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As World Series Begins, Detroit Catches Tigers Fever

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In Detroit, Tigers fans are preparing for the return of their beloved team to the grand stage of the World Series. In a city largely known for hard times these days, the World Series means far more than just a chance at a championship.

Facing high unemployment and crime rates and teetering on the edge of financial collapse, Detroit needs something to celebrate. Maybe something along the lines of the celebration that broke out after the Tigers won the World Series again in 1968.

Fast forward 44 years to The Old Shillelagh bar in Detroit's touristy Greektown area. Few here remember a celebration quite that raucous. Patrons like David Posthumus say at this time in the city's history, any good news is welcome.

"Everybody's geared up. Everybody's got the colors on. It's loud when the stadium's going on and it's what everybody talks about the day before and the day after. So it permeates your life when you're around," Posthumus says.

Bartender Amada Peschke says the Tigers have become her life, too, in a way, since fans began packing the Old Shillelagh's three floors during the team's postseason run.

"Mass chaos. But in a good way. Detroit loves their home team so people come down whether they're going to the game or not. We serve food. We have all three floors open, bands here, DJs here. We rent the parking lot and do huge parking lot parties," Peschke says.

On Detroit's downtown streets, fans like Wendell Finley say they have a full-blown case of Tigers fever.

"Oh brother, it's a blessing. San Francisco, y'all got a nice team but Detroit Tigers, let's do it. Please! Do it for me. Do it for the whole city. Y'all can do it. We need a celebration," Finley says.

Metro Detroit tourism officials predict the World Series will bring roughly $26 million to the region's struggling economy.

At the Tigers' ball field, Comerica Park, team Manager Jim Leyland says it's easy in Detroit to be swallowed up by World Series fever. He found it hard even going to the bank.

"I was kind of rushing and they had 12, 15 baseballs to sign, bats to sign. This was at the bank! So I've had an adventurous last couple days. But it's all been positive. It's all been great stuff. I mean that's what it's about. Tiger baseball is a family. It doesn't matter who the mangers are, who the players are. Tiger baseball is a family, that's just the way it is," Leyland says.

A few blocks from the ballpark, street musician Black Jack Bostic is practicing too before playing at the World Series, as he says he's played at the front gate of every home game for decades.

But the World Series is different. Detroiters everywhere seem to be stepping just a little bit lighter now. Bostic says getting to the Fall Classic is a respite from the relentless bad news that Detroiters often face.

"That makes it better. It will. Watch, you'll see. They gonna make it better. 'Cause now they gonna feel like they proud of their city again. People will be proud to be in Detroit, you know?" Bostic says.

With that Bostic is back to practicing hard and happily knowing that the Tigers are again playing in the World Series.

Copyright 2012 WDET-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wdet.org.

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