Editor’s Note: Through the years, sports editor David Troppens has collected historical radio and television broadcasts of Detroit Tigers games. During the summer, he’ll be featuring some of these games through his collection based on the a date close the actual date of our current publication.
July 15, 2006
Detroit 6, Kansas City 0
Network/Announcers: Today’s game is a Fox Sports Detroit broadcast by Mario Impemba and Rod Allen.
Background: The 2006 Tigers brought the excitement of a pennant race back to Detroit for the first time since probably 1988 and for the first time in the Tigers’ new stadium, Comerica Park. By July 15, 2006, the Tigers had gone beyond a nice little “great start” story and were now looked upon as legitimate American League pennant contenders. That’s what happens when a squad has the best record in baseball, with a 61-29 record in mid-July.
Detroit entered this game winners of
five of their last seven games, looking for their 11th straight victory against the Kansas City Royals. The last time the Tigers had won 10 straight against a team was in 1946 against the Philadelphia Athletics.
What happened: Detroit rookie starting pitcher Justin Verlander was in the middle of his outstanding first season, and this game was one of those strong showings. He tossed seven innings of two-hit, two-walk ball, helping the staff toss the shutout. Jamie Walker pitched the final two innings, allowing just one hit.
Offensively, the Tigers slowly grew to a pretty sizable lead in front of the highly entertained 40,210 at Comerica Park.
The Tigers scored a single run in the second inning on an RBI-double by Brandon Inge (his 50th RBI of the season), and added another run in the third on a Marcus Thames RBI-single. In the fourth, the Tigers added two more runs on Placido Polanco’s double. The Tigers led 4-0. The Tigers’ final two runs were plated in the sixth on a Polanco sacrifice fly and on an Ivan Rodriguez RBI-single.
Honoring the Negro Leagues: The Tigers played in Detroit Stars uniforms while the Royals wore Kansas City Monarchs outfits. There have been a couple of Negro League players inducted into the Hall of Fame with strong Detroit Stars ties. They are slugger and high-average hitter Turkey Stearnes and lefty starting pitcher Andy Cooper.
Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland’s brush with the Minor Leagues: During the game Impemba and Allen discussed a story Leyland had about his brush with the Negro Leagues. While growing up in Perrysburg, Ohio (a suburb of Toledo), Leyland was a bat boy in a game pitting a local team from his city against the Kansas City Monarchs.
Leyland the manager: A day earlier in a 10-9 victory against the Royals, Jim Leyland came to the mound with two out on a 3-2 count in the top of the ninth inning to supposedly talk to Tigers’ reliever Todd Jones in a 9-9 tie contest. That’s what Leyland wanted the Royals and batter Mark Teahen to think as the story was told by Impemba and Allen. The actual goal was to get Teahen thinking that Leyland was discussing trying to throw some off-speed stuff to him on the next pitch. It worked. Jones threw a 93-MPH fastball by Teahen on the next pitch and the Tigers were out of the inning. When Jones was asked after the game, he said Leyland just pretended to say something while he was on the mound to begin the mind games.
The Tigers won the contest in the bottom of the ninth when Carlos Guillen hit a home run with on one on and one out.
More on Verlander: To contend the Tigers knew they had to pitch their rookie star, but at the same time they wanted to save his arm from too many innings. The answer was missing his previous starting assignment to give him a break.
Pitching 10 days after the last time he was on the mound, it seemed to work. When he needed to, Verlander threw a 98 MPH fastball on a strike three call to end the first inning.
Verlander would finish the season with a 17-9 record and a 3.63 earned run average. He would end up being named the American League Rookie of the Year. He’d end up spending parts of 13 seasons with the Tigers, posting a 183-114 record with a 3.49 earned run average. He’s basically a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires.