DETROIT Tigers catcher Alex Avila stood in a corner of the clubhouse Thursday night, puffing a Cuban cigar and making no attempt to wipe neither the smile nor the celebratory sparkling grape juice off his face.
After the Tigers drafted me, I was down in the Instructional League in Florida, said Avila, a fifth-round pick in 2008 from the University of Alabama. I said to my dad, Wouldnt it be great if we win a World Series with the Tigers?
My dad said, It would be amazing.
A few feet away, his father and Tigers assistant GM Al Avila, was laughing with other club executives while they all enjoyed a sweep of the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Now, were four wins away from winning it all, Alex Avila said. Four more wins, four more winsThats it.
The Tigers will travel to either St. Louis to face the Cardinals or to San Francisco to play the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night. The Cards had a 3-1 series lead headed into Friday nights game in St. Louis.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, during a post-game interview with TBS, got his teammates and the sellout crowd at Comerica Park excited by proclaiming, Four more wins, guys. Four more wins.
That appears to be the rallying cry for the Tigers at a time when President Obama and his supporters are proclaiming, Four more years!
But nobody in Michigan has to vote on supporting the Tigers and the players have a mutual love affair with their fans.
This city had our backs all the way, Tigers pitching ace Justin Verlander said, and this pennant is just as much theirs as it is ours.
Alex Avila agreed: The fans deserve it as much as we do.
More than three million passed through the Comerica turnstiles this year, and 42,477 made a deafening roar when first baseman Prince Fielder twice waved off his fellow infielders with gusto before snagging the Jayson Nix pop up for the third and final out in the ninth.
Reliever Phil Coke slamming his glove to the ground at that instant received most of the replays, but my favorite scene involved Cabrera and Fielder. They hugged so long and with such force and joy that the grounds crew probably has some sod to replace.
It was such a good feeling, Fielder said. It was very special. You play so hard every play, and to be able to get to this level is just such a great feeling.
And when they released, Fielder took the ball out of his glove and handed it to Cabrera.
Miggy kept the ball, Fielder said with a grin. I dont know what he did with it.
Cabreras two-run homer in the fourth inning was the big blow in the 8-1 win over the Yankees, and shortstop Jhonny Peralta added two homers with center fielder Austin Jackson chipping in a solo shot to turn it into a rout.
The Tigers clinched the pennant at home for the fourth consecutive time. They did it at Comerica in 2006 with Magglio Ordonezs walk-off homer to beat the As, and at Tiger Stadium in 1984 with Milt Wilcox and Guillermo Willie Hernandez combining for a 1-0 shutout of the Royals. And prior to the ALCS format, it was Don Wert singling home Al Kaline with the winning run in the 1968 pennant-clincher as Ernie Harwell told listeners to listen to the bedlam at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
Pennant-clinchers provide nights that players and fans never forget.
Inside the clubhouse, the Avilas celebrated as relievers Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit literally waved a pennants while running amid the cigar smoke and spray. How many fathers and sons had experienced such a chance?
"I don't think too many, Alex Avila said. I don't know of any, to tell you the truth. It's a tremendous blessing; I thank God every day of my life for this and I don't take it for granted, believe me. It's not easy."
But some unfinished business remains.
Four more wins.