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

For a moment there Sunday, I thought all of Tiger Stadium had died and been sent to eternity. The sun would set. The moon would rise. Then it would be winter. Then, the year 2000.

And we would still be in the fourth inning.

How long did that inning last? High school went by quicker. Tiger batter. Tiger batter. Tiger batter. I would like to explain what happened in clear, precise detail. I would like to, but I can’t, because my scorecard looks like a treasure map drawn by a two-year-old. Who can’t draw.

All I know for sure is that somewhere around 2:45 p.m., Darrell Evans stepped into the batter’s box with the bases empty. And somewhere around 3:20 p.m., Darrell Evans stepped into the batter’s box with the bases empty.

And one out.

So what does that mean? Eight runs had scored? In one half- inning? Yes. A double (Chet Lemon), two singles (Mike Heath, Lou Whitaker), four walks
(Evans, Bill Madlock, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell), another double (Pat Sheridan), a sacrifice fly (Jim Morrison) and, oh, yeah, three Yankees wild pitches and, well, there you go. Eight.

Ooops. Evans hits a homer.


You want those insurance runs. Holland got a break

By the time it was over, and several of us had celebrated birthdays, the Tigers had whipped up their biggest offensive inning of the season and the Yankees had swallowed it whole. The Tigers’ lead, with five innings remaining, was 14-2. The Lions don’t score that much in two weeks.

“Not much drama, huh?” Evans said. I don’t know. Maybe if you’re incarcerated. But this was not about entertainment. This was a showdown. Tigers-Yankees. Last meeting. There are two reactions when such an important game winds up 15-4. One is to be calm, cool, humble, soft-spoken and philosophical.

“WE KICKED BUTTS!” yelled Kirk Gibson.

That’s the other one.

I would like to say something about the New York pitchers Sunday, some of whom lasted less than an inning. But that speaks for itself.

I do remember this: In that fourth inning, Al Holland came in for Steve Trout, who had replaced starter Dennis Rasmussen. Trout had given up a single, thrown a wild pitch, walked a batter, and thrown a wild pitch. A hard act to follow.

But Holland was up to it. He walked Gibson, then threw a practice pitch and nearly collapsed. Sore elbow. He was escorted off. Holland is either very unlucky, or the smartest man on the team.

Anyhow, this left Yankees manager Lou Piniella all alone on the mound. He looked to the bullpen. No one was there. I can imagine the few men left were in the tunnel with a coin.

PITCHER ONE: Heads! PITCHER TWO: Damn! Wait! Two out of three! PITCHER ONE: Nuh-uh! Nuh-uh! You go!

Finally, the Yankees chose Tim Stoddard, who promptly walked Trammell with the bases loaded, then gave up a double to Sheridan, then threw a wild pitch. A high point in his career, no doubt.

But wait. That wasn’t the best part. In the eighth inning, having already used six pitchers, the Yankees turned to catcher Rick Cerone. Who became pitcher Rick Cerone. That’s right. They were putting a catcher in to pitch! How stupid! How ridiculous! How —

Cerone retired the side without a hit.

“His control wasn’t bad,” observed Detroit’s Dan Petry, who got the win Sunday by protecting a 12-run lead. “Really. Not bad at all.”

Hmm. Maybe he’ll start next Thursday. Just your routine slaughter

How odd. But then, the whole thing was odd. These were the final seven games between two of the best teams in the American League? Ten days ago, in New York, we anxiously awaited one nail-biting encounter after another. This is what we got: one nail-biting encounter.

Then, rout, rout, rout, rout. . .

The Tigers won four, the Yankees three. (Both teams trail first-place Toronto.) “We kicked their butts, they kicked our butts, we came right back and kicked their butts,” Gibson said. “That shows character on both sides.”

The box scores show something else. The Tigers and Yankees scored 90 runs in these seven meetings, 55 of those for Detroit — which was without Jack Morris. What’s New York’s excuse? Starters Ron Guidry, Rick Rhoden and Rasmussen were battered this weekend. The only good performance came from Tommy John, 44, who once retired to coach college baseball.

I don’t want to seem harsh. But if that’s a championship pitching staff, I’m Meryl Streep.

Whatever. It’s done. A nice little visit by New York. Stop by anytime, guys. Meanwhile, the rest of us wake up this Monday morning with a hot baseball race in front of us, and fond memories of that never-ending fourth inning behind us.

It is Monday, isn’t it?


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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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