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A native of St. Clair Shores, Mike McClary has never stopped following the team that he fell in love with as a kid. Even after moving to Colorado and then Scottsdale, Ariz., he continued to keep close tabs on the Tigers from afar, sticking with them through a string of miserable seasons that reached its nadir in 2003, when the team came close to setting a record for the number of losses in a single year. Within a few years of that debacle, the freelance business writer and consultant launched a Tigers blog he dubbed The Daily Fungo and began doing podcasts as well. As Opening Day approached, Metro Times tracked McClary down to find out what it is like to be a super fan.
Metro Times: How old were you when you went to your first Tigers game?
Mike McClary: Let's see, it was 1977, and I was born in '68, so I was 9 years old. I went with my dad and brother. It was at Tiger Stadium, of course. The renovation was going on at the time. In my memory, some of the seats were still the old, green, wooden ones and others were the new, blue, plastic ones that they were putting in.
It was a great game. Right fielder Mickey Stanley made a leaping catch to rob the Brewers of a home run to get the last out, giving the Tigers the win. It was pitcher Jack Morris' first major league win.
MT: Do you remember the score?
McClary: I should, but I don't. Now you have me wondering. (Pause while he does a quick search on his computer.) OK, here it is. Tigers won, 5-3. Thank God for baseballreference.com.
MT: How did you feel when the Tigers moved from their old stadium into Comerica Park.
McClary: Ideally, I would have liked to see them renovate Tiger Stadium instead of leave it. And I was disappointed that it sat there rotting for 10 years after the team did leave.
MT: What, exactly, inspired you to start the blog?
McClary: I used to write e-mails to my brother and friends talking about the Tigers and, more often than not, the team's woes. Once in a while I'd post something to a now-defunct personal blog, which was read by absolutely no one. Around 2005 and '06, I was getting questions from my clients about how they might want to incorporate blogging into their employee communications mix. So, I figured if I was going to counsel companies on blogging, I'd better get immersed in it myself. Five years later, I'm still going.
MT: How many people visit the blog and listen to the podcast?
McClary: I try not to be obsessive about tracking visitors to the blog — but that doesn't mean I don't check once a week. On average, I'll have 350 or so people visit the blog each day. That increases if a major trade takes place, for example. I'll also see a spike in traffic if I get linked to from ESPN.com or one of the other popular mainstream sites. As for the podcast, each episode sees about 1,000 to 1,200 downloads.
MT: Who are some of the "insiders" you've interviewed for your podcasts?
McClary: This morning I conducted two interviews for the 100th episode of the podcast, with Lynn Henning of The Detroit News and Rob Neyer of ESPN (and several baseball books). Both Lynn and Rob are regular guests throughout the year. In addition to baseball authors, my guests have included former Tigers announcer and Hall of Famer the late George Kell. The interview with him was far and away my most popular episode — and my personal favorite.
MT: How much time do you put into all this?
McClary: The answer I give you and the answer my wife would give you probably would be different. [laughs] I'd say I spend a couple of hours a day researching and writing.
I'm particularly interested in looking at the history of the team, and then relating that to what's going on currently, comparing the current team to the teams of the '80s, which are the teams I grew up watching.
MT: What does your wife think about your commitment to this?
McClary: She's great about it. Very supportive. She's a Tigers fan too, although not to the degree I am. I don't golf, I don't drive a fancy car. This is my hobby, and it is pretty inexpensive.
MT: Why the Tigers? It's obvious why someone wouldn't want to devote time to following the Lions, but the Red Wings and Pistons are both respectable teams that you could be doing the same thing for.
McClary: Baseball was the first sport I played. I collected baseball cards. My dad also followed the Wings, but he always had way more stories about baseball. Tigers games were always on the TV at our house. It was woven into our lives, and I guess I just grabbed onto that.
MT: What was it like being a fan of the Tigers in 2003, when they lost 119 games?
McClary: That season was brutal. I always wear my Tigers hat around town here, and everywhere I went, people would say, "Hey, how about those Tigers," being very sarcastic. I'm glad I wasn't writing the blog then. I don't know how I would have been able to summon the energy and enthusiasm to write about that.
MT: How do you think the team will do this year?
McClary: Last year I said they would win 89 games and everyone laughed. But they won 86. I'm an eternal optimist; still, I wouldn't be surprised if they were still in it right up to the last week of the regular season and end up winning their division. Jim Leyland is a good manager, and I think things are finally clicking for this organization.
Mike McClary's blog can be found at dailyfungo.com.
Curt Guyette, Metro Times news editor, fell out of love with baseball after batting .100 his last year in Little League. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or email@example.com.