Detroit had earned its hangover — the Tigers pulling off a sweep of the Yankees on Thursday to win their 11th American League pennant — so I left the slumbering city early Friday and hit the road home to New York. Soon after I got around Toledo and turned east on the Ohio Turnpike, I came to a realization about this insanely important swing state: it’s so flat and so boring that driving across it gives your mind a chance to roam. And mine was way off the leash.
Through my ancient Mazda’s cracked windshield, I kept seeing vivid snapshots of my three whirlwind days in the Motor City. Odd to say, but one of the most memorable days was Wednesday, when Game 4 was scheduled but no game was played. It proved to be a great day for conspiracy theorists.
I arrived at the ballpark late, detained by a fat Dominican cigar and a much fatter raconteur at a downtown saloon. “It’s a myth that Dick the Bruiser beat the tar out of Alex Karras at the Lindell A.C.,” he told me with iron conviction, disputing something I had reported as fact in this newspaper. “Never happened!”
Chastened, I quit the saloon. The game should have been half an hour old by the time I approached the turnstiles at Comerica Park, but the packed stadium, usually a house of bedlam, was eerily quiet. I turned to a guy standing next to the big statue of the tiger and asked what was up.
“Rain delay,” replied Terry Franconi, who had come to the game carrying a broom — a goad for the Tigers to turn their 3-0 lead into a four-game sweep. Alas, brooms were banned from the ball yard. Besides, Franconi didn’t have a ticket.
“But it’s not raining,” I said.
“They say it’s going to.” Then he offered a prediction that had nothing to do with the weather: “I honestly don’t think the Tigers are going to win tonight because there’s too much money to be lost if they sweep. The umps and refs know how to make it a close game.”
It wasn’t raining inside the park either, but I heard people talking about a big storm that was to the west and closing in fast. Half an hour passed, an hour, an hour and a half — and still no rain. It was like being trapped inside a jampacked keg party with 43,000 guests, everyone getting hammered because there was nothing else to do. I noticed that the grounds crew hadn’t even pulled the tarp over the infield dirt, despite that big bad storm that was supposed to be on its way. Strange. I started thinking about how much money the concession stands were making, and that got me thinking about Terry Franconi’s remarks. Maybe some kind of fix really was on.
Finally, the rain started to fall two hours after the first pitch was supposed to be thrown — plenty of time to get in most of a game — and the tarp came out and the fans went home. It was a first for me: a two-hour rain delay without any rain.
After the nongame, I went to a different saloon and bumped into Brian McGuire, who works as something called a search engine marketing analyst for a Detroit advertising agency. “I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist,” he told me, “but I think the powers that be knew this game wasn’t going to happen. The interest is in money — the chance for advertising, marketing, alcohol sales. Let’s milk the cow, then put her to bed and milk her again tomorrow. It’s capitalism.”
All these dark theories became moot the following day, when sunshine drenched the field and Game 4 started on schedule a little after 4 p.m. As I gazed out at the emerald outfield, I had to admit that I, like many old-schoolers before me, had been utterly seduced by Comerica Park, which opened in 2000, replacing Tiger Stadium, the charming old dowager where I grew up watching baseball and football games. They tore the place down in 2008, breaking many hearts.
Click HERE to read the full article on The New York Times!