And so ends one of the oddest sagas of the past few years of my life. For those Yankeeist readers who don't know, I'm currently in Michigan. I attended all 4 of the games the Yankees played in Detroit. I went to the games with my buddy Josh. We rolled into D today feeling good about our chances after the Yankee outburst the night before, and left not wanting to think about an awful series loss to the Tigers.
Picking up where things left off previously, Josh and I decided we were going to attend the entire series once Wednesday's night-day doubleheader was announced. We'd purchased tickets to Thursday's game before I'd arrived, so our decision meant a lot of live baseball in a short period of time. We had also decided to spend the night in Detroit in one of it's many Casinos.
Our spirits were high on Wednesday as we drove back into the city. The Yankees had lost the first game, but put up a fight. Neither of us believed that a sweep of the remaining three games was possible but we were looking forward to the next three games unfolding.
A big, completely unrelated moment stands out from the drive. We were listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio to get into the sports mood. Josh and I are both also big Knicks fans. When Cowherd - who has no NBA contacts at all - speculated that LeBron was almost certainly joining the Knicks after Cleveland's game five loss Josh and I screamed "YES" in unison. It's been a long decade for Knicks' fans.
We've planned to buy the cheapest tickets for the doubleheader. We had great seats for games 1 and 4. There was no reason to bust our budget on these tickets, not when our plan calls for buying a hotel room and extending our car rental, at a minimum.
I walk up to the ticket window, and ask the vendor the best seats available for the day game, just to get a sense of things. She explains that they have two seats located two rows behind the visitors' on-deck circle. So much for frugality.
It doesn't even phase me that we've missed the top of the 1st inning. The seats are, hands down, the best that I've ever had in my entire life. We sit immediately behind the Yankees' on-deck circle, about two rows back.
We estimate that these seats would cost $2000 in total in Yankee Stadium. Having paid only $154 for them we're feeling pretty good about ourselves.
For those keeping score at home, Detroit has great seats at affordable prices, and several Casinos. My flight cost about $200 even. Feel free to extrapolate what you will.
Unfortunately, these seats would be ours for less than 150 minutes. We proceed to watch the Yankees get shut out for the first time all season, as everyone reading this is already aware, and squander Javier Vazquez's best start of the season in the process.
Josh delivered the highlight of the day. The Tigers' mascot, Paws, was roaming around our section. As Paws stationed himself by us to let fans take pictures with him, Josh turned to me and said, "The Tiger is freaking me out. His eyes don't move."
After suffering through a disappointing 2-0 loss (pitchers' duels are fine on TV, but not live) we make our way to the Casino to book a room. Detroit, it turns out, has at least three Casinos scattered throughout the city. We've set our sites on one: The Greektown Casino.
Greektown is an area in Downtown Detroit whose name may once have made sense, but those years are long passed. The Casino in this area dominates the surrounding skyline. It stands at least 20 stories tall. It's exterior is entirely light blue, with shades of bluish gray. It is a large rectangle, which means it looks like a big, blue housing project.
The Greektown Casino is just one more way that Detroit head-faked me. Nevermind it's exterior, the interior was fancier than anything I saw recently at Bally's Atlantic City. An eternal flame sits atop the reception desk, with a marble relief behind it. It dawns on both of us that we'd just spent our hotel budget watching the Yankees get shutout. The reception lady confirms this.
From my earlier post a reader may believe that I was disappointed not to stay in the Casino. It may therefore surprise everyone reading this to learn that I am not a gambler. I've been to several Casinos and in my life placed only one bet. I do an excellent job wasting my money without any assistance, thank you.
The fact is that you don't need to be a gambler to enjoy an American Casino. If Alexis De Tocqueville were writing today he wouldn't have spent a minute in a Town Hall meeting. He'd have booked a flight to Vegas.
I don't doubt for a second that every person reading this post this far has been in a Casino. I will say that I never tire of being in them, with a beer in my hand. Josh, once again, captured the moment perfectly. "It's Wednesday afternoon, and this place is packed," he said. It warrants mentioning that Detroit is terrifyingly vacant ... everywhere but in the Casinos.
After leaving the Casino we look for food before the night game. We make our way to Eastern Market, an area of Detroit that is meant to be vibrant. The experience drives home the reality that starting a business in Detroit means investing in an area that is surrounded by abandoned buildings. The market itself is hollowed out. In the square that surrounds it there are, maybe, six businesses and twice as many empty store fronts.
The pizza we got at Suppino was some of the best I've ever had. I ordered a smoky, which had a bunch of cheeses and garlic and was perfect. Josh made the mistake of ordering pepperoni. When he asked if we could swap slices I said no.
Just as with Slow's, Suppino is an oasis in the city. Josh and I spoke with Matt and Andy, brothers who were also attending the games, rooting for Detroit. Every patron was nice. The staff were lovely. Frankly, each person in there could have pulled my hair, so long as they served me that pizza first.
Making our way back to Comerica Park for the night game, Josh turns to me and says, "Matt may like a pitcher's duel, but I want baseball to make love to me tonight. If baseball doesn't put out tonight I'll be upset."
Since we already have our tickets we hang out around the stadium right up to game time. First, we have a conversation with two scalpers who mock us for being Yankee fans. I didn't get their names, but they are not only the two creepiest scalpers I have ever met, but two of the creepiest human beings I can ever recall meeting in my entire life. We talk for 20 minutes.
We then make our way to Elwood for cheap beers before the game begins. Everyone at the bar is nice. Mostly, its Detroit fans with a handful of Yankee fans, but all patrons are in a good mood. We talk to Barry, who explains that he owns the Varsity Club (a bar) in Dearborn Heights.
Barry asks me what I think of Detroit. He says yes when I ask if I can be honest, so I explain the good and the bad. Barry then summarizes the current problem perfectly. He uses Slow's as his example. Detroit needs more places like Slow's, he explains. The City has no tax base anymore. It will require brave entrepreneurs who are willing to build first rate enterprises in the City to begin a rehabilitation.
Josh asks him if he is willing to open a bar in Detroit. Barry says no, that it's not worth the risk. We go into the stadium.
Detroit remains full of surprises. The Four Tops sing the best version of our National Anthem that I have ever heard. Just after, "and the home", they sing, "ain't no country like the one I got", a reference to their hit song "Ain't no Woman like the one I got." For a brief moment this lover of Soul Music was in heaven.
As the game gets underway, the Detroit bullpen walks across field. Every member sports a tight cut, Mohawk. Josh turns to me and says, "I wouldn't want to run into those guys at night."
At 7:12 pm the Yankees took their first, and only, lead of the Series.
As everyone knows, Phil Hughes, was brilliant. The Yankees offense sputtered its way to a 2-0 lead. When Phil Coke enters the game, I look up at his picture on the scoreboard. He's changed his look since he left the Big Apple. From his photo on the screen he now sports a handle bar mustache, and the official closely shaved Mohawk of the Detroit Bullpen. The scoreboard lists his stats, and explains that he owns a pick-up with a gun rack.
The Yankee offense finally puts out for Josh, scoring six runs in the top of the 9th inning. The burst of runs was disappointing. It came in a game we were certain we'd already won. We were seated right above the Yankee bullpen. As fun as the runs were, it was more fun to watch Mariano Rivera try to follow the action through the screen that separates the 'pen from the field. His body language screamed, "Wow! Another run! You guys sure you want me to pitch today?"
As we prepare to leave, Josh and I both realize that as bad as we've been getting it since we arrived, it may be about to get worse. Sure enough, a Detroit fan decides to insult me for wearing a Yankees jersey with a word that shows up on page one of the Book of Hate Speech. I am only intolerant of one thing, and that thing is intolerance. With any luck, I made him cry.
The win in the 2nd game of the doubleheader was Detroit's last head-fake. After making a long, fatigued journey back to Ann Arbor, Josh and I were pumped to watch CC pitch in the last game of the series. Of course it turned out to be his worst start of the season.