Changing of the animals


Mt. Pleasant News

You can?t hear the sound of wood on leather yet. But February, which I view as one of the more boring months of the year also signals the start of spring training.

I haven?t given baseball a whole lot of thought but the limited gray matter expended on the sport has me thinking I should change animals this season.

That means I am contemplating exchanging a Cub for a Tiger. Everyone who knows me knows I am a Cub fan. Few who know me know that I was a Tiger long before a Cub. Make that Tiger as in Detroit.

Every now and then I will dust off the retro Al Kaline jersey, but other than that, I keep my Tiger fandom to myself.

Not this year. Not only do the Tigers have the reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner (Justin Verlander) heading the pitching rotation but now they have a prince (Fielder) in the everyday lineup.

I vividly remember Prince?s father, Cecil, hitting monster shots out of Tiger Stadium. Now Fielder II can launch rockets in the Tigers? new park.

The Tigers were my first baseball team. I don?t know exactly why but it has to do with the Yankees. Although I didn?t have the opportunity to spend as much time with my father as I wished while growing up, we did watch a few Major League baseball games together. Dad had played the game but was not what you would term a rabid fan.

Although he never really said, I think he was a Yankees fan at heart. One of those Major League games we viewed together was a Tigers-Yankee in the summer of 1961. The Yankees had Maris and Mantle, Blanchard, Ford and Skowron and were pretty much running away with the American League title.

Not as many baseball games were televised back then ? you were fairly limited to Saturday afternoon baseball. I became a Tigers fan while watching that game. The Tigers had Hall of Famer Al Kaline, but I liked Norm Cash, the first baseman, probably because I played first base in Little League. Cash had a career year in 1961. He hit close to the mid .300s with over 40 home runs and a ton of runs batted in. Those were big numbers back then.

Yes, the Yankees won the pennant in 1961, but my Tigers came back to win the World Series in 1968 and 1984 and could make a run at it, barring injuries, again this year.

So, the Tigers are the team this year. The Cubs are going through some rebuilding which is not a bad idea. For the first time in decades, it appears the Cubs actually have a plan and are sticking to it. However, rebuilding is painful. My fear is that for the next couple of years, the Cubs will look much more like the Pirates than the dreaded deadbirds (Cardinals).

I will patiently wait, enjoying the Tigers this year and probably the next several seasons. If the Cubs return to respectability, I can either change animals again or enjoy the best of both worlds.

While on a sports thread, Fran is the Man in Iowa City. Reading Hawkeye message boards, I am finding many people agree with me. The Hawks aren?t back yet in basketball, but they are closing the gap. A top-20 recruiting class coming in next year coupled with all but four current players returning could have the team playing in more than one post-season tournament next year. Maybe not the NCAA next year, but I wouldn?t bet against it.

I do have two predictions, though. In three years McCaffery will supplant Kirk Ferentz as the most well-liked coach at UI and Fran will also be the best men?s basketball coach at Iowa since Lute Olson.