Sports teams giving Detroit something to cheer about

A Tigers fan gets pumped up prior to the start of Game 3 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees...

A Tigers fan gets pumped up prior to the start of Game 3 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park in Detroit, Mich., Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:19 PM ET

DETROIT - Detroit remains among the worst metropolitan centres in the United States when it comes to economic recovery and unemployment figures.

No matter how you slice it, 12.9% unemployment is an ugly number. Not as ugly as the 22% unemployment that blasted the area three years ago, but ugly enough.

There is only one thing that can alleviate the suffering of economic starvation and that’s bucks in the pocket.

But there is something that blunts the pain enough to make one forget on occasion.

For the first time in years, the Detroit area has diversions for every fan, regardless of the sport or team you cheer for.

Detroiters are like kids in a candy store right now. To say the city is buzzing is a massive understatement. It’s electric.

The Detroit Tigers have two chances to eliminate the New York Yankees and move on to the American League Championship Series. If they do it, it will be the first time since 2006 that they’ve made it that far.

The only thing that could steal the headlines from a Tigers’ team about to eliminate the boys from the Bronx would be the Detroit Lions being undefeated in the National Football League.

And so it is. The Lions are 4-0 and making headlines not only in Detroit but also around the U.S. For the first time in 10 years, the Lions will play on Monday Night Football when the Chicago Bears come to town.

The Michigan Wolverines are 5-0 in college football. After the disaster that was coach Rich Rodriguez and an embarrassing 15-22 overall on the field and countless embarrassing moments off the field, the Wolverine faithful are ravenous about the possibility of a big bowl game.

The Michigan State Spartans are 4-1. Ok, so Detroit is for the most part Wolverine country but a Spartan win against Ohio State last weekend rounded out a clean sheet of wins for the four teams.

Still to arrive on the scene are potential Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

“You can tell when the teams are doing well,” said Gary Wagaman, a bartender at Slows, a barbecue joint just down from old Tiger Stadium. “There are more people downtown. They are just in a better mood and it means a lot for businesses.

“You get the people down from the suburbs. If the team’s are no good, they don’t come down.”

Wagaman has the night off for Monday Night Football.

“The city is crazy about this. It is going to be crazy,” he said. “Being on Monday Night Football with a team that’s a winner. I’m going but I’m a Chicago fan and my friends are already giving me the business.”

Clive Rodney is a parking attendant at one of the local lots. He has a Tigers and Wolverine stickers on his windshield.

“No Lions. I’ll wait to see when they play anybody good,” he said. “If they win Monday, maybe I’ll get a sticker.

“You see people beaten down around here and they go to a game and the team gets their ass kicked, it beats them down even more. But now that the teams are winning, you see them happy. It doesn’t put money in their pockets but it makes them forget some.”

Winning has begun to forge a bond between the two teams. Tigers manager Jim Leyland tried to contact Lions coach Jim Schwartz and Schwartz often gets on Twitter to talk about the Tigers.

Leyland was asked whether he had a sense of the level of sports excitement in the area.

“We’re all allies,” Leyland said before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday. “We’re pulling for one another. It’s a good atmosphere for the city. It makes people forget about their troubles with good times with sports.

“If you can make someone happy, that’s what the song says, ‘Make somebody happy.’ I listened to it on the way to the park today. I have a tape in my car.”

Right now, its sports teams are making Detroit very happy.

GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN

The only thing that marks the block as one of the most famous in baseball is a flagpole 440-feet from what used to be home plate.

There is not even a plaque anywhere on the site only a chain link fence surrounding the block that saw the likes of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Al Kaline do remarkable things on what is baseball hallowed ground.

It’s difficult to believe such a small footprint was able to hold iconic Tiger Stadium. It was the one baseball stadium where no matter where you sat, you felt you were on top of the game.

Standing at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull you can still make out the chalk lines and the diamond.

There are two small benches on opposite sides of where home plate used to be.

The area surrounding the stadium is dotted with boarded up buildings. That includes the infamous Hoot Robinson’s where many Tiger fans prepared for the games with “Liquor and good food.” Hoot looks even smaller without the stadium across from it.

While the stadium may be gone, it isn’t forgotten.

The contractor hired by the city to look after the area was at the site Tuesday, once again closing a gate that was forced opened by people wanting to play pick up games and just throw the ball on the same ground that baseball legends did their thing.

On Tuesday, two men in their 60s, gloves in hand were looking for an opening in the fence.

“It was open yesterday. We just wanted to throw the ball around the infield,” one of them said sadly.

The last game at Tiger Stadium was played Sept. 21, 1999. Demolition was completed Sept. 21, 2009.

No one knows what will become of The Corner.


Videos

Photos