Blink and you’re missing it, this 2012 World Series. The Tigers certainly seem to have leaned on the fast-forward button without realizing it.
Maybe it’s appropriate how swiftly the first three games have flown by as they’ve landed in Giants territory, and not just because record-level winds are forecast to lift America’s East Coast into the air and plop it somewhere in the middle of Ohio in the coming days. Unless you’re rabidly invested in the projected outcome — which is to say you already owned a set of panda ears before Game One — these have been the kinds of contests you keep tabs on while doing something else.
Or maybe I’m not necessarily speaking for the nation, just myself. I never seem to fully ingest World Series the Tigers are involved in. Four have been played in my lifetime, and what I remember about the lot of them is that I didn’t really see very much of any of them.
1968: The Year of the Tiger…the year before I knew from baseball except for my handful of earliest, inherited ’67 and ’68 baseball cards. I had from that primordial period (and still have, I’m pretty sure) a Joe Sparma, a Mayo Smith, a Willie Horton and, oh yeah, an Al Kaline. But I didn’t grasp who they were for a little while longer. For my seventh birthday, which came a couple of months after the 1969 World Series, at which point I was a fully vested fan, I was given a sports almanac that was already a little out of date. It listed the Detroit Tigers as baseball’s most recent champions, detailing Denny McLain’s 31-6 season; how the Cardinals behind Bob Gibson (17 strikeouts in Game One) took a 3-1 Series lead; and how Mickey Lolich (3-0 in the Series) won Game Seven to complete Detroit’s comeback. It had happened fourteen months earlier, but it was ancient history to my young mind.
1984: I was in college, which is my blanket excuse for having only scattered memories of the Fall Classic when I was a sophomore, junior and, in ’84, senior. If the World Series was a major, I would have muddled through with a “C”. I watched intently my freshman year, Dodgers overcoming the Yankees, because it was the Dodgers overcoming the Yankees and because I kept to myself my first semester and was happy to have something as familiar as the World Series to cling to. The next three — Cardinals vs. Brewers, Phillies vs. Orioles, Tigers vs. Padres — found me immersed collegiately and quite busy the way you’re supposed to at that stage of your life. My sister and brother-in-law were visiting the weekend Detroit wrapped up their first championship in sixteen years. I followed the action a little here, a little there, not all that much. My strongest memory of that five-game set was the waiter at Steak ‘n’ Shake (where I always dragged everybody who came from out of town) telling us he was from Detroit and wished he was there right now.
2006: Scrupulously avoided most of the Tigers’ five-game defeat for reasons completely unrelated to the presence of the Tigers. I’m going to guess I’m not alone on that count here.
And in 2012? Ah, you know. Things to do, places to be, maybe something more compelling on TV (Wednesday night with new episodes of The Middle and Modern Family are almost sacrosanct in our living room, so I had to catch up with Pablo Sandoval’s power display during commercial breaks), maybe another storm of the century to panic over. I watched Prince Fielder thrown out at the plate in Game Two in the company of several serious Giants fans, which made the moment (like Fielder) larger than life, but then I had to skedaddle. I listened to the middle innings that night on ESPN Radio and found myself absorbed by the pitching duel I wasn’t seeing. Once I got home, though, I kept no more than one eye and one ear on the proceedings, not fully settling down with the televised version, really, until the ninth.
Game Three, with the same 2-0 outcome as Game Two, was a little like that, picking it up in bits (the two Giant runs) when I had a moment to sit down and pieces (Ryan Vogelsong taking command) when I was following along on radio. Eventually, I was in front of the TV without looking up at it all that much as Vogelsong gave way to Lincecum, and Lincecum gave way to Romo…but I never changed the channel, at least.
I did see Gregor Blanco make the running, reaching catch in left that instantly evoked Sandy Amoros from 1955. I did fathom Tim Lincecum, accomplished starter turned deadly reliever, was doing something similar to what Sid Fernandez had done on the same night in 1986. I did calculate that the Giants of 2012 are one game from duplicating the sweep the Giants of 1954 laid on the Indians. And I marveled that the World Series perpetuates its past very well even as its present becomes harder to nail down. In San Francisco, this World Series will someday provide precedent and fodder for knowing analogies. In Detroit, too, albeit likely in a sadder context. For the rest of us, maybe we’ll remember some of what we caught here and there. Or maybe we’ll remember what we were doing when — unlike Gregor Blanco — we didn’t catch all that much of it.