About a month ago my wife and I, while seated on the living room sofa with the television tuned to the Tigers broadcast, began a conversation that has disturbed me at some level ever since.
You see, she can't simply sit and watch a game for nine innings. She insists on talking throughout the game. Not long conversations, just short questions and interjections to keep her interested.
"Where's he from?"
"Was he on the team last year?"
"I like him, he's cute!"
I this particular instance I posed a question of my own to her, an attempt to get her thinking so I could have a few moments of just Rod and Mario. "Who's your favorite Tiger?"
She didn't miss a beat. "Curtis". She knows Curtis is my Tiger as well.
My first attempt at silence was foiled so I fought back with a follow-up question: "Who's your favorite Tiger of all-time?"
Again without missing a beat she fired back, as any female of our generation might, "Bobby Higginson".
And then it happened. She unintentionally blindsided me with her response.
“Who’s your all-time favorite Tiger?”
I missed a beat. I missed several beats. Heck, I still don’t have an answer.
So, I’m trying to find my answer now but it’s not easy. During the years that I was doing my growing up the Tigers were playing some pretty bad ball. I’m a product of the Randy Smith generation of Tigers fans -- a generation that was nearly lost.
To provide you with some context, I became baseball conscious at age six, around the time of the 1992 season. I’ve seen the Tigers lose 100 games three times and make the playoffs only once. Between the years of 1992 (age six) and 2005 (age nineteen) the Tigers only had one winning season, the 85-77 campaign of 1993.
Early on I got to see some of the former greats. My dad taught me how to keep score while we filled in names such as Trammell, Whitaker, and Gibson, but these players were already past their prime, and I couldn’t fully appreciate the players that they were.
In the early years, my favorite was easily Cecil Fielder. Big Daddy was still hitting them out of the yard in those days and the crowd would roar as he stepped up to the plate.
I was devastated when he was sent to the Yankees in 1996—the revolving door of favorite Tigers had begun.
Tony Clark, Damion Easley, and Bobby Higginson topped the list for several years but even players such as Brian L. Hunter, Brian Moehler, Juan Encarnacion, and Frank Catalanotto spent time as my No.1 (Raul Casanova barely missing out).
As the Tigers prepared to move into the new ballpark in 2000, the names on top of my list didn’t improve.
Robert Fick, Jose Macias, Nate Cornejo, Dimitri Young, George Lombard, Eric Munson, Steve Sparks, and a young Carlos Pena all were considered to be a favorite of mine at one point.
The Tigers one attempt at grabbing a star player didn’t work for me. I never jumped on the Juan Gone bandwagon.
A few more seasons of losing came about with favorites being Brandon Inge, Omar Infante, and Craig Monroe.
Then came the signing of Pudge Rodriguez in 2004 which paved the way for Magglio Ordonez in 2005 and the Tigers started to turn things around.
In 2006, I found my current favorite Tiger, Curtis Granderson. Curtis brings speed, power, and outstanding defense to the table, and to add to that, he’s incredibly knowledgeable and well-spoken.
And now I sit at a place that has made me uncomfortable for the last month. I even set this article aside several times because I didn’t know what to do but the time has come. I have to pick one and it looks like it comes down to Big Cecil and Curtis Jr.—the only two players on the list to last for more than a season as my Tiger.
I’m sorry CJ, but I have to pick Cecil—for now. It just seems right. Cecil drew me in to baseball as kid down at The Corner. His big smile, his big body, his big homeruns, and a big bubble that he blew with his chewing gum are all memories that I’ll keep with me for many more years.
To my wife, to the kind folks at Bleacher Report, and to all other Tiger fans, it’s official. Cecil Fielder is my all-time favorite Tiger.
So go ahead, Curtis. Prove me wrong. This race isn’t over yet. You ‘n me got plenty of years left ahead of ourselves. You can still become my all-time favorite (a World Series would help!)