Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Year of the Tiger" A Wonderful Listen

I have been listening to "The Year of the Tiger" in my car lately.

It's an old audio cassette a former co-worker of mine made for me, circa 1993. The cassette is a dub, from album, of the classic product rushed into the stores by the Tigers after clinching the 1968 pennant.

"TYOTT" is a wonderful nostalgia trip -- full of actual in-game radio calls from Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane, as they decribed highlight after highlight of that glorious '68 season.

The cheesy, 60's-style music is there, as is some formulaic writing in between radio clips, but that just makes it all the better, to me.

What I like about "TYOTT" is that it recalls a much simpler time in life. When Tiger Stadium was all green, and bleacher seats probably cost 50 cents, and a box seat set you back maybe $4.00. I'm sure a scorecard and program went for about 50-75 cents -- maybe even cheaper.

But when Harwell says in his melodic voice, "And the Tigers take the series, under sunny skies and behind the pitching of Denny McLain....for the White Sox -- no runs, no hits, no errors, nobody left on base...final score: Tigers 3, Chicago 1," you can't help but sigh wistfully. You can practically see the denizens leaving the old ballpark on that Sunday afternoon, happy after another Tigers victory.

The dramatic comebacks of '68 -- and there were plenty -- give you chills as well as Harwell and Lane describe them as they occur. There's also Harwell's call of Dick McAuliffe going after Tommy John:

"Oooh -- that one just about hit him...I think Mac's a little perturbed...he says something to John, and now he goes after him! Pete Ward steps in there...Gates Brown is out there...the umpires try to separate the combatants here...Tommy John, I think, has hurt his arm."

Oh, yes, he did. And McAuliffe was suspended five days. His fine? $250. No joke.

The funny thing about "TYOTT" is the omission of World Series action. 1968 was the last year of no divisions, so when you wrapped up the pennant, that was it until the Series. The highlights of the Tigers' pennant-clincher is there, from September 17, but that's basically where the album ends. Makes me think they rushed it into stores somewhere between 9/17 and the World Series in early October. I wonder why. Maybe the Tigers' PR department was afraid the team was going to lose.

Regardless, head over to eBay and search for this artifact. I'm sure someone who's foolish enough not to know what he or she has will put it up for bid sooner or later.


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