Raising a Tiger
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Been studying Detroit Tigers highlights lately, trying to get a glimpse into the dugout just to confirm a sighting of Walter Matthau as Buttermaker cracking a can of Budweiser.

Nope. All I see is Alan Trammel, with that look.

You know, that 3-and-25 look.

No, wait! FOUR and 25! Whoo-hoo. Tigers win, Tigers win!

It is well past time we leaned on The Cooler and poured out a last few drops of Sparkletts for the ghost of the Detroit Tigers franchise.

Dmitri Young
Shhh! Dmitri is gonna say something!
Somewhere, Ty Cobb is spinning in his grave.

Then again, Cobb probably started spinning about the same time Ike sent troops to integrate Little Rock.

Amid the sadness of the de-clawed Tigers, two things have emerged:

1. The pure comedy of Dmitri Young's quotes.
2. The fortification of a generation of Tigers Fans.

As for Young, his work has been priceless of late. When Detroit played out the second half of a sad-sack doubleheader at Comerica in front of less than 100 -- less than 100, dweller! -- Young let loose: "I'd rather play on the road," he fumed. "These people don't care about us."

Later, asked by the Detroit Free Press to clarify, Young delivered some MVP quotes on the hostile Tigers fans who are peppering these hapless players: "It seems like it's a public stoning ... more and more come out to kick the horse while we're down."

A public stoning! Dmitri Young has gone Shirley Jackson on us, summoning up images from "The Lottery." Classic.

"Tigers eliminated in June/Lottery comes soon . . . "

As for the other point, look on the bright side. There are legions of kids in Michigan, ages eight to 12, who need to hold strong and stout in this time of darkness. The payoff down the road will be enormous. There is no greater badge of honor than to be the Tigers fan who clings to the precipice during the 3-25 start -- nay, FOUR and 25 start -- to prove his worth as a true fan.

It is in this fire that the toughest Tigers fan will be forged. Trust us, dweller. When Detroit is playing in the 2013 ALCS series against the Texas Rangers, that same young kid will be a beer-swilling college student at the University of Michigan, bragging: "Man, I remember when the Tigers had four wins, and Jeremy Bonderman had TWO of them!" Or, "Dude, my Dad took me to Comerica when the infield was Pena, Santiago, Infante and Munson!"

It is then, and only then, when the pain will be worth it.

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five:

1. Matsui-San: The Japanese Dominican?
Got my first extended look at Hideki Matsui during the A's-Yankees series on TV here in the Bay Area, and I have to ask: Is Matsui nicknamed "Godzilla" because he actually APPEARED in the original "Godzilla" flick? I know a Japanese diet of high-protein, low-fat sushi helps longevity, but this is ridiculous. Cat looks like an ancient samurai warrior. Just swap the pinstripes for a silk robe. I found the disconnect between Matsui's stated age of 29 and his craggy, road-weary mug alarming.

A check of imdb.com shows the film "Godzilla, King of the Monsters," was released in 1956. Interestingly, Raymond Burr was in the original, playing a character named Steve Martin. Alas, there is no evidence of a "Hideki Matsui" in the cast of the film -- although there was, amusingly, an actor named Tadashi Okabe who played the ill-fated "Reporter Killed in Tower."

If I'm Brian Cashman, I'm sending a private investigator over to Japan, in a hurry. Heavy money says his birth certificate will have Dominican-doctored fingerprints all over it.

Idle thought: Has anybody seen Danny Almonte and Hideki Matsui in the same room at the same time? Hmmm.

2. Dusty Is a Cub: What to Do?
Had a disturbing experience at Pac Bell Park, when formerly beloved Giants skipper Dusty Baker presided over a Cub pitching staff that plunked Barry Bonds three times in one series.

Dusty Baker
How quickly we forget, Dusty was one of us.
This raised a philosophical query so characteristic of our player-for-hire era: What to do when a player/manager you formerly held dear now plays the role of the enemy?

Tough one, dwellers. Tough one.

The first significant exile of the magic Giants' run from '97-'02 was Jeff Kent, and when he returned to Pac Bell, he got the bejesus booed out of him. This, however, was understandable: Kent had ripped the Giants uniform (and, really, as Seinfeld pointed out, in the free agent era, what else can a fan root for other than the laundry?) He ripped Pac Bell Park (this, for a fan base that proudly endured Candlestick from 1961-1999). And he ripped Brian Sabean's off-season moves (for a team that is now 20-9.)

Plus, the guy lied about how he broke his hand.

So, the general feeling in Giants-dom was, in essence: Screw that guy.

But Dusty! Sweatband-wearin', toothpick-chawin', dugout rail-hangin' Dusty! Surely, Giants fans cannot turn on the man who presided over some of the greatest seasons in San Francisco history ('93, '97, '00 and '02). And yet, in his first game back, after some lovely ovations, he bolted out of the dugout to argue a call in the fourth when a voice behind me boomed: "GET BACK IN THE DUGOUT, DUSTY! DARREN'S LOOSE!"

Just seven months ago, young Darren, then the Giants' batboy, was the apple of the Bay Area's eye.

Sigh. How fast we forget.

When I turned to perhaps voice an objection, I noted the voice belonged to a woman who had the build and look, approximately, of Tom Arnold.

So I laid low and didn't bother her.

And yet, when Baker oversaw the plunkings trois of Bonds, it was over between Baker and this Giants fan. Hey, the guy popped 73 for you, Dusty? Where is the love, my man?

Anyway, thought I'd share these thoughts in this open forum for you Mariner fans who still grapple with the A.Rod/Junior/Unit departures; or you A's fans who deal with the Giambi exit; or you Yankees fans who deal with ... uh ... uh ... oh, yeah. That's right. Yankees fans have no idea what we're talking about.

3. The Rocket: Fizzling Again.
Two-hundred and ninety-seven times, Roger Clemens has taken the mound and won a game.

There is only one team in the American League against whom Clemens does not have more wins than losses. That's right.

Roger Clemens
The Rocket can't handle the truth. The truth being Oakland of course.
Think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoelaces (and through the prism of time, how weird was THAT episode from the 1990 playoffs?) Think Dave Stewart's death glare. Think Olmedo Saenz going deep in the 2000 ALDS.

The Oakland A's are to Clemens what Russell was to Chamberlain, what Simon Cowell is to any aspiring "American Idol."

Happened again on Sunday at The Stadium.

And he's NEVER beaten them in the post-season, which would be remarkable except when you consider Clemens once wore those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoelaces and eye-black, and got tossed before the third inning in that 1990 game.

The amazing thing is, this A's Svengali-thing on Clemens has spanned multiple eras. In one era, he couldn't beat Canseco and McGwire. In another era, he can't beat Scott Hatteberg.

Beauty is, knowing the four-star Red Ass that is Roger Clemens, it has to be KILLING him.

You can almost imagine that summer day in Cooperstown five years from now, when the Rocket is a first-ballot inductee. He'll look out into that crowd, and see the ghosts of the A's, wearing white shoes, hovering. The voice-over will be straight-up DeNiro as LaMotta in "Raging Bull," taunting Clemens, as if we were Sugar Ray Robinson: "You never got me down, Ray ... you never got me down!"

Of course, Sugar Ray beat La Motta senseless in that fight, but you can work with me here, dweller, can't you?

4. Quick Word on the Derby: Ouch!
Unfortunately, missed the Kentucky Derby this year, for domestic reasons not unlike the ones Will Ferrell's character in "Old School" cited when he refused a beer bong. Asked why, he said he had a "big day" tomorrow with the wife. Asked for specifics, Ferrell says: "Actually, it's a pretty neat Saturday ... we're going to Home Depot ... and maybe even Bed, Bath and Beyond -- if we have time."

Anyway, got the news that the first gelding - ouch! Even the word smarts -- won since 1929.

Well, duh. What sort of horse is going to win the Derby, post-castration? Post-castration, it's amazing the horse even has the willpower to wake to see the light of day. Why would you even leave the stable after your owner does that to you? I'd sink into horse depression, sleeping all day, eating hay and watching "Mr. Ed" re-runs on TVLand.

So, a salute of the Dixie Cup to Funny Cide!

5. Reaching Out to Our Brothers in Arms.
Yeah, it's almost old news by now. But it merits an item here, since a cursory take on the nocturnal habits of Larry Eustachy and Mike Price makes each a veritable blood-brother of any self-immolating Cooler-dweller. It's time we pause for our fallen brethren.

As bad as it got for Eustachy and Price, at least neither man's travel path during his bottoming-out took him to New Orleans.

Pause for a moment to shiver at what might have been.

As it was, Eustachy crashed parties all over the Big 12, pounded cheap beer out of a can and played a little slap-and-tickle with some, ahem, big-boned co-eds.

Larry Eustachy
Don't rip Larry until you've been under the same microscope.
Yeah? And? What's the problem again?

Geez. Thank God I -- or nobody I consider a close and trusted running-mate -- has that gig, or we'd never leave the pages of the Enquirer.

And as it was for Price, there was a strip club involved, and a confounding $1,000 room service bill, which can only mean dusk-to-dawn Spectravision on a scale none of us has ever imagined; sort of the "shock and awe" of pay-per-view assaults, if you will.

Plus, lots of Tobelerone. They'll kill you in the mini-bar for that.

Given that all Eustachy and Price have proven is that they are, in fact, spiritual descendents of the patron saint of College Coach Meltdowns, Gary Moeller, have we ever stopped to consider that maybe it's the gig, not the man?

Look at the landscape: You've got some Porsche-driving alum on your ass, demanding a national title every year. You've got some hormonal 19-year-old at the school paper ripping you every week, the better to beef up his chances for a summer internship at the L.A. Times. You've got a power forward/defensive end who can't read, and a point guard/quarterback who calls you at 3 a.m. and opens the conversation with: "Coach, don't hang up, they say I only get one call from here."

Walk a mile in the moccasins, dweller.

Now, what do you think?

Just as I suspected: "Barkeep ... a round of Natural Lights -- pronto."

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Fandemonium

Murphy: Life imitating art

Murphy: Masters of our domain

Murphy: Somebody has to lose

Murphy: Welcome to Cooler Day!

Murphy: Spring is in the air

Murphy: Here's to Ew

Murphy: A barren wasteland

Murphy: Tiger gets his Phil

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