The Summer of ’84

by Derek Loosvelt Read author interview March 26, 2012

May, June, and July belonged to the Tigers. Jack Morris’s no hitter and Detroit’s 35 and 5 start had the whole mitten of Michigan—including my father, who’d been out of work since March—feeling like things weren’t that bad. It was our time. The Yankees were old and the Dodgers were soft. Reggie had been put out to pasture in Anaheim, and Lasorda looked like he’d rather be sucking down linguine and Chianti than kneeling on the top steps of the dugout, spitting chew on dirt.

With the Tigers coasting to the pennant, August and September belonged to Prince, the mini-man from Minnesota kicking out track after track that had all of us—young and old, black and white, big and small, boy and girl—dancing and desiring. No one was immune to the passionate purple music raining from backseat speakers. Even my mother sang along. Steering her silver Buick down Telegraph and Woodward as if cutting a battleship across the ocean, she’d tap a polished nail on vinyl until the cries of doves faded away, the Regal still idling in the garage, my brother Ray in back, me upfront, and she’d ask us, yet again, “Who is this?”

Although the unemployment checks didn’t, the summer stretched into October that year, into the bottom of the eighth inning of game five of the World Series. We watched the game at the kitchen table, Ray and I, like we’d done all Series long, bare chested, wearing our T-shirts wrapped around our skulls—our Syrian rally caps, we called them; my mother the Prince fan attacking her teeth with a toothpick, digging for scraps from the meatless mashi she’d made by stuffing extra rice, instead of ground beef, into zucchini and bell peppers uprooted from our backyard garden; and my father, a Tiger fan for more than three decades, since he was a boy on the city’s east side, sitting closest to the screen, a mug full of Belgian beer the only thing separating him from the tiny television set he’d built a platform for midway through the record-setting season so we wouldn’t miss a pitch.

When Gibson put the Padres to bed in the eighth, pounding a Goose Gossage fastball deep into the right field upper deck bleachers, bringing in three runs and putting the Series out of reach, my father leaped from his chair, knocking over his beer with his hip. My mother, happier than I’d seen her in months, yelled, “Bob! Bob!” as she dove for a paper towel. My brother and I jumped out of our chairs, too, hugging each other, tearing our T-shirt turbans from our heads, swinging them around like windmills, screaming as loud as we could while Gibbie roared around first and then second, pumping his fist as if upper-cutting an invisible opponent.

As the home-grown right fielder rounded third, heading toward the entire Tiger squad on its feet, surrounding the plate, I caught our reflections in the picture window behind the TV: my father’s arms raised to the ceiling, my mother smiling and wiping the table, my brother’s T-shirt spinning, my hand punching the air like Gibbie’s. Ray and I kept screaming and howling—similar celebrations could be heard coming from across the street and down the block, spurring us on—and then my father joined in, cheering and peeling off his Jockey V-neck, tears sliding down his cheeks as he waved his shirt high above his head like a flag in a gunpowder-scented wind, as if we’d just won the war.

About the Author:

Derek Loosvelt was born in South Carolina and grew up in Michigan. He is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and received an MFA from The New School. He has written for Paper, The Independent, Brill's Content, ARTINFO, Inside.com, and CNBC.com, and has led creative writing workshops for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in New York. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

About the Artist:

Jason Polan is an artist living in New York. His work has been exhibited all over the United States, Europe, and Asia. He is a member of The 53rd Street Biological Society and Taco Bell Drawing Club. Polan is currently drawing every person in New York. Polan's work has appeared in The New York Times, Metropolis Magazine, McSweeney's, The New Yorker, and ARTnews. He has made over 84 books. Mr. Polan is from Michigan.