Detroit Tigers: Thank You Curtis Granderson
The Motor City Bengals remember Curtis Granderson who retired yesterday and share a few of their own stories of how impactful of a player he was as a Detroit Tiger and beyond
Roger Martin: The late ’90s were a dark time for Detroit Tigers baseball. I watched the players I loved leave, like Cecil Fielder, David Wells, Tony Phillips, and Mike Henneman. I knew it was a part of the business and I accepted it but, it was tough at times when you thought in your own mind that the Tigers were close to winning and they need to do one or two more things. That fall of 1999, after I graduated high school, I watched the “future” players Matt Anderson, among others, carry over home plate to the construction site at Comerica Park on UPN Channel 50. After that, for a while at least, I drifted away for a bit from watching as much baseball. My senior year picture of myself in Tigers gear would be a distant memory.
In 2002, the Tigers drafted Curtis Granderson in the 3rd round out of the University of Illinois-Chicago. It was Dave Dombrowski’s first draft. At that point, I was working a lot, just catching Tigers games here and there as they continued to struggle but the everyday checking of the box score and reading articles from Lynn Henning and Tom Gage were not as much as a habit as they once were. I still from time to time looked at prospects but I was always disappointed with hoopla created and nothing to seem to come about it. Until Curtis Granderson.
His season in Erie in 2004 stood out as he would hit 23 home runs and drove in 93 RBIs with a line of .303/.407/.515 and an OPS of .922. He got the call up in 2004 and he shuttled back and forth before the 2006 season. The 2006 season, the “future” was here. My mother, who bought my senior picture outfit, was even paying attention in one of my favorite seasons of Tigers baseball ever. We all were a buzz that year. Curtis Granderson was an instant hit with fans because he was so personable, ( I once saw him at a Rams Horn restaurant by the Detroit Metro Airport where he signed autographs for everyone on the spot) and could hit for average and power and was a great defender. His 2007 season, one of the best by a Tigers outfielder in recent history in which he put up an fWAR of 7.9 and bWAR of 7.6. I watched as much as I could of that season with going back and forth from my first radio job to home to seeing my mother, who had colon cancer. She would watch games with my younger brother and we would all discuss the Tigers on the phone or whenever I would come back to town.
We were all excited about Curtis Granderson, the homegrown talent among the stars the Tigers had at that time. That 2006 season was special but it was the 2007 season that stood out a bit more for personal reasons. One of the lasting memories I had with my mother was taking her to a game that summer at Comerica on July 4th against the Indians and she was happy to see him play in person at last. She would pass away in the fall of 2007 and when he was traded to the Yankees in 2009 as a part of a 3-team deal, I was upset that he wasn’t going to be that first Tiger since Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker be a Tiger for life. It did not change, however, the memories I had of Curtis Granderson and my mother in 2007 and Curtis getting me hyper-engaged again as a fan and a baseball person. No matter where he went, I always gave a tip of the cap to Curtis. Thank you, Curtis Granderson, for the memories.
Curtis Granderson had a great run of four full seasons with the Detroit Tigers, and of course he was a big part of the 2006 American League Champion team. One game I still remember well took place on May 20 against the Cincinnati Reds. Down by a run, with two outs in the ninth, Granderson homered to tie the game. As I was watching on TV, the crowd was going crazy; indeed that was one moment that made it feel like a special year. The Tigers would win the game in extras.
At that time, my grandma was in failing health. She was a huge Tigers fan and liked Curtis Granderson. How could anyone not? He was a great player on and off the field. It was an emotional year because my grandma, whom I spent many hours talking about baseball with, passed away later that summer.
After that, Granderson had three more great years with the Tigers, including a top ten MVP finish in 2007 and an All-Star selection in 2009. It was a shame that they traded him to the Yankees; he was about as likeable of a player as we could imagine. He went on to have a great career, with 1,800 hits, 346 doubles, 95 triples, and 344 home runs.
Yet more importantly, he represented everything that was good about the game of baseball. I’m sure he’ll continue to have a role in the game in retirement. Congrats on a great career, Curtis!