This morning, we bageled up at the Stahl household, then left my parents–as well as two cats, the stinky dog, some fish, a hummingbird, and an owl that went â€œwhoo-oo-ooâ€ all night long–behind and hit the road bright and early, counting on Jimâ€™s playlist of #1 hits to carry us through. And carry us through an uneventful morning they did. We dropped Stacey and Luke at the University Park Metra station a full ten minutes before their standing train was due to depart. They left us with good wishes and the remaining dozen Hostess Baseballs.
We passed through the Slough of Despond, or northern Indiana. We crossed into Michigan, where, like the welcome center in Florida that gives travelers free orange juice, they were giving out paper cups of motor oil. In Michigan, a pattern developed: road construction followed by light rain followed by heavy rain followed by traffic being slowed to a crawl by a wreck ahead. Like a driverâ€™s ed class following a Troy McClure film, we took heed and drove with caution.
Yet we arrived in Detroit right on time. Jim took us into the city on Michigan Avenue, so that we would go by Tiger Stadium. The old ballpark looks a bit run down, but itâ€™s still impressive–huge and boxy and white. A ticket booth remains right on the corner, but there are no tickets to be had.
Detroit itself, meanwhile, is as depressing and hard to believe as I imagined. Street after street is deserted, storefronts are boarded up, windows are broken. A few businesses here and there are hanging on–the Refrigerator King, a few liquor stores, a surprising number of antique-looking antique stores–but even the extant businesses appear to be holding on only by cutting costs to the bone, deferring even the most basic maintenance, from painting to repairing broken signs. (Side note: one thing that was odd for me, simply because Chicagoâ€™s truly poor neighborhoods are so segregated: the people on the street were about an even mix of white, black, and Latino.) Once we entered downtown, the picture went from sad to surreal, as abandoned storefronts were replaced by abandoned deco skyscrapers. Across from our hotel is a derelict twenty-story building with detailed stonework and statues of knights at about the tenth floor. And downtown seems to be like that just about everywhere; I saw a sign on a building that said, â€œBuilding available,â€ and I thought it was awfully optimistic.
The ballpark, on the other hand, is surprisingly pleasant. Sitting in the 18th row just on the first-base side of home, we were a bit spoiled. The upper deck–my usual haunt at a ballpark–does look like it might be all the way back in the Central Time Zone, so I canâ€™t fully vouch for the ballpark, but it was a great place to watch a game from the high-roller area. The stadium is very open, with a view of downtown and a lot of sky, a silly fountain (The General Motors Fountain) beyond center field, and statues of Tiger Hall-of-Famers on the concourse in left. I was even able to get a reasonably good vegetarian pita with rice pudding for dinner, which saved me from the wrath of Little Caesarâ€™s, the house pizza. Jim supped on a Kowalski kielbasa–and, as we learned later, â€œKowalski means Ko-wality!â€
Oh, and the game! I had decided beforehand that since the Sox are doomed, I was free to root, root, root for the home team. It was a good night for it, as Jeremy Bonderman, apparently leaving his 6.07 E.R.A. at home with the wife and kids, absolutely baffled the Sox. He threw mostly inside curves and slowwwwwwwww changeups. Then, when the hitters would start looking for the slowwwwwwwww changeup, heâ€™d throw an even slower one. I donâ€™t know when Iâ€™ve ever seen this many major league hitters look this foolish. Paul Konerko in the 9th was so far out in front of strike three that the ump nearly called it against the next batter. The Tigers, meanwhile, kept drawing walks after walk after walk off Jose Contreras, and the game wasnâ€™t in doubt for long. Jeremy Bonderman struck out Joe Borchard for his personal-best 14th strikeout to end the game, and the Tigers won, 7-0.
Now I will wrap this up and get to bed. Jimâ€™s somehow managed to get our TV stuck while he tried to order the Garfield movie.
Dan: Old Tiger Stadium was awesome. Just had to share.
Jason: ‘Slough of Despond’? I would be offended if it wasn’t true.