This is something that not only we earned, but we deserved. What we’ve done this year, the position we got ourselves into, we needed to do this because how it ended in the regular season to where we’re at right now, this is what needed to happen. We needed the storybook to keep on rolling.
I’m so proud of Bondo. I told him before he even finished the game. I told him, "No matter what happens, brother, I love you to death and I’m as proud as can be." For him to go out there with the heart that he had and to follow up what Kenny’s done, it was incredible.
Really, the whole staff, the key to this series was that every pitcher that got on that mound attacked, and they left it on the field. If they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us with our best stuff. We attacked, went after them, and here we are.
The big thing people now understand is it’s the game of baseball. We played a Major League club last weekend. We played a Major League club this weekend. People said we were supposed to clinch it last weekend. We didn’t get it in. People gave us no chance this weekend, and we got it done. It’s the game.
This celebration’s a little bit sweeter. That was the one that got us here. This is the one that we’ve actually achieved something when we did get here.
It’s a good feeling today. It would certainly be a lot better feeling taking those suitcases back off the truck. Last week we had to do this same kind of deal — pack if necessary. It would just be nice to be able to do it here at home, you know? I don’t want to call it redemption, because what we’ve done to this point is what people didn’t expect of us. But it might be the very thing that we need to take this thing to the very end. That’s the biggest thing. Keep on keeping on and keep the believing going. It’s just been such a roller-coaster in one week. Our last six days this season have been crazy.
Did losing last weekend end up a blessing for us? It could be. Expectations here haven’t been so high for a long time. If you can get down to the end of the season having a chance to win the division, even if we would’ve won that, I don’t know what kind of expectations we would’ve had. Once we slipped out of that, we went to the Yankees series and expectations were that we should’ve been done by now. It’s like another opportunity to prove people wrong. The playoffs were an expectation nobody had. Certainly beating the Yankees is an expectation nobody has.
I prepare the same win or lose today. I prepare as if there will be a Game 5, and I hope that there isn’t.
Kenny was outstanding tonight. I told some of the guys, sitting there with Bonderman and Verlander, I looked over and said we could be looking at one of the best pitching performances in Detroit playoff history right here. I’m sure it matches up with a lot of the great performances they’ve had in the past, especially against that team, that lineup. There ain’t many teams in the history of the game, there ain’t many times when they’ve gone through a lineup like that in a playoff game.
That lineup is loaded, top to bottom. And what Kenny was able to do to get them to start swinging at balls out of the zone, he was attacking and getting ahead. But with what he has, he had to be able to still make a pitch and not make it to where it’s something that they can handle. I mean, on TV, when they put up the strike zone graphic, his pitches were on the line to just outside of it every time with two strikes. It was unbelievable, commanding pitches like that throughout 7 2/3 innings. To be able to do that in a game like that, well, it’s inspiring. That’s what this is all about.
It’s hard to believe it’s his first postseason win with over 200 wins in the big leagues and the credentials that he’s had. I mean, I’d take his career and quit with those numbers. Something keeps him going. I’ll tell you what, if he keeps on doing that, he’ll find himself getting another two- or three-year extension here in Detroit. He won’t have a problem finding another two or three years if he wants it.
The funny thing is here he is, 41 years old, and he ain’t showing signs of slowing down. And the style of pitcher that he is, it’s almost like he could just do it for five, six, seven years. It’s strenuous to go out and pitch and all that, but the only taxing he does is when he beats himself up for PFPs and things like that. He can make a game look that easy, and it’s not. You watch my game the other night, I’m fighting through my whole thing and I’m battling all the way through, and there’s seven runs on the board. He went scoreless for 7 2/3. It’s an amazing performance, and hopefully it’s something that we build from, take into tomorrow and see what happens. This could just be something special.
In the sports world, I don’t care who’s out there, who would think that we could be doing this? Especially what we talked about coming into this series, there were a lot of questions about how we’d respond and this and that. From Game 1, every player that has performed on this team, on that field, has left it out there. Every one of us has left it out there. We lost a game, but we were in it, then we come back and win two really good ballgames.
We’ve always talked about starting pitching keeping them in there. We did that just enough yesterday, and today he was commanding from the get-go. They hit a couple balls hard, but that’s the thing about performances like tonight. If you can get a couple balls that are squared up hit right at somebody where there’s a play made, it’s a momentum-changer. Maybe a guy hits a little knubber and it goes into a hit, or maybe a guy finds a hole, and then it starts something. You don’t anything starting with this lineup over there. Once they get it going, they get rolling. Every time they seemed like they tried to get something rolling, he shut the door. He turned into a strikeout pitcher. I mean, he punched out eight guys. That’s big time. That’s a special pitcher there. I told him after the game, honest to God, I used to watch Tom Glavine growing up and I’m sad that Kenny was never a part of the Braves to get on TBS so I could watch him. Because I admire the way he goes out there and how much of a professional he is and how much he has invited each and every one of us into his life. He’s very open and a heckuva teammate, kind of a big brother.
As for Gum Time, I was throwing packs up to the fans in the stands. A couple of them were calling the innings for the rallies, so I had to give them some props for that.
It was really fun, a really fun night. We’ve all enjoyed it. Man, that was awesome. That is the atmosphere you dream about playing in front of and being a part of. It was different. This fan base tonight was different from this season. There was a different emotion. There was a different feel. There was a buzz that wasn’t present in the past. Not saying that there wasn’t a buzz, but it was certainly a different type of feel. Even the faithful out there, I think we made even more faithful. Some of the most faithful Tiger fans out there, I think we’ve expanded that area tonight. I think last weekend is way out of their minds. We’re in a position to do something really special, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s not going to be easy.
Jamie Walker got a big double play there, got us out of that inning. It was time. If it came down to the battle of the bullpens, we’ll take our chances. We had Walker in there already, and you have Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones out there. In a tie ballgame like that, get it done and see what happens. Threw it in before the inning started, told Bondo, "Get ‘er done." He said, "You call it, you stick with it." Once we got some guys on, it certainly was put in, and it was a good situation. Marcus led off with the hit. Get him over, get him in. That’s all we needed. We haven’t had any exciting comeback stories here for a while, but what better place to do it than the playoffs against the Yankees here? Guys just came out when we could’ve just died.
The bottom line of the heroics and the rally is certainly attributed to the confidence of our players coming up with big hits in big situations — very difficult, backs-against-the-wall situations. It was big to get the split here, going back home now finally with some momentum. You know, we haven’t had momentum in a while, and now we have it. Very big, and that’s what this game’s about. Hopefully we can jump out, and you never know in playoff games. They’re going to be tight. They’re going to be tough. Every little play and pitch matters, as we’ve already seen. Hopefully we won’t have to go to Gum Time, but you know what, it works when the game’s tied, too. We need a rally. We needed something going and got it going and scored. That was huge. You have to have a couple breaks. Just like today, some balls were hit right at our guys, some balls that might’ve been hit decent. The thing is, you have to have those things happen, just like the other day when I pitched and there weren’t a whole lot of breaks. Everything that they hit seemed to scrape over a wall, go when a guy’s covering second base and gets by shortstop, seeing-eye ground balls, the one that I don’t field, all the little things that could’ve gone another direction.
Last night could’ve been very detrimental. Even if you’re down 2-0, this team’s not going to die, but I will say this much: Having to stick around and go through what we had to go through, changing hotels, getting the luggage up and back down, just turning around the next meeting, a lot of guys didn’t get a ton of sleep. To come out and win a ballgame like that is huge. It could be a moment, you know?
I hope we get a big reception in Detroit. I hope people try to understand. We got swept at home by the Royals, and then to come here and split, you can’t explain it. That’s baseball. Just understand that there are some things about baseball you can’t explain. If they can deal with that, I’m sure we’ll have a very good reception. The biggest thing for our fans following back home is that this gives them a little spark, something to feed off of. I’m sure the atmosphere will be very electric. It’ll be good that we get home at a decent hour today. We’ll be ready.
The reason I still held my head high last night is I don’t know if my line justifies the way I pitched. I know that if a couple things changed, a whole lot of things could’ve changed. That’s what’s so intense about the playoffs. In a situation like the third inning, if I make a play, if I make a pitch, it just changes everything. It’s one little thing, and I think that’s the reason I didn’t feel crushed. I didn’t feel like there’s no way I can beat these guys. I feel like I have a chance, a great chance to go in there and do well against this team. Just a few little things could’ve gone a different way, and it’s a whole different ballgame.
When you have those kind of nights against the same club more than once, you’ve got to just keep on keeping on until you can chalk up one of those in the win column. You have to believe skip didn’t just give me the ball in Game 1 because he flipped a coin. They believe I can go out there and win. I believe I can go out there and win, and that’s the attitude you have to carry. You can’t carry the attitude that you’ll go out there, pitch well and lose. You have to believe that it can get done.
That’s what was so strange about last night. The way I felt out there, I went into the game feeling really, really good about how this thing could unfold, regardless of the atmosphere. That’s all a good team needs is just one little spark, you know, and we’re very hopeful of that tonight. We’re very hopeful to bring back a split to Detroit.
We’ve got a series to play. There ain’t no white-flagging it if we don’t win tonight, but if we go back to Detroit with a split, we have a chance to close it at home. I feel very strongly about how we match up with our pitching staff as opposed to theirs. I really feel very confident in that, not taking anything away from them. I mean, it’s pretty hard against the lineup they have, but I think it does come down to pitching.
That’s why it was such a crushing blow last night, that ground ball in the sixth. The third was a big inning, and you want to eliminate the big inning, but once we got to the sixth and we’re only down by two, if you can get into their bullpen before it gets to Rivera, they’ve got great arms down there, but I’ll take my chances with our bullpen matching up against their bullpen. It was a heart-breaker, that ground ball. What can you say? A couple guys got on when I made pitches. I went and watched it again today. The three pitches that ended up with two runs on the board, I made them and put them where I wanted. The results were not so good.
Last night, before the game started, I saw the cameras flashing, the jets flying over, people going crazy. If you can just get beyond that and get to your first pitch, then there’s a focus. You can rid yourself of the atmosphere and focus on the hitters. And I was at that point last night. I really didn’t feel the crowd rattling me. Even when they started kind of rolling me a little bit, I still was attacking, getting first-pitch strikes, getting ahead in the count, just going right at ’em. If Verlander can do that, it would be wonderful to see Verlander in his prime form. It would be awesome to see him be able to reach back and pop a triple digit if he had to and snap that curveball. If he can do that, there’s nobody that’s going to stand in there comfortable. I don’t care who you are. It would really be nice to see him have one of his special nights. He’s capable of having a very special night tonight. He’s had some rest and hopefully charged his battery a little bit. He’s got to control it and get it going at the same time.
We certainly showed some grit tonight. We played a pretty good game. We really did. There’s so many things that could’ve changed, little tiny moments, but this team will be all right. We played a tough ball game.
I think that the playoff atmosphere here, it is different. I know that after the announcement of the players and the F-18 jets flying over, there was an emotion there that I’ve obviously never felt before. It was exciting, man. I got a little weak in the knees. I was out there in the bullpen watching. And when all the pregame stuff was all said and done, I felt great about going out there. The guys were excited, too. It was certainly not just like a three- or four-game series that you would have in the regular season. It was special, and I’m glad we had a chance to see it.
The big thing was I’m just proud of the way the team went about their business today and played a good ballgame in this situation. We had a tough weekend. We could’ve just had a meltdown here, and we didn’t. There was no mental breakdown. There was just a bunch of guys playing hard-nosed baseball today. We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. They beat us, bottom line. They beat us.
But the atmosphere here in Yankee Stadium is probably second to none for playoff atmosphere, just the mystique of it all and the history. It sure would be nice to get Game No. 2 tomorrow and go home with a split. That would be really big coming home with a split.
I felt really good about the game after we scored three, and then me going out there and getting a little shutdown inning after we scored. I just felt like we were going to flip it around. That sixth inning, that wasn’t supposed to happen, in my mind. It just happened. It’s tough. You go out there your whole career, you go prepare yourself to make pitches and you know what you’re trying to do with guys and you make pitches and they still get you, it’s tough.
Fortunately, we turn around tomorrow and come right back here. The big thing is, the experience of the first game of the playoffs, for everybody that hadn’t been there before, it’s all said and done. We got our feet wet, so we can kind of shove all that aside, come back tomorrow. Now we’re experienced. Hopefully I’ll get another chance in Game 5. Actually, it would be better if I didn’t get another chance and we get the next three.
The last time, we touched on keeping things loose, especially down the stretch. Obviously this stretch we’re right in the thick of it, if not on the back end of it, and I think there’s a little less tension for the Tiger fans as far as thinking about October baseball because obviously today with a win for us we can put ourselves in a lock getting there.
The focus isn’t necessarily just on that. Obviously you want to get to the playoffs, but still, in this clubhouse there’s a division to win. Especially for the core group of guys that was here over the last several years and never had the chance to taste any of that, to come from where we were in 2003 to having a chance to win a division title three years later, it’s certainly can to some seem unbelievable. But that’s why baseball’s such a wonderful game. I don’t think there’s any other sport out there where you can turn the corner so quickly. Over the last couple years we’ve known we’ve been close. We’ve known we’ve been capable of turning the corner, but it was just like there’s been something missing. And I think that everything, whether it’s big or small, what’s been missing now we feel is coming together and it’s turned into a special season. Regardless of how it finishes, it’s been a special season.
I think that’s where the focus needs to be. Guys have worked really, really hard and they’ve stayed focused all season long. Even when the pressure’s been right on us, especially here in the last six weeks, guys have responded very, very well. They’ve just been mature big-leaguers, for lack of a better term. A lot of guys have shown they’ve graduated to being guys that are everyday, legitimate big-league players responding to everyday big-league situations. That’s been one of the funnest things to see. You bring guys in, you assemble a team and you don’t know exactly what you’ve got just yet, and people see something in you. And not everybody sees it in you, but now that you’re here in this stretch they’re like, "Oh well, that’s why we’ve got him here." That’s what’s kind of fun to watch this season, to see how it unfolds.
When a guy matures, typically it’s mentally. His ability’s there. His ability’s what got him there, and everybody in the big leagues has ability. But where you mature is mentally. It’s how you respond to adversity. It’s how you respond to success. It’s how you compose yourself both ways. That’s where guys have really stepped up. It’s not where you go out and win two games in a row and acting like it’s something to celebrate over. It’s not getting too high when you do what you’re supposed to do on a winning team. But it’s also not getting too low when you have a little funk. You’re going to have those funks throughout a major league season like we have. And we’ve responded both ways. I think for a while, living high on the hog like we were, it was like, "Man, how are we going to respond if this thing slows down?" Skip even predicted that was going to happen. It’s just baseball. And we’ve been a team of resolve. We’ve really grinded out when things have gotten a little hairy. And it’s good
to have that test. People might look at it as, "Man, we just wanted this 10-game lead going all the way through." But you know what? A team needs to be tested to see how they respond. That’s when you find out what kind of team that you have is when they’re tested in situations like we’ve been tested in, when teams have been putting the pressure on us. And we need to know what that feels like, because when we go to the playoffs now, we need to have that ability to respond to adversity. We don’t need something to take our legs out from under us and then be like, "Uh-oh, what do we do now?" Now we know what it’s like to go into a little bit of a funk, and we know what it’s like as a good team to go into a funk. That’s more important.
But the fan support has been outstanding, even here to the end. Somebody made a comment to me the other day. My comment was, "We’re going to find out what kind of team we are here in the last couple weeks." And his response was, "We already know what kind of team you are. You guys are already a special team, so it doesn’t really matter how you finish." That’s pretty nice to hear. As a matter of fact, it was at a fundraiser, and it was George Blaha, the Pistons and Michigan State broadcaster, who said that, because I had to get up and make a couple comments. People in all sports and all arenas are keeping up and following along and recognizing what this team has done. And, yeah, we’ve done something pretty special to turn things around like we did. It doesn’t happen very often. It doesn’t happen where a team that was in our situation coming off our ’05 season comes in and flips 22 wins already and still has a chance to go and add to that, going from fourth to first. Regardless if we hold onto it or not, it’s been really good.
Other than that, I think guys are starting to feel around here in the clubhouse a little bit of pride, not in the kind of pride that’s dangerous pride, but a pride that, "Hey, you know what, things are starting to pay off a little bit for everything we put into this. And that’s something to be proud of." And that’s fun, because coming to this clubhouse every day as opposed to the last three years in September, you just can’t even imagine the difference in guys’ personalities and their mentalities. It’s completely different, and it’s a joy to be here. It’s like you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think is like, "Man, when do I go to the clubhouse? When do I get out of here?"
With all that aside, I’ve mentioned this t-shirt that’s supposed to be coming out. It should be happening here shortly. It’s a matter of getting some things together, but it’ll be out of Fanatic U. I know there’s a couple people on the blog who have expressed some interest in getting it. It’ll be there. It’s not there yet. It’ll be there for the playoffs. That’s the plan. God forbid a collapse, we will be in the playoffs and hopefully we’ll have those t-shirts for people to have.
Not many rallies for Gum Time lately. We’ve talked about it before, that we’d rather not rally, but we’ve had our share of being behind in games lately. We did have a heck of a turnaround there at home against Baltimore, when Sean Casey hit the two-run home run and they ended up bringing in Ray, but we ended up losing the game. We did have the gum in. We did rally, we just didn’t finish it off. It’s going to be competitive baseball here throughout the rest of the way and there’s going to be some times when we need that rally, so people need to keep the chew going, keep it rolling, make sure they stock up for the playoffs.
Until next time. Hopefully our next entry, we’ll be division winners and certainly have a playoff spot cinched up and making a run.
Thanks to my friends at MLB.com for getting this posted at the start of today’s game. More later…
First of all, we had some troops at the park the other day, special troops that had come back from Iraq and suffered some injuries. Twenty, twenty-one year old guys who have their whole life to live. The reason I bring them up is looking on the ChewMap here, following along, seeing who’s plugging in from all over, a lot of the people who are following along are troops from everywhere. They’re stationed in Somalia, in Baghdad, in the Philippines. Obviously we’re having fun around here and a lot of people look to us and how we perform out there on the field, following along. I just want to let them know, too, that we follow what they do and we look to them as our heroes. Being the son of a father who was in the Army for 23 years and was activated for Desert Storm, I know a little bit of what they have to go through — not in the trenches and not on the battlefield, but knowing what kind of demands they have. When we think we have demands here, what we have to go through is nothing compared to what they have to go through. It’s really encouraging and it excites me to see when we have troops plugging in on our website from all over. That’s something that they hold on to, you know? It gives them something to follow amongst all the times that they go through. Their safety’s always in question and what they have to do day in and day out. The biggest thing going through this, and obviously with the anniversary of Sept. 11 coming up and what kind of sparked a lot of what’s going on around the world, our hats are off to them. We appreciate what they do following us and what we do.
Other than that, touching a little bit on what’s going on with us as a team, where we’re at, how fun this month’s going to be. It all starts with pitching, obviously, with Kenny starting us off with the game he had starting us off this month, it’s helped our staff kind of follow suit as a whole. These games are going to be a grind, man. They’re not going to be easy.
More importantly, keep on brushing your teeth, because I know a lot of people are using a lot of gum right now. Tuesday night, my teeth and my gums were killing me. I brushed my teeth for about 10 minutes that night, right around my gums, just because I had so much gum around my mouth. Unfortunately we came up short in that game, but we’ve had some pretty exciting finishes. The one in New York was probably one of the most memorable. I told the guys again, you’ve got to stick with what got you here and what we’ve been believing in. I was one of two guys chewing some gum. Me and Bondo, we threw it in and Craig went out there and got ‘er done on the big stage. It was pretty awesome. Craig’s been that kind of a clutch guy. He’s kind of the one that’s keeping the gum rolling. He’s had some big hits.
Short and sweet one this time. We have a big series in Minnesota. A lot can really hinge as far as postseason outlook on what happens this weekend. I know everybody’s been following along and bringing out their packs of gum.
Also, there’s going to be a T-shirt coming out pretty soon that should be pretty legit. Fanatic U will be the one initially selling it, but it’ll kind of circulate around in other stores. Hopefully we’ll get it to the ballpark. It should be happening pretty quick.
Also, I saw that there was like seven fans along the right-field line the other night, and each one of them had one big letter, and each letter spelled out G-U-M T-I-M-E. I noticed it. Huge sign. It came out when we were playing against the Angels last weekend. It’s fun to see how much people are really, really taking to this team and following along. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s good to have Kevin Hooper come on board. He was a college teammate. He’s a scrappy player and he does all the little things. We’ll get him acclimated to Gum Time, too.
(Posted courtesy of my MLB.com friends before the game.)
Thanks to everyone who has checked in on the push-pin map. The response has been unbelievable. They’re coming in from all over.
Obviously this past week or so we haven’t had a whole lot of stories to tell. It was funny. FSN did the Tigers Weekly piece on it, and did a really good job on it, too. And it seemed like as soon as it showed on Friday, we’ve had chances, and every time we put in, man, nothing happened. We were looking around thinking maybe we have to get a new supply or something.
There’s the reality of baseball, though, for fans reading in on this. You play 162 games, there’s magic throughout the year and obviously for the teams at the end making a run and contending for a championship, they have a little more magic than the next team. But it obviously was a rough week. One thing that hasn’t swayed is the chemistry of this team, although right now we’re probably falling on our toughest stretch of the year. We haven’t really been used to that. It’s funny, because people say we haven’t had one of these. Listen, there’s a group of guys here that had a lot of these three years ago. I was talking to Inge the other day about that. It’s like, this is nothing compared to falling on real hard times. So there’s still the attitude here, just so people know. I think it’s important, not only the fun of the game and the light-heartedness of the game with the Gum Time and all that, but on the serious side of things people following along, fans are probably uneasy about things. But just to let them know from what’s going on here with the guys, there is no true fall-off or panic or anything like that.
Guys are still having a good time. And the people that follow along need to still be having fun, too. That’s the one thing that you can fall into is that you stop having fun and you start worrying. Continue to have fun. Continue to enjoy this year. Continue to follow along and follow the stories and have fun with it. Because if you don’t enjoy it, it can turn into a miserable season real quick if you don’t think about what’s been good. So that’s what the focus has been in here is on not just going out there and trying to produce and everything like that, but just enjoy it, enjoy what we’re doing. Know what we still have to do but enjoy what we’ve been doing here.
That’s the biggest thing for this week. It’s been fun with the rally strikes again and we come back and it’s like everybody expects it. Well, you know, it’s baseball, and the month of August has been a torturous one. It’s tough.
The other thing about it is the parity in baseball. What people should really enjoy is the fact that baseball is not one-sided. There was a stretch for 10 years or so when the payroll-dominant teams just kind of wiped everybody out. That’s not the case now. It seems like it gets more competitive year to year as time goes on. That has a lot to do with the fresh talent coming in, guys that maybe weren’t expected to come in and have big years that are having big years. We have several of those guys on this team. That’s fun. That’s beautiful when you have however many teams are in it still. Probably half the teams in the big leagues are still hopefuls, still within striking distance. That’s what’s fun about it, and that’s what people should look at. Their team has a chance to do something. Not only what we’ve done, but just in baseball as a sport, as a game, to enjoy that. And like I said, unfortunately, this past week or so, we’ve come up dry, you know? It seems like every time we put it in, we’re looking around.
But certainly, just because we haven’t had a whole lot of stories to report on that, doesn’t mean we won’t have a lot more coming up. We go to New York for a big three-game series. People said our schedule in September lightens up. What? You’ve got Minnesota on that schedule. You’ve got Toronto on that schedule. You’ve got the White Sox on that schedule, the Angels on that schedule. These are all contending teams here all the way to the end. But the guys in here are certainly excited about the challenge of it all and we still, regardless of how it’s been doing, we still have our chew here, man.
We got four cases shipped to us in Cleveland, so we haven’t given up on that. That’s one thing we’ve agreed on is we’ve stuck with it all year. Those rallies helped us get to where we are today and we ain’t gonna give up on it now.
That’s the biggest thing about baseball — really any sport, but especially baseball, because of the longevity of the season — is sticking with what got you there — no pun intended on the sticking — and still believing in it. It would be easy to say things aren’t working right now, let me try something different. Well, what’s different isn’t what got you there. Adjustments? Yeah, but not some dramatic big change. So we’ve not giving up on that.
We’ve still got our gum supplies in there. Our clubhouse manager, Jim Schmakel, made sure we have plenty. I might try some different flavors, though, because I popped on that sour cherry and it ain’t working. That’s what I’ve had the last few times. That one and regular are about the only two I can handle when I throw a full pack in. We may try something different. There’s some cotton candy flavor in there. Maybe it’s the stuff that’ll work. I have a buddy who’s a scout. He told me they had it up in the press box. That’s so funny.
I’ll tell you what, the one thing is, though, is that there’s a city that has come together because of a baseball team that’s doing so well and people follow. For us, people that have been here since 2003, we get to see a change in attitude of the team and what we’re doing. I’m not saying the love and the faithfulness wasn’t there before, but the appreciation of what’s going on with this team and the following — people coming on road trips and just passionately wanting to be part of this whole thing — that’s awesome. We as a team really, really enjoy that. Really, the funny thing is the fans aren’t giving up on what got us there. I go out there over the weekend, I had a rough start in my last outing, are people are out there with their Gum Time t-shirts on and say they brought their rally chews. They say they don’t want to use it. They want us to jump out and stay out front, so we don’t have to rally or anything like that. And I said, "I hear ya, bro. Stick it away. I don’t want to use it, either."
Todd Jones made a good point the other day. He said, "We don’t ever want it to be Gum Time, do we?" I said, "You know what? You’re right." Because if it’s Gum Time, we’re either behind or it’s late in the game and it’s knotted up. But we’re still having fun with it.
One thing about the t-shirts: There’s people out there, they see an opportunity and I guess you can’t blame them too much in a free market out there. But we do have people that have trademarked the Gum Time phrase, and there’s a couple places that I have endorsed as far as doing the t-shirt deal with, Fanatic U and a company by the
name of EA Graphics, which gets the t-shirt out. And the only official t-shirts that are out, that I’m aware of, are the ones at Fanatic U that say, "It’s Gum Time" and then the blue ones that say "Detroit Gum Time" and has "Gum Time 29" on the back. I’ve seen other ones that say "Detroit Gum Time — Just Chew It." I had nothing to do with that one. So if people want to know what the official ones are, there it is. They can do whatever they want. Enjoy it. But aside from that, the official ones are the ones at Fanatic U and you’ll see the other ones dispersed throughout the city. There’s actually a new one coming out, and it’s top of the line. It really does kind of blow these out of the water, and it’s not out yet. It’s called "The Chew Crew" and it’s got a Big League Chew pouch, and this guy did a caricature of me on a pouch of it. And it’s a good one, too. People who followed along on the original Gum Time moment, they’ll like this one. The other ones were more of a general t-shirt that kept me out of it, something more universal. And that’s what it’s about, it’s about everybody. We’ll have a couple more t-shirts out. But like I said, there are official ones and there are unofficial ones.
Pitching in New York will be different. My first start there was in ’03, and that was just a moment type of thing. Obviously, we were pretty far out of it, but I pitched pretty good there. I haven’t pitched there since ’04 and it’ll be special. The thing is, teams like New York, especially in that atmosphere, those are the types of atmosphere that we’re going to play in. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. Looking forward to the challenge, and looking forward to bouncing back from a tough outing.
Just to let you know, we’ve had two international entries to the blog — one from Switzerland. They said Gum Time’s made it all the way to Switzerland, and the guy said he’s ordered his Big League Chew to be shipped overseas. And there’s another guy from Glasgow, Scotland, who wrote in. And there’s a lot of Canadians who wrote in. So we’re international now. I love it, man. The Internet’s amazing. We’ve got people from all over the place. Now there’s a push-pin GuestMap (the "ChewMap") right at the top of this blog so you can add yourself there and post a message about where you’re throwing in chew.
Here’s another funny little story: A server at Hockeytown Café says Hockeytown now sells Big League Chew. A girl named Erica wrote in and told the story that the night Pudge hit the walkoff homer in the ninth inning, they started passing it out at Hockeytown. She said they sell it and they all threw it in, and when Pudge hit the home run they all went nuts. I guess they must have been chewing it at the bar. You can chalk one up for Hockeytown. That’s hilarious.
Also, this guy writes in and said his wife was taking the Michigan bar exam. He said she called up and she’s got a lot on her mind trying to pass it, and so he threw in a pack of Big League Chew either right when she was taking the test or right before she was taking the test. He said they won’t know in November if she gets in, but we’re not just using it now for baseball and racing. We’re beyond that now.
Other than that, talking about the team, it’s been really big the past week or two, obviously going into a tough series against Minnesota, losing a couple real tough games at home, especially that one late. We went into Chicago, another huge series, team right behind us, just the psychology of the game and how this team’s been dealing with things. A lot of people on the outside looking in kind of see the point where maybe we panic, a point of uncertainty.
For us to respond like we did in Boston — in a hostile environment, where we haven’t played well in the past, where it’s very tough to win — the wonderful thing about this team is the resiliency because of what people think is going to happen. I mean, it was in everybody’s head. I don’t care who you are, how much of a fan you are or how much you believe in us as a team, you thought about it: We’re not in a good situation. That’s going to be the general thought. For us to win here Monday and to come back and win a grinder Tuesday, the way all the guys have chipped in and performed in some way or another, defensively, or a key hit, or obviously pitching. Just coming in, making plays and making throws and just believing we can do it and getting it done, it’s huge. That right there says a lot about where we are as a team and how we continue to be able to win, especially when you’ve got Schilling on the mound having a great year and he’s got a one-run lead late in the game. People are still waiting to see what Sean Casey is going to do for us, but we know what he can do, and he comes up again big. This series has been huge.
By the way, the inning when we scored two runs Tuesday, the top of the seventh, Kenny said, "Let’s throw it in." Again, the only time we put it in was the top of the seventh. Sean Casey comes up, and I said, "We’re going to hit a gap shot right here." We all got it in. Gap shot. Right before he hit it, I called the shot and where it was going to go. Verlander and Miner were standing right there. Sure enough, right in the gap, we take the lead and it’s almost like guys are looking over in your dugout and thinking you’re getting some kind of psychological advantage on when they see all these idiots with gum in their mouth. Well, the Red Sox have had their share of characters, too, but it’s unbelievable. Gum aside, it’s like you believe it’s going to happen. Now, when it’s going to happen, you don’t really know, but it always seems to happen once you start throwing this gum in. It’s great. And again, winning game one and obviously getting off the streak was probably to that point the biggest game of that road trip.
Then being able to go into game two, and a tough game for us because it means taking a series, in this environment, for the team to do it, it just adds to that level of confidence what this team can do, what we’re
capable of doing. It’s great, man. It’s doing a lot for us for down the road. What we’re doing now is like an investment of what’s to come. Each game it seems like a moment’s going to happen. Even if it doesn’t happen, it seems like it’s going to happen. And we’ve got not only the team, but the fans write in. Each story revolves around a pack of gum and throwing a big wad in and all that, but it’s just a fact that they believe it’s going to happen. That’s what makes it special. We didn’t have a pack in for the ninth inning Tuesday, but I’m pretty sure it was in somewhere. I think I got an entry just the other day saying somebody in the left field seats at Fenway said they’re going to have their chew in. People have their gum in, maybe at Hockeytown, maybe in Glasgow. Somebody’s going to claim that run. We have fun with it, but we do it one time. Kenny was wearing his bib again, because he has to wipe off all his drool, all his spit, because he can’t take all that gum.
People are following along, and they’re really having fun with it. I get new entries all the time, people who just found out we have the blog and people who continue to follow along. Don’t forget to push your pin in the GuestMap and show where you’re throwing it in.