Author Archive

Justin Verlander No-Hitter: Nothing More Exciting Than a No-No

There is perhaps nothing more exciting in sports than watching a no-hitter. 

The Detroit Tigers, one of the oldest most storied franchises in MLB, now have seven no-hitters, the latest by Justin Verlander, who joined Virgil Trucks as the only Tigers to hurl two. 

Verlander didn’t have his best stuff, striking out only four, but he had it all working. 

What makes a no-hitter so exciting? 

It’s the anticipation. Twenty-seven chances to hit, and after the sixth inning we begin to think no-hitter. With each hitter retired we do the math: only “x” number of outs to go to achieve history. 

Last summer I attended Armando Galarraga’s one-hitter at Comerica Park—a perfect game until the last hitter was called safe at first base on a play that wasn’t even close. 

In the eighth inning, my former colleague’s husband leaned over to me to ask if any Cleveland Indian had reached base. I was remiss to saying anything for fear of jinxing Galarraga. 

I watched Verlander’s gem, pitched in Toronto, and watched the zeros mount, inning by inning. Even Mario Impemba and Rod Allen, the play-by-play analyst and the color commentator, took care not to mention we were watching a no-hitter in the making. All we got was, “Justin Verlander has retired (insert number) straight hitters.” 

While Verlander was doing his thing, the Tigers hitters quietly put up nine runs. 

And in the bottom of the ninth inning, Verlander retired the first hitter on one pitch. He’d tossed 99 pitches and was still throwing three-digit fastballs. He was on a mission. 

When the third batter came to the plate, Blue Jays fans were on their feet cheering mightily to see history made—only in Canada do you see the home team cheer for the visitors. 

The camera showed the Tigers bench: everyone was sitting back, no one was at the railing straining to see what happens—from the looks on their faces you’d think they were about to lose the game. It was just another game to them, for fear of jinxing immortality. 

Verlander got the last hitter to swing at and miss a pitch out of the strike zone and all bedlam broke loose. The bench cleared to join the position players to congratulate Verlander. A lot of hugs—but no hug was tighter than the one Verlander gave his catcher, Alex Avila. 

Congratulations, Justin. Somehow I think that perfect game is still on the horizon.

Read more MLB news on

Miguel Cabrera: Poised—But for Greatness or On the Brink of Disaster?

Miguel Cabrera: We don’t know the whole story and we may never know the whole story. 

The two parts that trouble me most about this story are, “Do you know who I am?” and, “You don’t know anything about my problems.” 

No, Miguel, I don’t know anything about your problems. But I really don’t care any more about your problems than you care about mine. 

That may sound cold, but at 54 years of age, I learned long ago that the typical morning query from my colleagues—“How are you today?”—is at best perfunctory. If I thought they really cared I might be more forthcoming about my life, especially during those times I’m feeling blue. But then I remember to breathe. 

My dad once told me that half the people in the world don’t give a damn about your problems and the other half are relieved that you’re saddled with them and they’re not. Dad was a curmudgeon and I’m following in his footsteps to make him proud. But there was truth in his words. 

As events surrounding the Cabrera story have been unfolding I was reminded of Christian Bale’s tirade a few years ago during the shooting of a Batman film. Someone on the set moved, causing Bale to break character, which resulted in a five or six-minute rant during which Bale berated the poor lighting technician who’d had the audacity intrude on Bale’s moment. 

Bale apologized the next day—after the episode appeared on YouTube—but it was a half-assed apology with a caveat.

“Imagine your worst day …” he began.

I don’t remember what came after that because I can’t imagine having a day bad enough that would result in such an infantile outburst. Not when I’m being paid $20 million to play act and so what if my concentration was broken? It’s not live theatre. Back up to the beginning of the scene and roll the cameras again. People in the real world with real jobs, they don’t always get a “Take Two,” Christian. But we forgive him because of his box office appeal. 

About Miguel’s problems: Even without my knowing what they might be, if I could hit a baseball as far as he can and as often as he does, I think I’d be willing to trade my problems for his in a New York minute (Johnny Carson once defined a New York minute as “the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn”). 

In these troubling times there are people without jobs who’ve been without jobs for two years or longer and whose unemployment benefit has run out. These folks can’t pay their mortgages and have no idea from where their next meal might come. Now they have real problems—problems I’m sure they’d be willing to trade for Miguel’s. 

I don’t mean to belittle Cabrera’s issues. Celebrities are constantly under a microscope. Athletes especially are under pressure to perform; but I recall what Lee Trevino said many years ago in response to a reporter’s question about pressure in a skins game.

In short, the reporter asked Trevino if he felt pressure in sinking a putt that was worth $200,000. Trevino said, “That’s not pressure. Pressure is when you need to sink the putt for $10 so you can feed your family.”

Trevino is a wise man. 

The Detroit Tigers organization, and indeed MLB, has taken a lot of heat over their handling of this latest issue. Some have called for a season-long suspension. That might get Cabrera’s attention.

Then again, a new baseball season might be just what he needs to get back on track. It seemed to do wonders for him last season, when he was runner up for the MVP award. 

But a lot has been said about Cabrera’s accountability. Frankly, I’m not convinced he’s convinced that he has a problem. Twice now, over the last 18 months, he’s been in the news over drinking. One strike is acceptable; he is young and prone to poor judgment. Now he’s taken a second strike. Each time he’s said all the right things in apology—to family, his team, the Tigers organization. 

But there’s something canned about it, like Michael Vick’s contrition in the aftermath of his jail time. Dangle a carrot big enough—a multi-million dollar contract to play quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles—and heck, I’ll say anything you want me to say. 

But there comes a time when actions speak louder than words. 

Now is the time to get the bat off your shoulder, Miguel. 

While the rest of us wait and wonder whether there will be a third strike down the road.

Read more MLB news on

Sparky Anderson: Gone Too Young

I was saddened to learn the news today that former Tigers/Reds manager Sparky Anderson had died at the age of 76. He brought a lot of baseball excitement to the city of Detroit in the 1980s. 

The news seems to have spawned a lot of animosity toward Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and why he didn’t honor the manager who owns more wins while wearing the old English D. The man is, after all, in Cooperstown. If not a statue, then at least retire his number. 

I recall my parents taking my sister and me to the first Little Caesars Pizzeria in Garden City, back in the 1960s. While I can’t confirm it, I imagine it was Mike Ilitch in the kitchen making the pies back then. 

I’ve a lot of respect for the man. He’s done a lot for the city of Detroit. In the aftermath of the limo accident in the mid ’90s that ended the career of Red Wing Vladimir Konstantinov, he took care of “my boys.” He’s honored Steve Yzerman and has acknowledged other Red Wing greats for their contribution to the game of hockey.

Ilitch even allowed Westland native Mike Modano to call Joe Louis Arena “home ice” for one more season at the end of his Hall of Fame career.

Yet I’m saddened that he didn’t honor Sparky Anderson as the Tigers’ all-time greatest manager when it mattered to Sparky. We may never know the real reason; but it’s speculated that it has to do with Sparky’s reluctance to manage replacement players as the 1995 baseball campaign edged nearer. 

If this indeed is what started the rift, Ilitch no doubt felt, as the boss, that Anderson should do as he was told; he was, after all, under Ilitch’s employ. On the other hand, Anderson believed that he was being asked to do something that was an affront to the integrity of game, and he held true to that ideal.

Whether Mike Ilitch or I agree with that credo is immaterial. I’ve disagreed with a lot of people over the years, but I’d fight for anyone’s right to opine a differing point of view. 

Whatever Mr. Ilitch’s reasons—and it’s been suggested that Anderson’s choice to enter Cooperstown as a Cincinnati Red is among them—he has to live with them and himself. The game is bigger than owners, managers and players, even if they can’t see that. If you don’t believe me, well, I can show you where Ruth and Cobb are buried. 

If Mr. Ilitch won’t honor George Anderson, the next Tigers owner likely will.

Read more MLB news on

Jim Leyland’s Last Stand as Tigers’ Manager?

Make no mistake, I admire Jim Leyland. He’s old school, colorful, a winner, and one of the best managers in the game today. I was ecstatic when Detroit signed him to manage the Tigers. He took them to the Promised Land in 2006 after years of embarrassment and 100-loss seasons. Yet I’m wondering if this might be Leyland’s last season in a Tigers uniform.

Leyland said, at the beginning of last season, “We have to do better against the clubs in our own division.”

But the bottom line is the Tigers haven’t done better against their division rivals.

Since Kansas City swept Detroit at the end of the 2006 campaign, leaving the Tigers the wildcard berth instead of a division title, the Royals, perennially one of the worst teams in baseball, take the field against the Tigers (whether home or away) with the swagger of the Yankees, and it often translates into a win.

The Twins have had our number for nearly two decades and it looks as if a new stadium in Minneapolis has done little to level the playing field, with Detroit dropping two of three this week (after getting swept there earlier in the year). At times the Tigers looked as if they were playing to not lose, which is not the way to win ballgames.

Frustratingly, the Twins were 2 and 7 before Detroit came to town. Apparently the Tigers were just what the doctor ordered to get the Twins back on track and winning.

The White Sox, too, have a distinct edge in wins under Leyland’s reign.

When Detroit last visited U.S. Cellular Field, in early June, the Sox were in a funk, having dropped four of their previous six games; but the Tigers were just the ticket to get them out of their doldrums. The Sox scored 20 runs while yielding 10 to take two of three, the final game a 3-0 shutout. After Detroit left town, the Sox went 14-4 for the remainder of the month.

The only team in the Central Detroit seems able to beat the past few seasons is Cleveland. Sadly, the Tigers don’t play the Indians 62 games a season.

This team continues to confound. Earlier in the season they took three of four games at home against the Yankees and two of three from Boston after the Yanks left town. In those series they looked like world beaters—good pitching, timely hitting, great defense; but then they dropped a two-game set in Seattle, looking mediocre in the process.

Managers don’t win ballgames, but they put their team in a position to win them. Leyland has managed to do that against some of the best teams in baseball—upsetting the Yankees in the 2006 playoffs in the process and racking up an impressive record against National League teams in interleague play. But against teams in the Central Division, as well as against teams with losing records, Leyland just doesn’t seem to be getting it done.

Why the Tigers can’t seem to compete in their own division is beyond me, and apparently it’s beyond Jim Leyland, too.

The last thing I want is to see Leyland fired, but in situations such as this, management often looks for a scapegoat, which is the manager.

Sure it’s a long season, and all teams go through slumps; but the Tigers have been slumping against three of their four division rivals for too many years.

Are they underachievers, or simply not as good as they appear on paper?

Granted, this last road trip was grueling, with stops in New York, against the Mets, and Atlanta (two of the better teams on the senior circuit), before finishing up in Minneapolis. But three wins in nine games against teams with winning records isn’t going to translate to a playoff berth come October. Detroit simply has to start beating Minnesota, Chicago and Kansas City.

After six games at home against Seattle and Baltimore—two teams Detroit must beat—Minnesota comes to play in our yard before the All Star break.

Will the Tigers be able to even the score against the Twins? Detroit is overdue to turn the tables against their division nemesis, but can they? Will they?

I want to believe they can and will, because the season is not so young anymore; but based on past years, it’s difficult to be optimistic. I was optimistic when Detroit arrived in Minneapolis this week—the Twins’ starters had been getting shelled the last 10 games—twice they hadn’t gone more than five hitters. But true to form, they managed to find their form against Tigers hitters.

So with Chicago coming on strong as of late to make it a three-team race, and with the midsummer classic right around the corner, it’s not too early to say that, come September, we may look back on these next nine games as the games on which Detroit’s season, and Leyland’s job, rested.

Does it make me an optimist if I say I hope I’m wrong?

Read more MLB news on

Major League Baseball and the Golden Age of Radio

If you’re reading these words, chances are—like me—you’re a baseball lover.


You may be a proponent of the designated hitter rule (I’m not), you may enjoy high-scoring four-hour marathons (I prefer low-scoring pitching duels that are played in under two-and-a-half hours), and you may think Ruth the greatest player of all time (I could give you a half-dozen reasons why Cobb is).


But I’d wager that what draws us both to this beautiful game is simply the sound of the ball hitting a bat: crrraaack!


Basketball has squeaking sneakers, hockey the sound of skates hissing across ice, football the sound that results from a running back lowering his shoulders to hit a linebacker plugging the hole through which he needs to pass in order to find three yards for a new set of downs; but in all of sports there is perhaps no sweeter sound than that of a baseball on wood.


And it differs, too. A foul popup behind the plate sounds different than a laid down bunt, which differs in timbre from a ground ball, which itself differs from a Texas league fly ball, which in turn differs from the sound of a Miguel Cabrera homerun nearly to the hall of famer statues in center field at Comerica Park.


So is it any wonder that I was struck the other day when my hometown favorite Detroit Tigers were in Kansas City to, sadly, drop two of three games to the Royals—a team that the past few years, from the cellar of the Central Division, always plays us with the confidence of the New York Yankees—and the sound of the ball off the bat was a dull thud.


Maybe it was the acoustics of Kauffman Stadium; perchance it was only the sound crew, but it didn’t seem to matter whether it was a ground ball or a Brennan Boesch homerun, the ball’s excitement over being hit anywhere seemed, somehow, subdued.


This got me to thinking of my youth—having grown up in the 1960s, before cable TV, when the majority of games were radioized rather than televised. Imagine growing up at a time when the only games shown on TV were Saturday and Sunday afternoon affairs, a time when the best in the AL faced the best in the NL in the World Series, with no playoff format let alone wildcard teams.


It was tough, but I lived to see the new millennium, in addition to seeing Hank Aaron’s all-time homerun record broken, as well as Roger Maris’s single season record for homeruns broken. I also lived to see the use of steroids tarnish this game that I love so much.


How did I survive listening to games on my crystal radio (that I built from a kit) through an earplug nestled in my ear?


It helped that legendary Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell was calling Tigers games at that time—“Strike three called, he stood there like the house by the side of the road;” and “Catcher Bill Freehan is out to the mound to hold a confab with Denny McClain.” Harwell was always a treat to listen to.


But listening to a ballgame is a far cry different from watching one on the tube—no instant replay, no slow-mo and certainly no X-mo. One has only the sound of the announcer’s voice describing the action—“Kaline digs in to the batter’s box to face the ace of this Baltimore Orioles staff, Dave McNally, winner of 22 games last season”—and the sound of the ball off the bat. One might as well have been born with no eyesight.


Even after we got our first TV set—a 24” black and white Magnavox—I preferred listening to games. I’d seen my first ballgame at Tiger Stadium, under the lights, the year before, and let’s face it, how could a black and white image compete with attending a game played under the lights?


Today I can’t help but feel that much of the game is lost, even with high definition, that I enjoyed so much those many years ago when I had but Ernie’s comforting Southern drawl calling the action and the sound of a piece of rawhide striking wood to which to listen.


Sometimes the good old days really are just that.


Read more MLB news on

Armando Galarraga Absolutely Perfect!

So what’s it like to attend a perfect game and have the umpire blow the call on the final out on a bang-bang play at first base?


Well, there was drama, plenty of drama, when Galarraga took the mound for the top of the last frame. And it only built as he retired the first two batters.


But then the drama came to a crashing halt due to the controversy that left first base umpire Jim Joyce, on the morning after blowing the biggest call of his 22-year big league umpiring career, the most despised man in Detroit.


Today—June 3, 2010—Joyce had to face the music: stand behind the plate to call balls and strikes in the final game of a three-game set between the Tigers and the Indians.


Let’s face it, from behind the Tigers dugout, where I sat last night, maybe 200 feet away from first base, the play certainly looked close. Being a lifelong Tigers fan, I wanted Jason Donald to be called out to preserve the perfect game, but I also wanted the right call, not a questionable call given to the home team because of an umpire’s desire to be part of history or to please the masses. I just couldn’t be sure Joyce hadn’t gotten the call right.


On the ride home, we listened to WXYT radio where the post-game show assured us that Galarraga had been cheated out of his perfect game. Still, I gave Joyce the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe these two announcers were, in an attempt to stir up controversy before opening up the phone lines to irate fans, playing the bias card.


Then they played the interview with Joyce, just moments after the game, after he’d had a chance to watch the replays himself. Contrite isn’t the right word. This guy sounded devastated as he admitted to blowing the call. Told us he thought he’d made the right call, as he saw it, assured us he was in the right position and had the right angle to make the right call. “I just cost this kid a perfect game,” he said, nearly in tears.


By the time I got back to my former colleague’s house, Fox Sports Detroit was running the replay over and over and from different angles both at real time speed and slow motion. And you know what? No matter the angle, no matter the speed. Jason Donald was out. Not even close.


And this morning I wondered how 17,000 fans managed to get the call right and the one guy whose judgment mattered the most missed it.


Am I disappointed? You bet. My own brush with history—June 2, 2010, I was at Comerica Park the night Armando Galarraga twirled the first perfect game in Tigers history.




Say what you will about the New York Yankees—most World Series championships, best winning percentage in the history of the game, most hall of famers, on and on. But the Tigers were playing major league baseball before there was a Yankees team. Before they were the Yankees they were the Highlanders and the Highlanders were, for years, the worst team in baseball.


Yet on this night in early June, a muggy one at that with a 60 percent chance of rain, a kid took the mound for his third start of the season. This kid had a great sophomore year but struggled most of last year and didn’t even make the team out of spring training for the 2010 campaign. His first start he looked good, as good as he had two years ago. His last start he got knocked around.


I didn’t know what to expect from him this night. But I know I didn’t expect that he’d be flirting with destiny, still out there in the ninth inning, a mere 88 pitches under his belt, tossing not only a no-hitter but a perfect game no-hitter: no hits, no walks, no errors behind him. Not a single Indian had reached base after nine and two-thirds innings of play. Perfect.


Just like that gal from 30 years ago in my past: dark, mysterious, beautiful. Perfect. But she broke my heart, too.


Last night Jim Joyce broke my heart and the hearts of Tigers fans the world over. He stole a perfect game from Armando Galarraga, from the Tigers, from the fans—a history making performance for one of the oldest franchises in baseball, gone in the blink of an eye. A judgment call by the only guy in the house whose judgment was, well, wrong.


In my mind’s eye I recall waiting a long moment for the call, my eyes on Joyce, after Jason Donald crossed the bag. A moment of indecision on Joyce’s part? Had he wanted to call Donald out but for unknown reasons called him safe? Like a pitcher who misses a sign and crosses up his catcher, did Joyce simply mix up the safe call with the out call as the fans erupted in jubilation and Galarraga, grinning from ear-to-ear, prepared to leap into the arms of Cabrera but was stopped short as he heard Joyce’s call: “Safe!”?


We’ll never know what thought process Joyce went through before he signaled safe; only what he felt after he watched the replays.


There is talk this morning that instant replay in MLB should be revisited again. That Joyce’s gaffe is the straw that should break the camel’s back and force Bud Selig to implement instant replay. They cite the importance of getting it right, to heck with tradition, with the human element of the game.


Hogwash! As disappointed as I am, I feel that MLB should take the high road, as Joyce did last night in admitting that he blew the call, seeking out Galarraga to apologize to him, and stay the course.


A missed call is part of baseball. Always has been. It’s part of the beauty of the game and part of what separates baseball from other team sports.


A missed call rarely changes the outcome of a game; even rarer that it changes the outcome of a three-game series. And this missed call didn’t influence the outcome of the game—the Tigers still won!


Maybe the home team gets robbed on a Wednesday night, but Thursday afternoon they’re the recipient of a gift. It all evens out in the end.


You’ll argue that instant replay in the NFL is a godsend. Well, I’ll just say that in football, with a 17-game season as opposed to a 162-game season, it’s more important to get the call right because so much more is riding on each play of each game. Will a blown call in a baseball game in early June be remembered as the play that cost a team a playoff spot come October? Not likely. Not when there are so many other opportunities to make up for it.


In today’s modern game, when Bud Selig is looking for ways to shorten a game that routinely runs three hours or more, adding instant replay will only lengthen the average game.


And where do you draw the line? Instant replay on a checked swing? A balk?


Do you call balls and strikes from the center field camera? After all, a strike zone varies from game to game depending on who’s behind the plate, and even varies between the two leagues. A strike zone often changes based on how much control a pitcher may exhibit—it often seems to shrink for the pitcher struggling while it expands for the pitcher with good control; just as it seems to shrink in the later innings of a long game.


Why not put a sensor in every baseball and have the ball ring up a strike when it crosses the plate between the knees and the belt buckle of the hitter? That certainly would ensure getting it right wouldn’t it? We have the technology, so let’s take the human element entirely out of it—bells will ring, whistles sound, lights flash. Like a pinball machine, sure to draw the attention of young fans with short attention spans. How did I ever grow up in the 1960s watching such a boring game?


Want a good reason to keep instant replay out of baseball? Because baseball is a kids’ game and part of its beauty is the human element, as exemplified by the fact each park is unique.


You want to take the human element out, why not make every field the same, the dimensions identical, so that a homerun to right field at Yankee Stadium isn’t but a long out at Fenway.


Does baseball truly want to add more pressure to umpires? In the backs of their minds will they be thinking, I’ve gotta get this call right , and so, in the heat of any given moment, might they choke and blow it?


Part of the fun of going to a ballgame is calling out to the umpire that he missed the call. Would you rather see a manager casually stroll out to ask for a review, or see spittle fly and his face turn red as he shouts at the umpire before getting tossed?


And my final argument: instant replay will take away mornings like this one, listening to the fans and the media alike in an uproar over a missed call.


Armando Galarraga gets it; Ramon Santiago gets it: After Joyce apologized to Galarraga for blowing the call, in return Galarraga assured Joyce that no one is perfect; while Santiago said that he knows, in his heart, that Galarraga twirled a gem and he’s getting him to sign a baseball for him no matter what Joyce called on what should’ve been the final out of a perfect game.


And I feel the same way. It goes into the record book as a one-hitter. But Galarraga knows, as does Santiago and the rest of their teammates. And we fans know, too—those in attendance and those who watched the game the world over.


And even though we don’t need no steenkin’ umpire to tell us what we know is right, we’ve got one of those, too.


In 20 years, I’ll remember, along with everyone else who attended, the night at Comerica Park when Armando Galarraga threw the perfect game that no record book shows. Our shared memory of a night that can never be taken away from us—not by an umpire’s blown call or a missing statistic in a record book. We all know what we saw. And so, now, does Jim Joyce.


Congratulations, Armando, on your perfect game. And thanks, Jim Joyce, not only for manning up and admitting you blew it, but for taking the field on the afternoon after!



Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress