Game 4 revelry 22 years in the making
Fans jubilant over first World Series appearance since '84
DETROIT -- For nine innings, those white Tiger towels waved with frenzied excitement from all corners of Comerica Park. And then, with one walk-off swing from Magglio Ordonez came the most joyous-filled baseball celebration Detroit has seen for 22 years.
Fittingly, this delirium-filled scene took place on the 22-year anniversary of the day the Tigers downed the Padres at old Tiger Stadium for their last World Series championship.
Now, the new yard has some memories that will last forever. Detroiters of all ages roared, shrieked, jumped, danced, hugged and high-fived for minutes on end after Ordonez's blast landed over the wall and put the Tigers in the World Series for the first time since 1984.
"I saw them [clinch the pennant] on Sept. 17, 1968, and this is just as good being here with my boys," said Howard Iwrey of West Bloomfield, Mich. "You've got to stick with them. This is a good baseball town. We've supported them the whole way. This is a fitting ending. Almost a fitting ending. We're almost there."
Iwrey's 10-year-old son Jack couldn't seem to erase the look of amazement from his face.
"This is the greatest day of my life," said Jack. "This will always stay with me. Not only did we win it, we won it on the last out with a walk-off home run. This is the first time in my whole entire life we've had a winning season."
The joy was mixed equally between the new generation of Tigers fans who had only known losing until this year, and the old-timers who patiently waited for another winning team.
"I spent $175 to be here tonight, it's well worth it," said Andy Willis, 23, of Flushing, Mich. "The fans are awesome, they've always been here. To see Detroit like this, it brings everyone together. I've never seen Detroit all together like this, I love it."
As ecstatic as the Tigers were with their achievement, they made sure to share it with the fans.
Shortly after the winning shot by Ordonez, a sea of Tigers players, decked out in navy blue hooded sweatshirts, raced down the first-base line and waved to the crowd, gesturing to them. The fans nodded in approval and roared back.
Owner Mike Ilitch, general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland also expressed gratitude to the fans during their live postgame interviews, which were shown on the scoreboard amid the roar of the crowd.
"Unbelievable, just unbelievable," said Russ Rickard, 52, of Deerfield, Mich. "I'm here with my 30-year-old son, he barely remembers '84. It was amazing and a great thrill to just be here."
The Tigers don't know yet if they'll play the Mets or Cardinals in the World Series, but they do know that it will all start at Comerica Park in exactly one week.
"They're gonna win the World Series," said 48-year-old Rick Jackson of Plymouth, Mich. "I've been a fan since '68 when I was 10 years old. I saw them in '84, but it ain't the same because I'm more mature. I love it. I'm older, wiser and more intelligent."
Decked out in a Tigers jacket, Jackson was asked if he stuck with the team, even through the endless losing that preceded this magical season.
"I bought this jacket three years ago," said Jackson. "Come on, what do you think?"
This was a day that a baseball town celebrated its long-awaited re-emergence.
Every fan seemed to have a different story.
"It's really crazy for me. My dad died a couple of months ago," said Matthew Kosmal, a Detroit native who now lives in Chicago. "He was a huge Tigers fan. Today was actually his birthday. For me to be here is a big deal. It's very emotional. I just flew in for the game. I really wanted to be here to be a part of it."
Though Kosmal couldn't share the moment with his late father Nestor, it brought back old and cherished memories.
"I remember watching the '84 World Series with my dad. They won the World Series on my dad's birthday, it was October 14 in '84," said Kosmal. "I knew this would mean a lot to him. It means a lot to me, too. I think he's got a little hand in this. We suffered for about 20 years. I've got to think with the way this season was so magical ... it's a little disheartening that he missed it but I know he's enjoying it right now."
There seemed to be no cap on the enjoyment level, as the stands were still packed for nearly a half-hour after the game.
Teri Lewis, a 32-year-old fan from Birch Run, Mich., excitedly exited the park wearing her authentic Tigers game jersey.
"Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable," said Lewis. "Actually, not unbelievable. I kind of knew they could pull it out."
Somewhere between believable and unbelievable was the best baseball day the city of Detroit had in 22 years -- exactly 22 years.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.