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AGONY IN DETROIT
Kyle Crichton
September 26, 1955
In the throes of a pennant fight in 1934 the Tigers' great star, Hank Greenberg, wrestled with a problem of conscience. For the frenzied Detroit fans, the suspense was awful
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September 26, 1955

Agony In Detroit

In the throes of a pennant fight in 1934 the Tigers' great star, Hank Greenberg, wrestled with a problem of conscience. For the frenzied Detroit fans, the suspense was awful

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"Read that!" he yelled.

This was my introduction to Iffy the Dopester. My first feeling was that Iffy had become hopelessly entangled in his own prognostications. If the Yanks did this and the Indians did that and the Browns, by some fluke, should happen to do this...the result would be great for the Tigers. On the other hand, it would be equally fine if the Yanks failed to do this and the Indians succeeded in doing that and the White Sox came through, as any decent American League team had a right to do occasionally.

I became engrossed in Iffy and was only faintly aware that my man was weaving through traffic like a cobra, beating lights, frightening off trucks and finally arriving in a parking lot with a magnificent screeching of brakes and scraping of fenders. We ran for the ticket windows, hurtled through the turnstile, scrambled to our seats—and found the game would start in exactly 35 minutes.

This gave me time to look around.

THE MOURNERS ARRIVE

The Detroit crowd was filing to its pews like mourners in a cathedral. They spoke in muted tones, seemed to walk on padded feet and hunched their shoulders in apprehension. They watched infield practice through misty, frightened eyes and the silence was so profound that the crack of a bat sounded like atomic artillery. Down on the field the Tigers acted like doomed men. The Athletics, gay and frolicsome, seemed devilishly frivolous.

When they started, the hopeless A's began playing 400 miles over their heads. Fielders climbed distant walls and robbed Tigers of sure three-baggers. Double plays flowed from the previously porous A's infield with the brilliance and rapidity of light. Nothing the gray and haggard Tigers did turned out right. Only the superlative pitching of Schoolboy Rowe kept them in the game.

As for me, I was exercising the American prerogative of rooting for the underdog. In the tomblike silence of the ball park, my applause for the A's sounded like the clap of doom. I even made some hilarious side remarks which, I realized later, might have got me killed. What stopped me was a nice-looking young man at my left, who looked out on the diamond with the tortured gaze of a martyr. He finally turned to me and spoke in a voice of soft pleading.

"I know you're only needling us," he said, "and it's all in fun, but please don't do it.... I can't stand it."

This touched me; I say it without shame. It was clear that I was in the midst of a civic phenomenon out of which either mutiny or a new spirit of morality might arise. I turned immediately into a dedicated follower of the faith. Connie Mack was a nice old man, but his A's were going nowhere and I very much wanted to be part of the spiritual crusade the Tigers were leading.

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