Tigers' Success Gives Detroit a Boost

After years of being one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, the once-hapless Detroit Tigers are gunning for a shot at the World Series. The team's success seems to be boosting the mood in Detroit, which has suffered from unemployment and economic hardship for years.

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Detroit, Michigan, city of miracles? It is at least a city of near delirious excitement as the Tigers take aim at their first World Series in nearly 20 years.

NPR's Celeste Headlee reports from Detroit.

CELESTE HEADLEE: Many sports fans in Detroit are beside themselves with joy right now.

Mr. SCOTT ANDERSON (Sports Talk Host): It's monumental. I mean it's gargantuan. It's ginormous. It's unbelievable. I can't even understand it myself.

HEADLEE: Sports Talk host Scott Anderson is talking about the Detroit Tigers, a team that lost 119 games in 2003, the worst record in the American League in 100 years. This year, the Tigers may be on their way to the World Series.

Mr. ANDERSON: I've been covering this team pretty much on a daily basis since the 2001 season, and where they were three years ago and where they are now, it's just night and day, the difference.

HEADLEE: Economically, the Tigers' success is expected to have a major impact on the city of Detroit. Analysts predict that a World Series appearance by the team could bring in more than $70 million to the metro area. But for Detroiters like James Leval(ph), it's personal.

Mr. JAMES LEVAL (Tigers Fan): I'm proud of the Tigers. Like I said, it took them 20 years to get here, and I'm proud.

HEADLEE: Chris Nichols(ph) says even ex-Detroiters are jumping at the chance to brag about their team.

Mr. CHRIS NICHOLS (Tigers Fan): Actually, I have a few friends who live in California. They've been calling me. And they were formerly here from Detroit and they're getting a lot of guff because they're wearing Tigers stuff out there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HEADLEE: Matthew Cooper admits he's a bandwagon fan, but loves seeing his team in the national headlines.

Mr. MATTHEW COOPER (Tigers Fan): Well, you know, the city has always had this image thing that it's fought. But I think, you know, we're a great sports city. It's about time people recognize that.

HEADLEE: Jeff Moss, with the Detroit Sports Rag, has been a Tiger fan since the 1970s. The team's performance this year has fans excited, but it may even be having an affect on non-sports fans. Lately, Moss says, Detroiters even feel a little better about themselves. But he doesn't think it'll change what other people say about his city.

Mr. JEFF MOSS (Detroit Sports Rag): People are going to bash the city of Detroit regardless. If the Tigers win this, you know the national media or comedians will be making jokes, that are they going to burn this town down because they won? We're long past the point of ever proving the national media or anyone around the country wrong. So I just think we have to be happy for what's going on here, and I think everyone is.

HEADLEE: The Detroit Tigers play the Oakland A's this afternoon. They lead the series so far two to zero. They need to win two more games before they earn the right to play in the team's first World Series since 1984.

Celeste Headlee, NPR News, in Detroit.

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