Scott Turken, an ESPN producer, is a Michigan native and a lifelong Tigers fan. He submitted this story in advance of Curtis Granderson's return to Detroit for Game 3.
Like many Detroiters, I'll always view Curtis Granderson as "one of us."
Granderson's unique blend of dynamism, class, clutch play and community work left an indelible mark on the city in just four seasons as a starter for the Detroit Tigers. When Granderson comes home to Comerica Park, the home crowd likely will cheer a fan-favorite emeritus.
"He seemed like the 'perfect' Tiger, if you were to lay out a blueprint for how you'd want to construct that mythical being," Tigers beat writer Matt Mowery of The Oakland Press said.
Despite being only a onetime All-Star with the Tigers, Granderson is still especially popular in The D. As he posted MVP-type numbers with the New York Yankees this season, fans in the Midwest looked on with pride.
Granderson burst onto the scene in the 2006 American League Division Series. In Game 2 against the Yankees, with the game tied at 3, he hit a triple to drive in the winning run. It sparked the Tigers to win three straight games against the heavily favored Yanks.
Detroit carried the momentum to the World Series, where it lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Granderson struggled mightily on the game's biggest stage, going 2-for-21 with a double and 7 K's.
The struggles seemed to ignite something in Granderson. In 2007, he joined the uber-exclusive 20-20-20-20 club (homers, triples, doubles and steals). Only Jimmy Rollins (2007), Frank Schulte (1911) and the great Willie Mays (1957) accomplished such production.
Granderson also showed a penchant for spectacular defensive plays, regularly robbing home runs and covering the cavernous Comerica Park outfield with ease.
In addition to electrifying play on the field, Granderson's humble beginnings in baseball and self-made image connected him with the community.
The team ran a PR campaign for nearly three years in which it asked fans "Who's your Tiger?" Granderson was many fans' Tiger.
"It's really hard not to like Curtis Granderson," said Brandon Inge, the longest-tenured Tiger. "He is probably one of the most down-to-earth guys that is truly a superstar. We all knew it when he was here."
Granderson's former skipper, Jim Leyland, also was effusive in his praise: "He's a wonderful, wonderful guy," Leyland said. "He's very energetic on and off the field, he's a very charitable person. He's all the things that are right about baseball."
Granderson remembers his connection with the fans. "As long as you play hard, it seems like the fans really love those guys, and you know I've always prided myself on playing hard, no matter what's going on statistically," he said. "That ended up helping out a lot in Detroit."
In talking with the biggest Tigers fans among my family and friends, there is almost universal approval of Granderson's career in Motown.
"Detroiters embrace players who embrace Detroit," said Jason Hillman, a Detroit native and former sportscaster there. "Curtis seemed to feed off that energy and seemed to love playing there. The fans loved him right back."
Eric Samson, a current Tigers season-ticket holder, said, "I don't think I am alone when I say that Curtis Granderson may be one of the classiest athletes that the city of Detroit has ever known."
Because of Granderson's connection to the Detroit, Dec. 8, 2009, was a dark day for many Tigers fans. As part of a three-team deal, Granderson ended up with the Yankees. The Tigers eventually got four players in return -- Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth and Max Scherzer.
After a rocky first season in the Bronx in which he hit just .247 with 24 homers, Granderson found his stride again. Surprisingly, he led the bigs in home runs against left-handers with 16. Before this season, he had hit 20 homers versus lefties in his career. His 119 RBIs (45 more than in any season in Detroit) and 136 runs were good enough to be best in the American League.
Granderson has made it a priority to stay connected to the Motor City and his equity with the community is high.
When he hit home run No. 30, I posted a short post on my Facebook page "Good for Granderson. He leaves Detroit and now he's an MVP." The thread spawned 33 comments on my humble feed. Some denied his MVP candidacy (the New York factor), but all agreed that it was nice to see a good guy do well on baseball's biggest stage.
Leyland is proud of his former center fielder. "You know he's an outstanding player; it's a perfect fit for him," he said. "The ballpark's really made for the power that he's got."
Grandy's former teammates agree, to a point. "I'm very happy for him for the way he's been doing in New York, but I will honestly have to say that if he's playing against us, I just hope he is going to lose," Inge said. "That's just the way it works."
So when Granderson dons the No. 14 jersey for the visitors at Comerica Park this week, the hometown fans will be respectful of their old No. 28. The admiration is not lost on Granderson.
"It's great the hard work was definitely respected and all the different things I did were definitely remembered," Granderson said. "That was my family when I came up. … The reason why I was able to get established in the big leagues was because of Detroit and the Detroit organization. I got no hard feelings at all there; I enjoyed my time there and have a lot of memories."
The fans in Detroit aren't mad at him, either, unless he takes a lefty deep to beat the team and the city that put him on the map.
Scott Turken is a producer with ESPN's Production Migration unit, which powers the video on ESPN's local sites. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Turk0219.