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Tigers All-Star Moments: Resurgence celebrated at 2006 game

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Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez didn't throw anybody out, didn't get a hit. Kenny Rogers struck just one batter out while allowing three hits and a walk.

Detroit may have hosted the All-Star Game in 2005, but the 2006 edition at Pittsburgh's PNC Park remains an important one for what it symbolized as much as any individual performances. So I chose it for our No. 1 All-Star Moment in this series.

That's because 2006 was the first one in a generation where you really felt like the Tigers belonged. That isn't to say there weren't deserving All-Stars during the previous 16 or 17 years. Cecil Fielder certainly deserved to be there during his romp to 51 home runs in 1990.

The Fielder era was the last gasp of the Tigers before they slunk into a long period of basement dwelling and being the punch line. They'd rallied to win the division in 1987. They finished second in 1988 with 88 wins. They fell hard in 1989, ending up with just 59 wins.

Then they brought this big guy who had just spent a year in Japan after a forgettable start to his career in Toronto, Fielder. All he did was hit 51 home runs. The next offseason, more sluggers came: Rob Deer and Mickey Tettleton. Pitcher Bill Gullickson joined the rotation. Suddenly, Detroit was back on track. For three weeks in August, it seemed like all the team could do was win. They cut a 6 1/2 game deficit in the division down to a tie with Toronto. But they could get no closer. They finished second in the division with 84 wins that year. Before 2006, that was the last year you could say the Tigers were close to being in a pennant hunt.

Those same players remained with the club for a few more years, and managed to help guide the Tigers to an above-.500 record again in 1993. They actually spent 64 days in first place that season. However, losing 13 out of 14 games during a period in June knocked them out of first. They tried to rally back, but another losing streak in late July and early August saw them fall from 1/2 game out of first the weekend after the All-Star Break to 9 1/2 games out on Aug. 3.

The season was cut short in 1994, as you might recall, by bickering owners and players. Detroit finished with a 53-62 record that year. The Tigers wouldn't get above .500 again until 2006. They finished the 1990s with the worst overall record in baseball. The closest they got to 500 during the seasons between '93 and '06 was a 79-83 record, twice. The farthest? No one needs a reminder about 2003.

So times were dim. An entire generation of kids was growing up with no idea that winning basically felt like. Heck, they didn't know what competitive baseball felt like. By the time '06 rolled around, middle schoolers -- maybe even high schoolers -- had grown up without a winning home team.

You know how 2006 went. New manager, Jim Leyland. Rookie fun with Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya. A veteran starter at the top of the rotation in Kenny Rogers. And of course, some free agents who'd been in town a year or two, Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. A long rant from the manager in early April shook lose an organization for which losing was so expected it was accepted. And then the wins came. Lots and lots of wins. After 92 games, this year's Tigers have 49 wins. After 92 games, 2006's Tigers had 62. It's hard to fathom. For people under the age of 30, this is the winning-est Tigers team they have vivid memories of, not the '84 club.

Two games up at the All-Star Break, fighting off a terrific White Sox team that was the defending World Series champion, it was time to shine the spotlight on Detroit. Analysts cooed praises. Tigers fans walked around with their heads held high. The long period of darkness was over. It was time to enjoy the light.

The excitement culminated at the first pitch, which featured a Tigers player on each side of the battery. Kenny Rogers pitching, Pudge Rodriguez catching. One pitch, the crack of the bat, and the first out recorded.

Detroit mattered again. That All-Star moment was unforgettable.

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Tigers All-Star Moments Top 10 List:

No. 1 -- Resurgence celebrated in 2006

No. 2 -- Don't steal on Lance Parrish (1982)

No. 3 -- 1971 ASG memorable for so many reasons

No. 4 -- You could hardly keep Gehringer off the bases in 1934

No. 5 -- 1962 sees two standouts in two games

No. 6 -- Comerica Park plays host in 2005

No. 7 -- Rookie Mark "The Bird" Fidrych starts the ASG in 1971

No. 8 -- Kell, Wertz homer for the home crowd in 1951

No. 9 -- Briggs Stadium hosts a memoral ninth inning in 1941

No. 10 -- Bran-Torino carries the vote in 2010