TIGERS, YANKS (AND JAYS) IN A LEAGUE BY THEMSELVES

Listen, I have this idea. Let’s call Minnesota and Cleveland and Kansas City and the rest of those teams and say, guys, hey, sorry, can’t make it, maybe next year. And then the Tigers and Yankees can play each other the rest of the season.

Every night. Tigers-Yankees. Don’t you agree? Don’t you? Wasn’t Thursday night the way baseball is supposed to be? Huge crowd, lines at the bathrooms, bleacher fans engaged in “TASTE GREAT!” vs. “LESS FILLING!” debates.

And, oh yeah. The game itself. What was the score? Sixty-two to three? I lost count after Alan Trammell’s second at-bat in the third inning. Or was it his third at-bat in the second inning? I’m not sure. I do believe the Tigers reached double figures before “The Cosby Show” rolled its credits.

Can I describe that Tigers third to you? Let me see. What are the proper words?

“ARRRGGG! & percent$#$ ! WHUMP! Ayee!.”

That about says it.

They batted around. Six runs on six hits. Which went with four runs on three hits from the first inning. Which made Detroit fans very happy. Which is part of why I suggest a Yankees-Tigers exclusive from now until October.

“Did you know,” a colleague asked as we headed into the fourth inning,
“that this is the second consecutive game that Frank Tanana has been given a 10-1 lead over the Yankees?”

“Really?” I said.

May I suggest Tanana pitch every game. It’s a belabor of love

But let us not belabor Thursday night’s contest, which brought the Tigers within two games of first place. Let us not belabor that third inning, in which the Tigers looked like . . .

Oh, all right. Just one more belabor.

Here was Larry Herndon cracking a double, and Darrell Evans a single and Chet Lemon a single and, hold everything; Yankees manager Lou Piniella had seen enough. Out came Ron Guidry. In came Steve Trout.

Ball, ball, ball, ball.

Wild pitch, ball, strike, ball, ball.

Out came Steve Trout.

“Who was that guy?’ asked a fan.

“And can he pitch tomorrow?” asked another.

By the time this thing was finished the Tigers had 12 runs, 10 hits, and the Yankees’ dugout looked as lively as a poetry reading. It was nice revenge for the opener last Friday in New York, which the Tigers gave away, 6-5. (“It feels good to win first and put some pressure on them,” said Evans. He said this about the same time Piniella was making a silent exit into the streets, looking as if he’d just spent four hours at the dentist.)

But OK. This was still just one game of this four-game series. It will not repeat itself. I don’t think. If it happens again, I do not want to be near George Steinbrenner during dinner. Unless he’s using plastic utensils.

But here is the thing. Even if the Yankees come back strong, this is baseball the way you want it. The top teams playing one another. The fans tossing valentines at their heroes, spitting venom at the opposition.

You want the stadium filled. You want first place on the line. You want the

novice fan screaming “HERE IT COMES!” on every popup, while the season-ticket holder sits behind him mumbling, “What a moron.”

So hence my suggestion. New York-Detroit. The rest of the way. OK, OK. We’ll throw in Toronto, too. But that’s it. Toronto, New York, Detroit. The Big Three of the AL East. This one plays that one, then that one plays this one, and then that one, you know, plays, um, well, the one that’s left. On its night off, the odd team gets its choice of opponents, the White Sox or Boise State, whichever is playing better. It’s better than Baltimore

Understand what we are talking about here. Spirit. Enthusiasm. The difference between Thursday night and the lackluster play the Tigers gave against the Royals earlier this week.

You can tell a big game by the little things. Here was Jack Morris sitting in the dugout Thursday afternoon when suddenly — the sound of helicopter blades. “It’s a big game!” he roared, laughing. “Mr. Monaghan’s here.”

Spirit. Here was Gary Ward crushing a Tanana second-inning pitch into the left field upper deck — and the bleacher fans, bless them, launched into a hearty chorus: “THROW IT BACK! THROW IT BACK!”

Spirit.

So let’s do it. I think the other clubs around the league will understand why the Tigers, Yankees and Blue Jays must cancel their gigs. Most sane people would rather play sold-out, nerve-testing baseball than be stuck for a weekend in Baltimore.

Detroit. New York. Toronto. For the rest of the year. Oh, not every game would be like Thursday night’s. Each team would get its chance at winning. Some here, some there. Some at home, some on the road.

Of course, the Tigers get to win most of them.

Hey. It’s my idea.

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