Stars continue to provide extra spark
Tigers legend Anderson, rocker Mellencamp among notables
DETROIT -- Detroit has a rich history of baseball success, and several figures who have contributed to the club's storied past are in the spotlight this weekend.
Willie Horton, Al Kaline and Ernie Harwell were first up. On Sunday, it was Sparky Anderson's turn.
Anderson, the Hall of Fame manager who guided the Tigers to their 1984 World Series win, threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 2 on Sunday. Before that appearance, he entertained a roomful of reporters with the same charm that earned him the respect and admiration of everybody in the baseball industry during his 26 years as a manager, first with the Reds (1970-78) and then the Tigers (1979-95).
"I think you had to have been here and worked in this city to realize that the people in this city are really the most generous people," Anderson said. "And once in a while, I heard a little rumble, maybe 30,000 booing as hard as they can, but those things happen.
"No, this to me gives this city what it's supposed to have. And I think that's where [manager] Jimmy [Leyland] and [GM] Dave [Dombrowski] have done such a great job. They have given this city back to their sport."
Anderson's presence at Comerica Park created a stir everywhere, even on the visitor's side. Even though Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has a few more pressing issues to deal with this weekend, he was more than happy to express what Anderson has meant to him throughout his managerial career.
"If you're a manager, coach ... some guys had his expertise and were kind of reluctant to share it," La Russa said. "I was just one of the guys that you went up to him and asked him, he would give you everything that he had, so he was a wealth of information. And then, as you gained experience you realized how valuable it was. But his willingness to help young people who were trying to understand the game was very, very, very exceptional."
Another figure from the Tigers' past was also on hand Sunday to ring in Game 2. Alan Trammell, MVP of the '84 Tigers and former Detroit skipper, accompanied Leandra Jackson, a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, as she delivered the first game ball.
White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome was honored with the Comeback Player of the Year Award, as voted on by fans on MLB.com.
Fifteen-time Grammy nominee John Mellencamp performed his new single, "Our Country," accompanied by the band Little Big Town, the country music group that also provides backup vocals on the recording of "Our Country."
"I wrote this song to tell a story about some of the challenges our country faces, and how our beliefs and ideals can help us meet them, a message of hope and tolerance," Mellencamp said. "It's a song that is all about standing up for the working people who are the backbone of our nation."
The band members -- Kimberly Roads, Jim Westbrook, Karen Fairchild and Phillip Sweet -- were exhilarated with the experience of performing a highly patriotic song in a World Series setting.
"I was thinking about the lyrics that John wrote, and baseball being America's game," Sweet said. "I felt very patriotic out there. Like everybody came together -- those lyrics meant something to the people who watch this game."
"I was thinking, I grew up singing and playing, and now I'm standing next to John Mellencamp at the World series," Fairchild said. "Live on national television. It's very surreal. It's definitely one of the coolest things we've ever done as a band."
Added Roads: "It was almost like it was not real. It was like you were watching a movie."
The national anthem was peformed by multiple Grammy winner Anita Baker, a Detroit native. Baker's performance capped a star-studded pregame ceremony that gave a chilly but boisterous sellout crowd at Comerica Park a little bit of everything -- baseball legends, music legends and aspiring stars.
"I get a kick out of [critics] when they used to say baseball is dying, and football is No. 1," Anderson said. "I hate to break the sad news to football, but nothing will ever take the place of baseball, and it proved it here this year, proved it here.
"And it's proven all over the cities that are in baseball. Baseball is going to always be with us. When it goes bad, call me, because I won't be around, but I can be reached under the ground."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.