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Detroit Tigers Defy Expectations in Bid for World Series

October 23, 2006 at 6:50 PM EDT


ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour Correspondent: It was hardly baseball weather, temperatures hovering in the low 40s, freezing drizzle. But for Detroit Tiger fans streaming into the team’s stadium for Game Two of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, it didn’t matter. What mattered was, after 22 years, their team was back in the World Series.

VAUGHN CALLOWAY, Detroit Tigers Fan: I was here in ’84. And it meant a lot, because what it brought to the city. It brung the city closer together, you know, people having a lot of fun, which they’re all having a lot of fun now. And just being down here, watching Detroit just grow, and watch what it came from in ’84 compared to it now in ’06 has just been tremendous.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Fans were thrilled, both for their team and for their city, which has been down a rough road with an economy in tatters and one-third of its residents living below the poverty level. Just a few blocks away near the old Tiger Stadium, Detroit’s landscape remains blighted. But last night, fans wanted the world to know it’s not just the baseball team that’s changed in Detroit.

MARTELL DEFLORE, Detroit Tigers Fan: They always think, “Detroit, oh, they’re going to fight. They’re going to have riots.” No, no, nope Detroit. We’re full of love, and everything’s going to be great.

Miraculous comeback

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The Tigers' big win last night inspired new confidence in Detroit fans. Sportswriter Drew Sharp says he's never seen a season like the Tigers have had.

DREW SHARP, Detroit Free Press: It's a miracle. It really is. You know, I've been a sportswriter -- born and raised in the city, I've been a sportswriter with the "Free Press" my entire career, 24 years. Of all the stories I've had the privilege of covering, this is most amazing because no one saw this coming.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: So the team turned its fortunes around, coming off the worst record in American League history three years ago. Now the question is: Can the team turn Detroit's fortunes around?

Morning drive radio talk show host Paul W. Smith says the Tigers' success has already had a big impact on Detroit.

PAUL W. SMITH, News/Talk 760 WJR: This is a town that's had a lot of bad news, not a secret to people all over the country. So every time there's something good and positive on radio, on television, in the newspapers about the Tigers, it takes away space for all the bad news that's been there. So the Tigers have given us all a breath of fresh air and a feeling that, hey, maybe after all we're not a bunch of losers.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: St. Louis has had its struggles as a city, as well, but there the Cardinals have made two World Series appearances in three years. In Detroit, the new stadium has spurred development in the area, new restaurants, theatres and a boomlet in town homes and lofts. Penthouses went for $1.5 million even before the rehab of this building was finished, the highest price ever paid for an apartment in Detroit. The new development and the Tigers have brought people back to the city.

DEREK RAFFERTY, Detroit Tigers Fan: We come down as often as we can for games. We're going to be getting our season ticket plans for next year. And we try to come down to a lot of the new restaurants and try them out as often as we can, yes.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: So you've really seen a change in Detroit?

DEREK RAFFERTY: Big time, especially since, I think, the Super Bowl and the All-Star Game started it off. But a lot of the new places on Woodward and everything they've done here with Telly's, and it's been a big boom. And hopefully more than just the bars and night clubs. I hope that there's a lot of businesses that come down here, too. I think that will be a big boon for us, as well.

Affect on Detroit's economy

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Though the World Series could mean as much as $60 million to $70 million to Detroit, Dana Johnson, Comerica Bank's chief economist, says the overall impact on the area's economy will be minimal.

DANA JOHNSON, Chief Economist, Comerica Bank: It will give it a shot in the arm, and it will definitely help bring some more business to downtown Detroit, but it's not a permanent source of the kinds of jobs that you can build a lasting improvement in the economy on.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Many of those jobs once were in the auto industry, but that industry remains troubled. Ford today announced record losses. GM is still struggling through a restructuring process, which means still more jobs will be cut. And that has made the success of the Tigers even more important.

DREW SHARP: This team gave this city reason for hope. And sports doesn't usually do that, especially with all of the millionaires making all the money right now. You know, there's a disconnect between the athlete and the fan.

The fan can't relate to a guy who's making six million bucks a year. He can't relate to that. These guys get it, though. They understand that they are almost -- there's a public service, there's a civic duty that they have this year to make these people in southeastern Michigan forget about their problems.

And it's done a wonderful thing, because now people look at the Tigers and say, "You know what? If they can turn this around, then maybe, in my own personal life, my own personal world, maybe I can turn things around, too." When sports has that ability to really have an effect on real life, it's truly a magical thing.

ELIZABETH BRACKETT: So for now, the magic is there. Making it last beyond the World Series will be a lot harder.