We re only a couple of weeks from Opening Day, so it s time to start previewing the season. Inspired by an old feature on The Black Table, we re going team-by-team and distributing Four Things You Don t Know about them. If you have suggested oddities on your team, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Today: The Detroit Tigers.
• 1. The Curse of Bubba Helms. After the Tigers won the 1984 World Series, a man named Bubba Helms famously posed in front of a burning police car with a Tigers' World Champions pennant, forever linking in people's minds the image of rioting hooligans and the city of Detroit. The Tigers have only sniffed the World Series once since then, losing to the Twins in '87 in the ALCS, and have lately spiraled into mediocrity. Helms later committed suicide, overdosing on pain pills.
• 2. The Milagro Beanball War. Reliever Franklyn German solidified his spot in the bullpen when, on July 8, 2005, he replaced starter Nate Robertson in a game at Tampa Bay after only one pitch. Robertson was ejected in the bottom of the first inning for throwing behind Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, apparently in retaliation for the Devil Rays' Scott Kazmir hitting Placido Polanco with his first pitch in the top of the first. German went on to toss a career-high three scoreless innings in the game.
• 3. They Know When to Hold 'Em. Kenny Rogers' recent attack on a cameraman is only the latest physical antic by the pitcher. In 1994, the same year that the then-Texas Ranger threw a perfect game, appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and sang on stage with singer Kenny Rogers at a concert in Arlington, he also accosted Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Simon Gonzales, shoving him out of the team's locker room when Gonzales was attempting to interview Kevin Brown.
• 4. Tigers Fans Get Half-Off On Slushies. Less than 20 years after he fashioned baseball's last 30-win season, pitcher Denny McLain was signing autographs at a metro Detroit 7-Eleven store at the corner of Mound Road and Metro Parkway in Sterling Heights, Mich., where he was employed on work-release. His post-baseball career included repeated imprisonment for drug trafficking, embezzlement and racketeering.
(Tomorrow: The Los Angeles Dodgers)