Hundreds rally in rain

Published October 2, 2006

DETROIT (AP) - Hundreds of fans braved the rain to salute the Detroit Tigers during a downtown rally on the eve of the team's first playoff appearance in nearly two decades.

While the Tigers were in New York preparing to face the Yankees in Tuesday's first game of the American League Division Series, the club hosted a free rally outside Comerica Park. The team clinched a playoff berth Sept. 24, but the season ended with a five-game losing streak that left the Tigers as the American League wild card entry.

The disappointing finish - Detroit had the best record in its division for much of the season - didn't bother Bill Schultz of Grosse Pointe, who came to the rally after buying tickets for possible ALCS games here.

"It's a lot easier to be a fan now," he said. "I wanted to come out and support them. This has been a fun summer."

Longtime former Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and actor Jeff Daniels were among those on hand to wish the team well. The mayor likened the team's resurgence to the comeback of the city's downtown, which hosted last summer's All-Star game and the Super Bowl in February.

The Tigers' last playoff appearance came after their 1987 AL East division title, but ended with a loss to Minnesota in the ALCS. Since then, Detroit largely has been a baseball ghost town, with just three winning seasons and four 100-loss seasons. The 2003 team was one game better than the 1962 New York Mets' worst record in baseball's modern era.

Cheryl Creevey homeschools her 11-year-old son, Jameson, in suburban Lake Orion. Monday's lesson included a field trip to Detroit.

"He loves baseball," she said. "He's been following them as long as we can remember."

The Tigers are heavy underdogs to the Yankees, who are making their ninth straight playoff appearance. The news didn't faze Jameson.

"I wanted them to play the Yankees," he said. "They have a good chance to beat them."

Game three of the best-of-five series is Friday and will be the first playoff game at Comerica Park, which opened in 2000. The club broke its season-attendance record at the ballpark this summer as 2.5 million fans passed through the turnstiles, the most since Detroit's last world championship season in 1984.