The Tigers have won two games in Oakland. The game now goes to Detroit, where the Tigers are in perfect position to clinch the pennant and move onto their first World Series since I was a freshman in high school.
I know, for all you suffering Cubs fans and Mariners fans and all the other teams, that 22 years doesn't seem like a long time. But the Tigers were a proud team, and they've had such a long road of despair. They had thirteen consecutive losing seasons before this year. They haven't been close to a contender since the '80s. They deserve to go back to the series.
This year, the Tigers seem to have suddenly become America's team. Many people I know who weren't Tigers fans before the last series have suddenly been charmed by the boys from Detroit. Their wildly exuberant celebration after beating the Yankees was one of the best things I've seen in sports: the champagne toasts to the fans, the victory lap, Leyland's emotions showing - briefly - on the field, the cheers that went on and on and on.
The Tigers don't have many superstar players. Pudge Rodriguez might count as one, although he's made himself into a cog in this team rather than a focal point. Their players are young, not experienced for the most part, and are often described with words like "scrappy" and "gritty." They have heroic young pitchers, one crafty veteran - Kenny Rogers - who's managed to transform from pariah to the mentor in the bullpen.
I love seeing the Tigers playing in October. I love hearing the announcers wax poetic about Kirk Gibson and Al Kaline, about Trammell and Sweet Lou, about Mickey Lolich and 30-game winner Denny McLain. I love hearing the stentorian tones of Ernie Harwell. Hopefully, by this weekend, we'll find out that the ride is going to go on for one more round.