The 2003 Detroit Tigers, the team that quite possibly turned around the fortunes of the franchise, entered the dog days of mid-May. Usually the dog days term is used for August, but when you’re a team as bad as the Tigers were that year, every day of the season is for the dogs.
May 19 to 25 (Weekly record 3-4)(Season record 12-36)
After another poor showing at home, finishing a 1-5 homestand, the Tigers were likely happy to hit the road. Heading into the week, the team had an even split of home and road games at 22 a piece. At Comerica Park they were 3-19 and on the road they were 6-16.
This road trip took them to Cleveland to face the Indians for the first time in 2003 and onto Chicago. The happiness of being on the road evaporated quickly when they dropped the first three games to the Tribe, before rallying for an 11th inning win to avoid a humiliating four-game sweep on May 22. The triumphant team rolled into Chicago and grabbed the first two games to clinch a series victory for just the second time in 2003. They couldn’t get the sweep, however, losing the finale on a 12th inning three-run walk-off homer by Joe Crede.
For the first time all season, the Tigers played a game every day, no breaks for the fans this week. However, their 3-4 mark wasn’t too shabby considering the type of season they were having. Of course it could have been 4-3…
(Painful) Game of the Week: May 25-Tigers at White Sox
The Chicago White Sox were just a couple seasons away from winning their first World Series since 1917. 2003 would be a good season for the ChiSox, finishing a strong second to the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central that year, however when they met the Tigers in May they were not very good. Coming into the finale, following two straight loses at the hands of the woeful Tigers, they had a record of 22-26.
Things didn’t look good for them in this game either, as the Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead before they scored four in the fifth off a Carlos Lee grand slam. They added a run the next inning, but Detroit battled back by scoring two runs in the eighth with an Eric Munson sacrifice fly and Andres Torres RBI single.
The comeback ultimately came up short as the Little League fences of U.S. Cellular Field yielded the Crede winner off Steve Sparks.
Final: White Sox 8, Tigers 5 (12 inn.)
(Lousy) Player of the Week–Steve Sparks
Believe it or not, Sparky (not that one), recently made some news within the Tigers’ organization. Serving as a color analyst for Houston Astros’ radio broadcasts, Sparks was in town last week. He was named Tiger of the Year in 2001 and was just presented with a trophy because there had not been any bling back then.
Anyone who has been a part of the 2003 Detroit Tigers and the current crop of Houston Astros deserves our sympathy.
The knuckler was a 5th round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987. He made his major league debut on April 28, 1995. He spent two seasons with the Brewers, and two seasons with the Angels before arriving in Detroit for the 2000 season. The year he was honored for, 2001, he posted a 14-9 record with a 3.65 ERA. It would be the only time Sparks would notch double-digit victories in one season, he posted the lowest ERA of his career, and had a Major League-leading eight complete games. Things went south quickly in 2002, as Sparks fell to 8-16 with a 5.52 ERA.
When 2003 rolled around, Sparks was being used in the bullpen and finished his time as a Tiger with an 0-6 record and 4.72 ERA. He was released in August and picked up by the Oakland A’s. Sparks pitched in the playoffs that season, something considered unfathomable while being marooned on the Tigers’ squad for much of the season.
His final year in the majors saw him finish 3-7 with a 6.04 ERA as a member of the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks.