With the Minnesota Twins now making their way out of town, and the biggest series of the season (to date) about to begin, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at one of the more unusual sites at Comerica Park.
With the Tigers in a back-and-forth battle on Monday night with the Twins, Tiger killer Jim Thome sent two home runs into the Detroit night and into history. With number 599 and especially number 600, Thome handed the Tigers a costly loss, and he added to his tormenting of his favorite AL Central opponent. While he is regarded as one of baseball’s nice guys, and it was a significant milestone, why did it elicit the playoff-hungry Tigers fans to break out in a standing ovation?
Throughout the impressive history of the Detroit Tigers, countless milestones have happened in front of Tigers fans with varying reactions. I believe every standing ovation has a combination of factors that contribute to the spontaneous moment. Just think back to the last time you left your seat to applaud an impressive performance in front of you. For Tigers fans, Thome has wrecked our hearts too many times – including nearly 70 home runs. If this were not a heated playoff race, I might condone such an action. This was not one of those moments and the raucousness did not match the situation.
Detroit is a knowledgeable baseball town and we are not adverse to cheering on baseball’s best. Think of Lou Gehrig pulling himself out of the lineup for the first time in 2,130 games. While it came in a completely different era, there was something special to that moment that deserved the proper recognition. What if Thome had just eliminated the Tigers with that home run? What if Thome ruined Valverde’s saves streak? The fact that we’re just weeks from the end of the season made my disapproval only greater in conviction.
No matter what you feel about the man himself, feats of hitting should still carry somewhat of a taint to them. For a player like Thome who played some of his best baseball in the core of the steroid era, there’s no reason we as fans should ignore the fact that he was once a completely differently shaped baseball player. For a sport that has seen its greatest accomplishments of late have less meaning due to a hanging steroid cloud, Thome’s latest feat cannot be overlooked for the era that it took place.