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SOOTHSAYER SEES NY, LA, KC. . .

by | Apr 7, 1986 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I go to the attic. I reach into the box. I take out the glass ball and bring it downstairs. It is dusty. I blow on it and the dust coughs up in my face.

“What about the Tigers?” you say.

“Patience,” I say.

I close my eyes. I begin a chant. Something from India. Or maybe the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island.” One or the other.

“What about the Tigers?” you say.

“Hummmmmmmm,” I say.

Suddenly an image appears inside the glass ball. I see New York. I see Dwight Gooden. I see him walking off the mound and being congratulated by his teammates. I see a movie producer offer him a cigar. I see David Letterman beg for an interview.

I see signs “New York Mets! NL East Champions!” I see a riot at Shea Stadium. I see two men in ski masks. I see them kidnap Mr. Met, the team mascot. I see police cars. I see a headline: “CROOKS TO CITY: PAY OR WE PITCH HIM.”

“Yeah, but what about Detroit?” you say.

“Hang on,” I say.

A new picture emerges. I see the Dodgers and the Reds playing on the final day of the season. I see a tie score in the bottom of the ninth. I see Pete Rose chewing his fingernails. I see Tommy Lasorda chewing a dinner roll. I see Don Rickles sitting in the dugout next to Lasorda, saying, “Pinch-hit for Niedenfuer, you hockey puck.”

I see Lasorda motion down the bench. I see a handsome blond batter come out. I see the crowd gasp. I see he is bleeding from the stomach. I see his bat. It says “Wonderboy.” I see him hit an 0-2 pitch halfway to Redondo Beach. I see a seven-figure movie deal. I see the Dodgers win the NL West. I see all this.

“What about Detroit?” you say.

“Just a moment,” I say.

Another image. I see Kansas City. I see Steve Balboni at bat. I see him hit a home run. I see him do it again. And again. I see Royals manager Dick Howser reward him with a fresh bag of Doritos. Every time. “Five home runs!” Howser exclaims. “Five bags!” Balboni exclaims.

I see the Royals jumping into each others’ arms. I see George Brett spitting out his wad of chewing gum, he’s so happy. I see Kansas City over the Seattle Mariners to win the AL West crown. I see all this.

“I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT DETROIT!” you say.

“OK, OK,” I say.

I rub the ball. I close my eyes. I begin a new chant. Something from a Hindu religious ritual. Or maybe “Da Doo Ron Ron.” One or the other.

The glass goes cloudy. And then . . .

I see pitchers. And more pitchers. I see curveballs and fastballs and sliders. I see Jack Morris and Dan Petry. I hear them say, “Nothing to it.” I see Frank Tanana and Walt Terrell and Dave LaPoint. I hear them say, “Piece of cake.” I see the Tigers winning game after game, 2-1, 2-0, 3-2, 3-0, 3-1.

“Do they beat the Yankees?” you say.

“A moment, please,” I say.

I see Kirk Gibson clout left. I see Kirk Gibson clout right. I see Larry Herndon return to form. I see Lou Whitaker maintain form. I see Mike Laga find a form.

“But the Yankees . . . ” you say.

“One more moment,” I say.

I see Sparky Anderson taking a hard line. I see players angrier. I see them playing better. I see fewer errors. I see improved relief pitching.

I see newcomer Darnell Coles having a decent season. I see newcomer Bill Campbell surprising people. I see newcomer Dave Collins not playing that much.

“But the Yank–” you say.

“Please,” I say.

I see Detroit in the thick of September. I see Toronto close. I see Baltimore not close enough. I see Cleveland next. I see Boston struggling. I can’t see Milwaukee.

“STOP IT!” you say. “WILL THE TIGERS BEAT THE YANKEES FOR FIRST PLACE OR WHAT?”

I wiggle my fingers. I close my eyes. I grab the ball and squeeze. A smile comes to my lips. I begin a new chant. It sounds vaguely like “Hello, Detroit.”

“Will they? ” you say.

“Yep,” I say.

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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.

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