“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): The Best Unofficial Tigers T-Shirts

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. This is the Tigers’ entry.

Some of the best T-shirts for baseball teams aren’t from the teams themselves, but rather from fans and artists! Here are some of the best unofficial Detroit Tiger shirts!

For example, here’s a shirt that combined the Tigers with the Lions, creating a…. Liger, I guess. Tigon?

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.30.19 PMOr, hey, why not do ALL FOUR Detroit teams in one t-shirt?

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.41.50 PMWant a pixel-art shirt of the Tigers mascot? Because that totally exists:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.43.24 PMI may have featured this in a previous round-up of unofficial shirts, but it’s a good one… CRUSH-IT CABRERA:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.45.23 PMBane and the Detroit Tigers logo go together way better than you would think:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.47.28 PMHere’s a cool-looking Justin Verlander shirt:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.52.55 PMOr, you can go classic and pay tribute to baseball’s greatest battery:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.55.35 PMYou can also pay tribute to the late, great, Ernie Harwell:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 12.57.43 PMOr, finally, you could salute the Tigers teams of the 1980s with this Kirk Gibson minor league shirsey:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.04.23 PM

Pretty cool, huh?

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(Blogathon ’16) Dan Epstein: The First Time

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

The spring of 1976 was a time of sheer, unfettered happiness for me. I turned ten that May; the inchoate anger I’d felt over my parents’ split six years earlier had largely burned off, and it would be at least another year before adolescent angst began to severely kick in, leaving me free and clear to focus on reading UFO and Bigfoot magazines, shooting BB guns (I won my second straight “First Place” trophy in air riflery at the Ann Arbor “Y” that March), chewing pre-spider-egg-rumors Bubble Yum, and getting pumped up about the impending Bicentennial celebrations. And best of all, I’d just fallen in love with baseball.

I’d fallen hard and I’d fallen fast, the result of a friend’s birthday party that April, which had included a trip to see The Bad News Bears at a local theater, as well the handing out of new Topps wax packs as party favors. While I’d had a vague awareness in the game before then — thanks to my dad, who’d grown up in Brooklyn with the Dodgers and was now rooting for the Mets from afar — I was suddenly seized by the all-consuming desire to not only play baseball, but to learn everything about its history. From the age of five, I’d been completely obsessed with the American Revolution and the Civil War, and had devoured enough books on the topics since then that I could easily rattle off the names of all the important generals and battles. But now, that same obsessiveness was being rapidly re-directed towards the legends and contests of the diamond.

So when my dad announced that he’d bought tickets for what would be my first-ever major league game — a Sunday afternoon Yankees-Tigers game at Tiger Stadium on May 30 — I felt the same giddy excitement I’d experienced when my maternal grandfather had taken me to see Civil War battlefields in the South. I barely knew the difference between Al Kaline and George Kell at this point, but I still understood that professional baseball had been played at “The Corner” since before the turn of the century, and that the edifice known as Tiger Stadium had stood there in one form or another since before World War I. A place of immense historical importance, in other words.

Tiger Stadium did not disappoint, not by a long shot. Being there was like being in an old battleship, a haunted house and a theater-in-the-round all rolled into one. The double-decker, completely enclosed structure cut off all aspects of the outside world, save for the sky itself; and the smells, sounds and vibrations (and even the dark green paint) of the old ballpark seemed to hail from other eras entirely. I felt like a welcome-but-temporary guest at a banquet that had been going on for decades.

If my appreciation of our surroundings was acute, my understanding of what was actually happening on the field in front of us was considerably more vague. We were sitting just a few rows behind home plate, slightly off to the first base side — seats which cost my dad a princely five bucks a pop — which made it easy to see the argument happening at home plate during the exchange of the lineup cards, though I had no idea why the man in the Yankees uniform was screaming at the umpire. “That’s Billy Martin, the Yankee manager,” my dad informed me, as the fans around us began to hoot and holler. “He’s still pissed about a call the umpires made yesterday.”

The argument (and the jeers of the fans) quickly escalated in intensity and volume, until the ump finally had enough and tossed Martin out of the game. In retrospect, I’m guessing that Billy was probably just brutally hungover from a Saturday night out on the tiles in his old Detroit stomping grounds, and didn’t want to wait another two hours before he could get his trembling hands on some “hair of the dog.” But in that moment, I was awestruck by the abrupt intensity of the exchange, which surpassed anything I’d seen in The Bad News Bears. Before I could even see a major league pitch in person, I’d already witnessed a Billy Martin ejection.

The Yankees were the hottest team in the American League at the time, not just in the standings — they were 24-15, and they’d occupied first place in the AL East since their third game of the season — but also as a story: After over a decade of malaise and decay, Martin and owner George Steinbrenner were hell-bent on restoring the legendary franchise to its “rightful” grandeur, and they weren’t shy about saying so. But the Tigers, as my friends at Burns Park School were fond of saying, sucked; they were coming off the worst season in franchise history at that point — a dismal 57-102 campaign — and seemed to offer little hope of improvement. Ex-con outfielder Ron LeFlore had given Tigers fans something to cheer about that spring with a 30-game hitting streak, the most in the AL since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 in 1949, but even that had come to an end a few nights before my first visit to The Corner. A rookie pitcher named Mark Fidrych had made a few headlines on May 15, when he threw a complete game 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in his first career start, but he wouldn’t win his second game until May 31; “Birdmania” wouldn’t fully kick in for another month.

The game we saw that day was largely devoid of importance, at least in the grand scheme of history. Yankees lefty Rudy “The Dude” May, pitching on only two days’ rest, threw his lone complete game shutout of the season, four-hitting the Tigers while walking only two. Detroit starter Bill Laxton also pitched well, allowing only one hit (a single to Willie Randolph, who was promptly caught stealing by John Wockenfuss) to the Yankees through five before melting down in the sixth. After Fred “Chicken” Stanley walked to start the frame, Mickey Rivers (who I was surprised to see in a Yankee uniform, having only known him via my new Topps cards as a California Angel) laid down a bunt single, and Roy White followed with a home run, the first I’d seen in a major league ballpark. Thurman Munson immediately followed with another, and Laxton was done for the day. So were the Tigers, as the score stood 4-0 the rest of the way.

Still, it was an incredible thrill for me to see guys like Rivers, White and Munson — players I only knew from baseball cards — in action that day, along with LeFlore, Willie Horton and Rusty Staub, who I’d already read about at length in the sports pages of the Ann Arbor News. (Now they were real to me!) And it was just as thrilling to run around through the gangways of the old ballpark, to gaze in wonder at the souvenir stands selling plastic batting helmets of every MLB team, to hear the ghostly echoes of the ballpark organ, to order a “red hot” with mustard slathered on it by a tongue depressor, and to run my fingers along the many layers of industrial paint that covered our seats. We spent maybe three hours at Tiger Stadium that day — the game itself lasted less than two — but I emerged from the ballpark transformed, an ardent baseball fan for life.

Two summers ago, while on my book tour promoting Stars and Strikes, I paid another visit to The Corner. I hadn’t been back since 2004, when I took some photos of Tiger Stadium’s sadly moldering edifice on a business trip through town, and — having moved away in late 1978 — I hadn’t seen a game there in thirty-six years. All that was left by that point was a field, a diamond and the old centerfield flagpole, all lovingly maintained by the volunteers of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, but I could still feel the magical vibrations of the place. I took my wife out with me to the mound, where I paid tribute to the late, great “Bird” by dropping to one knee and manicuring the dirt. Then I took her over to the area behind home plate, to show her where the seats for my first Tigers game — my first major league baseball experience — would have been, more or less. And then I said a silent prayer of thanks to the baseball gods.

Dan Epstein is the author of Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76 (which will be released in paperback this February) and Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s. Follow him on Twitter at @BigHairPlasGras.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

IT CAME FROM MLB.COM AUCTIONS: The Tigers’ Snack Container

Due to freelance duties, there will be no “Headlines From Around The Continuum” today. However, to make up for it, I bring you another weird internet baseball auction! To be more specific, this one isn’t on eBay, but from MLB.com’s own auction site. I present to you, the 2015 Frito Lay Snack Container from the Detroit Tigers Dugout!

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 9.38.46 AM

Yes, you can own a snack container that may have been grabbed-from by Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, pre-trade Yoenis Cespedes and David Price, and Jose Iglesias! Just think of the sesame seeds taken from this container that were then chewed by such greatness! If not for the insane 15 dollars shipping, I would surely be first in line to bid for this piece of baseball history*!

I mean, yeah, you could be going after the jersey that Jose Bautista was wearing when he unleashed the Bat-Flip of the Gods, but that’s just one player! This snack container represents the history of an entire (last-place) team!

Bid now!

 

*No, no I wouldn’t. It’s a freaking snack container. This entire thing is tongue-in-cheek, as you probably figured out.

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): Last Call for the Detroit Tigers?

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. This time, I talk about the rapidly closing window for the Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit Tigers are running out of time. Their window is rapidly closing. It’s last call.

Whatever you want to say, it remains true: the Detroit Tigers are getting older, the AL Central is getting better, and if they don’t win a World Series soon, the Justin Verlander-era of the Tigers won’t win it at all.

First though, let’s look at why they haven’t won a World Series yet.

First off, winning a World Series is hard. You can clearly be the best team all year, and then come October just a few mistakes or running into a extremely hot team can spell your doom. Having the best player in the game, which the Tigers have arguably had in Miguel Cabrera since 2007, is no guarantee either, he’s just one man.

Secondly, having a great pitching staff- which the Tigers have had- is no guarantee either, especially in this age where relievers are increasingly important. Just look at last year, where the Tigers lost to the Orioles in the ALDS because the Baltimore bats feasted upon the suspect Detroit bullpen with startling regularity.

And, third, and perhaps most controversially, is that when they have made the World Series they’ve ended up cold. In 2006 and 2012, they arrived in the World Series after sweeping the ALCS, only to sputter out. Maybe they were cold from the wait. Maybe it was just bad luck. Nobody knows.

But back to today’s Tigers. They look and feel like a team in decline. Max Scherzer is gone. Justin Verlander has increasingly begun to show his age, and last season was his worst since 2008, with a hideous 4.54 ERA and 104 Earned Runs allowed, the most in the AL. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez have yet to play in a game yet this Spring (although they might next week). Joe Nathan’s ERA last season was 4.81. Ian Kinsler was an All-Star last year but isn’t getting any younger.

In other words, yes, the Tigers are running out of time. But there are some things that are definitely looking up. They’ve added Yoenis Cespedes, who will be entertaining if nothing else. David Price, although he didn’t set the world on fire for Detroit after his trade last season, is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. Jose Iglesias is returning from injury, and he was a Rookie of the Year contender in 2013.

But, still you can’t help feel like the clock is running out for this iteration of the Tigers. They need to win now, or win not at all.

Bizarre Baseball Culture: The Detroit Tigers, A Talking Tiger, and the Power of SHAZAM!

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Nothing is going to beat Mr. Go. It just can’t be done. But, I’ll give it my best shot by bringing to you a comic from 1977 in which DC’s Captain Marvel and his talking anthropomorphic tiger mascot Tawky Tawny join the Detroit Tigers to defeat a team of alien All-Stars.

It’ll have to do.

SHAZAM1977COVERSCAN

So, here’s Shazam! number 32, from late 1977. I covered most of Captain Marvel’s complicated history (and why most people think he’s called Shazam) way back in May 2012, so if you want to know that, go there. However, an update is in order: DC has more or less given up calling him “Captain Marvel” and now is referring to him as “Shazam”. This is partly because everyone who doesn’t read comic books calls him that anyway, and also partly because Marvel has recently given the title of “Captain Marvel” to a character named Carol Danvers (who appeared as “Ms. Marvel” back in one of the AAA baseball comics) to great success, to the point where it’s thought they might make a movie starring her, likely with the name “Captain Marvel”.

Personally, the Shazam Captain Marvel will always be the real Captain Marvel to me, but, hey, you can’t beat copyright/trademark law, I guess.

(Incidentally, the Hero-Formerly-Known-As-Captain-Marvel-And-Now-Officially-Known-As-Shazam will reportedly be played by The Rock in a future movie.)

(Also, all characters, images and panels from the comic are trademarked and copyrighted to their owners and rights holders, all pictures here are are being used under fair use doctrine and are meant merely to support and enhance the opinions and facts stated in this post.)

But enough Captain Marvel background, go below the jump for an analysis/review of this comic!

Continue reading

Picture of the Day: Early Spring Training

Is it a problem that I could identify Justin Verlander and I think Phil Coke based simply on Verlander’s profile and I-Think-Coke’s facial hair (unless Todd Jones is now a coach for the Tigers or something…)?

This image is under a creative commons license and was taken by Roger “HueyTaxi” Dewitt.

Prediction vs. Reality: Game 3 of the 2012 WS

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.

What I thought I’d be writing (about the time the bases were loaded): Well, this series will go at least five games, as the Tigers finally came up in the clutch, roaring back from an early deficit to win Game 3 of the World Series. The Tigers still have a long way to go if they intend on winning this series- especially as they will, no matter what, have to play one more game in San Francisco, but they saved this series from the irrelevance that sweeps often bring to playoff series.

What actually happened: As soon as the Tigers failed to score with the bases loaded, it was clear to almost everyone that this is probably going to be a sweep. The Tigers have nothing: much like the Yankees they defeated and the Orioles that the Yankees defeated (and, for that matter, the Rangers the Orioles defeated), they just don’t have the key hits when they need them. This isn’t to say that the Tigers have had a bad series: they were competitive in both Game 2 and Game 3, but they have failed to hit, flailing at the Giants’ pitches, grounding into double plays with regular frequency, and failing to capitalize on the few mistakes San Francisco has made.

On paper, one would think that if a team could come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series, it would be the pitching-rich Tigers. However, that idea is flawed when one remembers that A) They still would have to win four straight games, B) They’d need to remember how to hit, C) The Giants’ pitchers have been dialed in and D) They’d have to win two games on the road. But enough about that, the Tigers need to first win one game… and that “one game” will have to come against Matt Cain.

It’s a shame that the 2012 baseball season has seemingly come down to this: it was, by almost all measures, a great success that saw surprising teams, great performances, and attendance that was up overall from last season. Now, though, the sport’s grandest showcase could end in four straight games in a snoozer of a series that only people in San Francisco are enjoying.

But that’s baseball: sometimes stuff like that happens. And, it should be noted, the series still isn’t over. So maybe, just maybe, the 2012 MLB season has one last big surprise left in it.

Maybe.