I am very ready. I have my Tigers cap and my Tigers glove and my oversized T-shirt that says YANKEES GO HOME! across the front. I am sitting outside Tiger Stadium, making tiger noises. I am prepared for war. I am very ready.
“GOT YOUR TICKETS?” I yell to a passerby.

“Huh?” he says.

“You should have planned ahead,” I say.

I have my tickets. Had them since April. Even back then, everybody knew this Tigers-Yankees series in September would determine the AL East. Didn’t we all circle it on the calendar? Didn’t we?

“GIBSON VS. GUIDRY!” I yell.

“Huh?” says a passerby.

“You should have planned ahead,” I say.

I am a person who plans ahead. I knew back in April that the men in pinstripes would be tough. Detroit. New York. One of them would win the division. I knew that. I predicted that. So did almost everyone else.

Where is everyone else?

I guess they couldn’t get tickets.

Too bad. They will miss the pennant race atmosphere tonight at Tiger Stadium. They will miss the screaming. They will miss the Wave. They will miss the playful chants from the bleachers, like, “DIE, YOU NEW YORK SCUM!”

They will miss it all. But I will be there.

“MORRIS VS. MATTINGLY!” I yell.

“Huh?” says a passerby. LaPoint and Laga will be there I turn my Tigers cap around like a catcher. I am ready. Very ready. In order to be this ready, I stopped reading the newspapers on Opening Day. I stopped watching television. This way, I am fresh now in mid- September. This way, every angle tonight will be clear and new.

“FIRST PLACE IS OURS!” I yell.

“Huh?” says a passerby.

I lean back against the gate. I am surprised no one else is here yet. I have been here since last night. I do not look good. I do not care. I am going to be the first in for this big game.

The others will be sorry. They will all get here at once, and the traffic will snarl. Soon there will be mobs of fans waving pennants and posters and fighting to get in. Some will be waving rubber knives. Those will be the New York fans.

I already will be inside. The first one to see the best pitching in baseball against the best offense in baseball. Detroit vs. New York. For everything.

“PITCHING OVER HITTING!” I yell.

“Huh?” says the passerby.

Poor slob. I’ll bet he has no tickets. He won’t see Dave LaPoint pitch. He won’t see the slugging Mike Laga. Or newcomer Dave Engle.

“LANCE PARRISH FOR MVP!” I yell.

“Huh?” he says.

Hmmm. Must be a Yankees fan. I knew they’d come. One thing you gotta give the Yankees. They have tradition. Guys like Bobby Meacham and Butch Wynegar. Oooh. Rich traditon.

“LOOK OUT, MR. PINSTRIPE!” I yell.

“Huh?” he says.

Just wait. The Tigers will show George Steinbrenner a thing or two about championship teams. The Tigers will show Lou Piniella a thing or two about how to manage the big ones. I’ll bet Sparky Anderson is inside the stadium right now. He probably slept here last night to study the lineups. Yeah. I’ll bet he did.

“SPARKY FOR PRESIDENT!” I yell.

“Huh?” says the passerby.

Is everybody deaf around here? And then there still were none

The sun is making the turn. Only a few hours now. I wonder where everyone is. There must be a hell of a traffic jam somewhere.

Good thing I planned ahead.

I’ll bet the NBC truck is around the corner. Right now Vin Scully is putting on his makeup. And Joe Garagiola is reviewing tape, for when one of these teams makes the World Series.

I’ll bet Dan Petry has 25 wins by now. Didn’t Sports Illustrated predict him to win the Cy Young? Sure, it did. I’ll bet Kirk Gibson is having the year of his life. Didn’t Sport magazine predict him as MVP? Sure, it did.

I’ll bet Lou Piniella has really turned the Yanks around. Didn’t we say he would? Sure, we did.

Yankees, Tigers. For all the marbles. Tonight.

Be still, my pittering heart.

I am a lucky man, to be here on the threshold of history. When you plan ahead, you stay ahead.

Yessiree.

Dum de dum da . . .

You know, I’m getting a little hungry. Maybe I could go for some peanuts. There’s a guy right across the street. And there’s no line. . . .

Wait a second. What am I saying? I’m not giving up my spot. Whoa. Uh-uh. No way, Jay.

“RIGHT HERE!” I yell. “THIS WEEKEND! THE SHOWDOWN! THE BEST IN THE EAST!”

“Oh, is Boston in town?” says a passerby.

Boston. Ha! What an idiot.

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