There was some major mojo in Motown Saturday night. Twenty-two years to the day the Detroit Tigers were last crowned the best team in baseball, the Tigers completed a four game sweep of the Oakland Athletics and advanced to the World Series. Even the way the Tigers won their final games against the Athletics was magical. Down 3-0 early in the game, the Tigers clawed their way back and won the game with a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The victory set off a night of parting in a town that hasnâ€™t seen the Tigers team finish with a winning record since 1993.
The Tigers' accomplishments this year have been nothing short of remarkable. Three years ago they lost an American League record 119 games and were the laughing stock of the baseball world.
Not many people are laughing now.
Before the season began, no one expected the Tigers to rise higher than fourth place in their division. As their early season victory total began to add up and had the best record in baseball, sports writers and broadcasters didnâ€™t give them much credit. The Tigers' success was a fluke, they said, built upon beating teams with losing records. Even when the Tigers were 40 games over .500, baseball experts all said the Tigers werenâ€™t strong enough to win the division with teams like the White Sox or last long in the playoffs against far superior teams like the Yankees.
The Tigers almost provided their critics right. They struggled at seasonâ€™s end â€“ winning only 19 of their last 52 games â€“ and backed into the playoffs as a wildcard team. Their late season floundering earned them a series against the New York Yankees who field what is arguably one of the best lineups ever assembled. Not one baseball expert picked the Tigers to advance to the next round.
They were drubbed by the Yankees 7-4 in their first post-season game since 1987. But the Tigers didnâ€™t give up. They kept working, determined to achieve success. They roared back and demolished the Yankees and their $198 million payroll with three straight victories. Money can buy a lot of things in New York, but it apparently canâ€™t purchase a World Series ring.
Then the Tigers took on the Athletics and a country full of still naysayers convinced the Tigers' success was nothing more than an aberration. And once again the Tigers proved their critics wrong.
The 2006 Tigers are the quintessential America success story. Theyâ€™ve shown that expert opinion means little and well-financed opposition can be defeated. Like a Horatio Alger novel, the Tigers have proved that hard work, determination, and the willingness to keep their eye on the prize is what it takes to make dreams reality.
On Saturday the World Series begins and the Tigers will have a chance to rise from years of futility and prove themselves the best team in baseball. With their work ethic and willpower, thereâ€™s still plenty of Motown mojo to go around.
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