you can give a ballplayer.

A fan returned the record home run ball to Evans. A reporter asked what he’d do with it.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I better not let my kids get hold of it.”

“Yeah,” someone remarked, “they’ll wind up playing catch with it or something.”

Evans laughed. Then he stopped laughing.

“Well, actually,” he said, “that’s good. That’s what ought to happen to it.”

Kids playing ball. Daddy playing ball.

Nice thought.

Hopefully, in years to come, we’ll remember it came from the Home Run King of 1985.

Three words about Darrell Evans.

He deserves it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!