In the darkened third-floor hallway of the Wayne County-Detroit City Courthouse, Keith Jones and Queenie Hunter leaned over the marble staircase Friday morning, watching the courthouse traffic go by.
They looked bored. He is 29, she is 26. Four years ago, they were Detroit City police officers. Now, they are courthouse security officers, jobs they scrambled for after the city laid them off in 1980.
"Maybe if the Tigers win the World Series, the city will make a lot of money and the great (Mayor) Coleman Young will call us back," Jones said. "Four years ago, we thought we would be called right back. Four years ago."
Hunter and Jones both grew up in Detroit and both love their city. They even say they like Young, the three-term mayor who has had to lay them off along with about 1,600 other police officers in the last eight years.
No one in this struggling city is pretending that the Tigers' presence in the World Series is a cure-all. But, the success of the team has certainly given people something to feel good about.
"Detroit's had its share of troubles," said Robert Berg, Young's press secretary. "But, slowly, it's coming back. The Tigers have definitely been a positive factor in the city's life this summer. They're making a comeback, too. It's just that their comeback is a lot further along than the city's."
This is a city of 1.3 million people, part of a metropolitan area of close to 4 million. It has suffered through years of image problems, heavy crime, horrendous unemployment, union troubles and the general perception that Detroit was a cold, grimy town where cars were built.
Two years ago, the unemployment rate reached 20 percent. As of July, it was listed as 14.8 percent. Once, the auto industry produced more than 11 million cars in a year. Two years ago, it dropped below 5 million. This year, so far it has produced about 6.2 million cars. Automobile company union contracts are still a sticky and unresolved subject.
"It's great that the Tigers are doing well," said Russell Saunders, a 25-year-old flower salesman, as he stood outside the city-county office building. "But the Tigers winning ball games doesn't put food on the table.
"You want to see the real Detroit, you go that way," he said, pointing north, away from the Detroit River. "You go over in Cass Corridor. But don't go alone."
Those who run the city would rather an out-of-towner stick close to the river. There, one can find the 73-story Renaissance Center, an ultramodern $365 million complex finally opened five years ago amidst great controversy over its cost.
Down the street is Hart Plaza and farther down is Riverfront West, a 604-unit deluxe apartment complex. Across the street from the Renaissance Center, another complex, Millander Center ($75 million), is due to open next summer.
"This city's come a long way back," said Lucius Wells, an 83-year-old retired city engineer, as he sat on a bench at Hart Plaza reading a newspaper. "The crime rate is still high, but look at the things going up around here. People said Joe Louis Arena (20,000 seats) would never be built. Look down the street; there it is."
People here admit that they worried about what Detroit would look like this weekend to television viewers around the country after having seen San Diego the previous few days. That is why they take such pains to point out positive aspects of their city.
"We do not have the kind of image we would like to have," said Gerald Brock, chief judge pro-tem of the 36th District Court. "Look, California is the most scenic place in the country. We know we can't compete with that. There just aren't any palm trees in Detroit.
"But that doesn't mean we have to be looked on negatively. No one here will tell you that the Tigers doing well will turn the city around. But little things can add up to big things. We're hoping this can be a little thing that helps us along."
The tightness of the city budget can be seen just by walking the streets. Even on the main thoroughfares, there is none of the usual bunting or color or signs usually associated with a World Series city. Last year in Baltimore, you couldn't walk two feet without finding an Orioles insignia somewhere. If it weren't for men in business suits walking out of office buildings wearing Tigers caps, this could be just another big-city downtown.
"The city's kind of strapped," Berg said. "Let's face it, in a city where you've had to lay off police officers, taking money out of a budget for bunting probably isn't that great an idea."
That isn't to say the city isn't full of pride over its Tigers. The Tigers have drawn more than 1 million fans each of the last 20 years, regardless of record. This year, they drew 2.7 million.
"People in this city are baseball fans, always have been," said Joe Turner, who has driven a cab here since 1950. "The other sports don't have the tradition the Tigers do. Heck, the Lions and the Pistons don't even play downtown anymore. The Tigers are always there, always have been there.
"What are people going to do when the Tigers are bad? Drive 300 miles to Chicago? No. They want to see baseball, anyway. Now, when they're good, people get all excited. Even when you're out of work, they can't take baseball away from you."