If there was one thing missing from the St. Louis Cardinals' 2006 World Series win over the Detroit Tigers, it was the sense of animosity. For while these two teams have seldom met, their meetings have almost always been calamitous affairs.
The 1934 World
Series pitted the rough-and-tumble Gashouse Gang against a
The Cardinals and Tigers were not to meet again until 1968, in a ferociously fought World Series that came before crowds that were newly vibrant and enraged. The nation was still roiling in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. King, race riots, and burgeoning university protests against every conceivable norm of the previous generation. The formalized conflict of baseball helped audiences to a cathartic release: We recognize the enemy and they is them.
In the decades that followed, though, both cities committed a form of slow hara-kiri, emptying out their middles in a rush of suburban white flight. Middle class families fled their city limits by the blockfull, leaving downtowns to become ghost towns.
cities were harder hit by this phenomenon than the once bustling-townships of
Instead, both cities were well into a well-intentioned urban renewal by the time the twin Cinderellas – the wildcard Cardinals and the worst-to-first Tigers – met in 2006. Both teams were playing in new ballparks, and were acting as though smiling politely and painting stripes on one's face was the equivalent of displaying one's colors - as though civic pride were more important than rooting pride.
themselves played the part as well. Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland were more than
cordial to each other in a series that featured nary a brushback pitch nor
dugout warning. When scandal hit the series in the form of Kenny Rogers' tarry
palm smudge, La Russa played the gentleman before the
Of course, this turned out fine for the Cardinals in what ended as a 4-1 championship over the exhausted Tigers. But what started as a surprise year for the Tigers rolled into a momentum-changing event for the franchise. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch renewed his commitment to fielding a competitive team, a commitment that began when his GM convinced him to pay Scott Boras rates for the two premier free agents of 2005, Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez. The Tigers knew they were overpaying, but in the team's accounting ledger, the premium was billed under the line item "Cost of Winning Back the Fans."
In this past
However, doubters were whispering. Willis is not the same pitcher as he once was, a man whose wild, unrepeatable mechanics have gone over the edge. Cabrera has always been dogged, fairly or not, with the "lazy" tag. Whether these whispers reached the boardroom or not, the Tigers signed both players to premium long-term contracts that accurately reflected their media stature, if not their future performance.
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