Because I consider myself a Detroiter, there were many references to the Detroit Tigers in my book, Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games. Players on the 1968 World Series Championship team were my childhood heroes, and the next Detroit team to win the Series was the 1984 team, who, coincidentally won the series at the same time that I was in the last weeks of pregnancy with our oldest son, who, 21 years later, would become a Tiger.
So many connections, so much inspiration, such great stories! Imagine my joy when my husband bought tickets to an event in Downtown Detroit featuring players from both of these teams! We trekked across the state midweek to “The Showdown in Motown” to meet and greet the guys who had captured our imaginations and our hearts so many years ago.
Denny McClain won 31 games in 1968! No pitcher will ever again win 31 games. We shook his hand and took our picture with him. And we thanked him for his inspiration.
Darrell Evans is arguably one of the most underrated major leaguers to have ever played the game. He let me put his ’84 championship ring on my finger as he said, “I wear this ring every day. It is a reminder to me that every day is a gift.” And we thanked him for his gift.
Al Kaline, known as Mr. Tiger, spent his post-playing days in the broadcast booth and behind the scenes with the club. He was a highlight of our younger son’s spring training in 2010 when he sat down at the breakfast table with him. My husband remembers that Kevan had called right after he got out of breakfast and recanted every word they spoke. When my husband Jim told Al the story that night, all he said was, “I try to do that for all the young kids who come through.” And we thanked him for his Hall of Fame career.
The atmosphere remained fun while the teams debated about which team was the better one; it ended in a tie. But you know what? The room was full of winners that night because the benefactors of the event were military veterans.
Vets Returning Home is a non-profit agency whose goal is to end chronic homelessness among veterans in our communities. Sportuality defines “community” as “to have charge of together.” That night in the MGM Grand, we were all one. We were all Detroiters, having charge of each other together: the baseball community, the community of fans, and the community of local veterans. You can help in your own community, too, if you go to http://vetsreturninghome.org/mission-statement/. With our help, we thanked them for their selfless service. Professional sport has a much greater calling than winning championships. It’s called being Sportual.