Last night I dreamt that I visited Tiger Stadium. I visit the old house frequently in the night-it’s a part of the Sleep City that I live in now and again. Sleep City isn’t Detroit, not entirely, just as it isn’t New York or Chicago. They’re approximations, amalgams of the city as I imagine it from books and movies, past experiences there, and whatever residual shit from the day asserts itself in my slumber.
Last night it was Detroit, a bit friendlier, perhaps, though still run down. The streets are never straight, which is unlike the Motor City, but curved so that you can never see very far, mazelike and mysterious.
Like Detroit, the street itself is broken from disrepair, resembling a dirt road were it not for the great floes of busted concrete pushing up everywhere. Most of the stores are shuttered, but lack graffiti, and there’s no menace anywhere–in fact, there’s a heavy, sleepy feeling to the place, a hot summer’s day when people are too lazy to do much of anything. There seems to always be an old, whitewashed auto repair, with its garage doors open, the sound of tinkering tools and that squeal of a pneumatic gun removing or screwing on tire bolts.
Then there’s Tiger Stadium. Of course, it looks very little like Tiger Stadium. In the past, I’ve wandered the concrete and girder concourses, past vendors selling nothing that was ever sold in the past (including, bizarrely enough, roast squash) and found myself lost, wandering around until I somehow ended up in a grassy area on the roof.
This time, we were on the field. All the bleachers were gone, and you could see sunlight through the cracks in the centerfield wall. As usual, I’m shocked that I can just wander inside, but I do. In real life I’ve never been on the pitcher’s mound, where my favorite player Mark Fidrych once plied his trade (and engaged in some celebrated landscaping and lovemaking). There, the weedy mound was cluttered with valuable trinkets left behind by pilgrims like myself. Old ticket stubs from the ’68 World Series, autographed balls, caps, jerseys, t-shirts, programs… a little bit of everything.
I tried to take a picture, but the battery on my camera was dead. On the outfield wall was this sign, which was printed to look like one of those classic Hatch Show Prints “YOU MAY FROLIC,” it read, “BUT DO STEAL!”
Oh, but I wanted to steal. I wanted that mound full of precious icons like nothing else. Hell, I wanted buckets of mound itself, valuable piles of dirt and the pitcher’s rubber, all of it hauled away in a giant wheelbarrow. And I wanted seats, that giant sign with the stunned Tigers logo from the 70s, bricks and girders and even the damned “Frolic” sign.
But before I could commit my larceny, I woke up. Perhaps this dream was reminding me of the futility of being a Tigers fan in the year 2008. The Bengals lost again last evening, keeping them in last place in the American League Central. Their pitching is awful, and they’ve ceased to hit with any consistency. I can take some solace (though not much) in predicting that this was not going to be their year. I thought things would fall apart in the back half of a contest, when the Tigers clunky relief staff would hit the mound.
I was wrong–their starting pitching has utterly fallen apart, and their hitting is of a type that will score 20 runs in a single game, then pop out four measly runs over the next five. To make matters worse, this club isn’t that exciting unless it wins. Should our own Minnesota Twins drop out of first place, which I have no question they will (though check out my predicitons–I picked them for second, and still hold to that), they’re an exciting club that makes you hungry for future pennants. The Tigers? Old, old, old. Sure, young pups make up half the team, but the other half is ancient and ready to break. And that’s not good.
I was at Monday’s contest betwixt the Twins and the Red Sox, and it was a great game even at a 7-3 final. That’s part of the joy of the Twins: you can’t help but wonder if, say, Livan Hernandez (that night’s starter and possessor of an astonishing 6-1 record at the close of that night’s game) won’t throw the whole thing away with a series of soft tosses (he maxed out at 86 mph) that the Sox bombers will blast into the right field pachinko wall. Which he did in the first, as Manny Ramirez killed one.
But that was it. We were treated so some very small ball antics, singles and doubles, Go-Go Gomez getting picked off yet again when he stole before the pitcher threw to home, and a juggling act by Michael Cuddyer, when he allowed a fly ball to bounce out of his mitt, off the brim of his cap and, voila!, back into the heel of his glove.
It was like something out of a dream. Out of Sleep City, all this in the Dome, the Twins, and their youths, taking three of four from the formidable World Champion Red Sox. Halfway through May and they sit on the top of the AL Central, despite having lost last night to Toronto. All of this, though, is nothing more than fun house mirror baseball, standings and statistics stretched and warped by early season successes or doledrums. Christ, as of today the Twins, Devil Rays and Marlins sit atop their respective divisions. You can’t expect that to last all season, but it’s cool to speculate. Perhaps the Tigers will turn it around and the Twins will fall back to this hard earth and end up in fourth place come October. Perhaps Carlos Gomez will steal 100 bases and Livan Hernandez will win 25 games. Probably not, but who knows? Stranger things have happened. They do every season.