Comerica Park was a lonely, hostile place for the Tigers in 2003. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The 2003 Detroit Tigers, the team that quite possibly turned around the fortunes of the franchise, trudged into another week without much hope. It was hard to believe that nearly five full months of baseball still needed to be played.
Fear not, though, good days were ahead (seriously).
May 5 to May 11 (Weekly record 4-2), (Season record 8-27)
For the one or two of you that have read all of these 2003 recaps (thank you and your checks are in the mail), you know that each has been full of doom and gloom, sadness and despair. But for one week (literally one week), the Tigers put together a stretch where it looked like they actually belonged in the majors.
The first thing they had to do, however, is get out of Detroit. The crowds that were at Comerica Park throughout the first five weeks of the season were sparse, but vocal about their displeasure with the Tigers’ brand of baseball. So much so that the players began to take notice.
“What made the day worse was nobody was in the stands,” Dmitri Young said after a May 1 doubleheader. “Nobody is behind us. These people don’t care about us. I’d rather be on the road.”
So on the road they shall go. After winning the lone game of the homestand on Sunday, the team headed into Baltimore for the first of three on May 5. There a funny thing happened–THEY WON! Detroit put two consecutive victories together for the first time. The next day, they won! And then, in the series finale, they WON AGAIN!
The 2003 Tigers finally had a modicum of success. They won four in a row (which would become the longest streak of the season) and swept a team for the first time (something that would happen just once more). Though they dropped the first two games to the Devil Rays in St. Petersburg, they won the finale and posted a winning record in a week for the first time, something that would not be repeated.
Painful Game of The Week: May 9-Tigers at Devil Rays
You’d think after all the pain we’ve inflicted with this weekly piece that we’d highlight one of the four wins, but, as we mentioned last week–2003 was no fairy tale.
This game is highlighted because the Tigers cruised into Tropicana Field with a lot of momentum. If they kept up their winning ways, they could get closer to eclipsing the Devil Rays and possibly escape the distinction of being the worst team in baseball (Detroit entered the game at 6-26, Tampa Bay at 12-22). In their previous series, the Tigers outscored the Orioles 22 to 10. The run onslaught was uncharacteristic for a team that had been shutout so many times. So of course they got shut out for the eighth time.
They were two-hit by that storied Devil Rays’ quartet of Jim Parque, Travis Harper, John Rocker (yeah THAT guy) and Lance Carter. Shane Halter and Dean Palmer notched the only Tigers’ hits, both singles.
Winning streak snapped.
Final: Tampa Bay 2, Detroit 0
(Lousy) Player of the Week: Shane Halter
Shane Halter will be forever remembered in Detroit (okay most of you probably haven’t thought of him in years) for a neat little trick the Tigers played on Oct. 1, 2000. With nothing on the line in the last game of the season, Halter appeared in all nine defensive positions, including pitcher where he walked his only batter. Halter joined just four players to do that in major league history, including Texas Ranger Scott Sheldon who had just accomplished the same feat three weeks earlier.
That answer to a trivia question was the highlight of Halter’s professional career. He lettered in five sports in high school, was drafted in 1991 and made his major league debut with a strikeout on April 6, 1997 as a member of the Kansas City Royals. Primarily a bench player, he left KC to play one season with the Mets before spending the longest stretch of his career in Detroit (2000-2003).
He played in 114 games in 2003, hitting .217 with 12 homers and 20 RBIs. Detroit opted to let him walk before the 2004 season and he spent that year splitting time between the Angels and their AAA affiliate. He languished in the Cubs’ system for a handful of games in 2005 before giving up the dream for good.