“Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck!”
The crowd in Comerica Park seethed with disappointment — and plenty of one-fingered salutes of disgust flipped into the air — after New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone decided to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera on Thursday afternoon in his last at-bat, his last chance on this day to get his 3,000th career hit.
“I hate the Yankees!” screamed Mike Chezick, 59, of South Lyon.
Don’t tell him about baseball strategy — even though you can argue it was the right strategy, I wanted to see him hit.
Don’t tell him about getting the right matchup — this sucked for thousands of fans who wanted to see history.
“I can’t believe it!” Chezick said, dropping his head, shaking it back and forth.
The boos continued. The chants grew louder. And none of this made any sense to the eight guys I had spent the afternoon with.
None of them had ever met before the Tigers played on Thursday.
But after it?
They were united in their anger. They felt robbed. They felt like a piece of history — or at least their chance at seeing history — had been taken away from them. I don’t blame them.
Yes, it might be solid baseball strategy — Cabrera went 3-for-4 on Wednesday night, remember? But that hardly mattered in the moment to thousands of Tigers fans.
“It’s awful,” said Owen Domzalski, 17, of Grosse Pointe Park.
“That’s the Yankees for you,” Chezick said.
But I loved seeing the passion. Feeling the energy.
And hearing it.
‘You can feel the tension’
I spent the entire game, a 3-0 Tigers win, beyond the left-field fence, next to the Willie Horton statue, a few feet from the Miggy Milestones marker.
It was an amazing drama, even though the Cabrera at-bats didn’t play out how anyone wanted.
The excitement pulsed through Comerica Park when Cabrera came up in the first inning.
“This is like adult Christmas!” Chezick screamed.
Brad Krotzer, 42, held up his cellphone. “Come on Miggy, get it!’ he screamed.
Cabrera stepped into the box.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe this!” said Scott VanderPloeg, 37, of Detroit.
VanderPloeg left his cellphone in his car and he was happy for that.
Because he wanted to watch everything. Remember everything.
Everybody seemed to hang on every pitch and Comerica Park was ready to go bonkers with joy.
Another strike and everybody booed.
“You can feel the tension,” VanderPloeg said.
Then, Cabrera flew out to left.
Worth the risk
It’s so cool how seven or eight strangers can meet at a ballpark and forge an instant connection. And that’s what happened Thursday.
After a few hours, this group of guys had grown into friends.
They were high-fiving. Saving each others spots by the railing. And teasing each other.
“Between the six of us, we had 3,000 hits in Little League,” Krotzer quipped.
When Cabrera came up for his second at-bat, the crowd chanted: “Let’s go Miggy! Let’s go Miggy!”
Domzalski couldn’t stop smiling. He came to the game by himself. He’s a student at Grosse Pointe South and had a half-day.
“He’s gotta do it soon,” Domzalski said. “I have a lacrosse game.”
But Cabrera struck out. And when fans started to head up the aisle, presumably to go to the bathroom or to the concession stand, Chezick was disgusted.
“The Tigers are still at bat!” he screamed. “That’s wrong!”
Everybody seemed to have one thing on their mind: Miggy’s quest for 3,000.
But after two at-bats, some fans were already thinking about Friday.
“If I call off work again, I’m gonna get fired,” the person next to me said.
He works at a pizza place.
“I called in sick today,” he said. “Told them that I threw up four times.”
“You sure it’s OK if I use your name?” I asked.
“That’s a cool way to get fired,” he said laughing.
He promises to return Friday, skipping another day of work.
“You are gonna be here selling beer!” somebody quipped.
Watching and waiting
By the bottom of the fifth, the fans were trying to figure out how many more at-bats Cabrera would get.
“If he gets a double, I’ll freak out,” Krotzer said. “If he gets it, I’ll start crying.”
Domzalski kept checking his phone, worrying about missing his lacrosse game.
“If I leave and I hear on the radio he got it, I’m gonna be so mad,” Domzalski said.
Then, Cabrera struck out again.
Ever the optimists, the subject changed.
“If he doesn’t get it, at least they get a win,” Krotzer said.
And it sounded like the fans were channeling Tigers manager A.J. Hinch.
Just focus on this game.
Everything else will take care of itself.
‘Reason No. 175,000 to hate the Yankees’
Suddenly, it started to dawn on them: Wait a second. The Tigers had a 1-0 lead.
What if the Yankees tie it up? Maybe, Cabrera would bat in the ninth.
“No! No! No!” Chezick said.
“Just one run,” VanderPloeg reasoned.
“You are not a Tigers fan!” Chezick screamed. “You are not worthy of being in Horton’s shadow. Don’t even look at him!”
They laughed, but Domzalski looked even more nervous.
“If he doesn’t get a hit this inning, I gotta go!”
If he doesn’t get a hit, they all agreed to return Friday night vs. Colorado.
“Guys, we are about to put up a crooked number and he’s gonna bat one more time,” Krotzer said.
They kept doing the math, staring at the batting order. They kept trying to come up with different scenarios where he would bat one more time.
Almost willing it.
Every at-bat brought it closer. And every hit, every base runner.
Suddenly, they were high-fiving again.
Suddenly, it was going to happen.
And suddenly — holy crap — he came up with runners on second and third in the eighth. It felt magical. It felt like destiny. It felt like it was all worth it.
Domzalski being late for lacrosse, the one guy calling in sick.
Here comes history. This is magic.
And then, noooo!
Cabrera jogged toward first base and that milestone marker was still frozen in place.
“Yankees suck! Yankees suck!”
Everybody looked devastated. They felt robbed.
“Yankees suck! Yankees suck!!”
And it was awesome.
Even though Miggy understood it — “That’s part of the game,” he told reporters — even though the Tigers understood it, many fans didn’t care about that.
Because not all of them will return Friday.
Many will never get this chance to see rare baseball history again.
But the move backfired on the Yankees in such a beautiful way when Austin Meadows hit a bloop double to score two runs, and the Tigers added to their lead.
“Instant karma!” Chezick screamed. “This is reason No. 175,000 to hate the Yankees!”
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.