Via Dan Shaughnessy, the Tigers’ skipper talks about how the GM bankruptcy affects the Tigers:
“We actually had a team meeting about it,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, where he had a job cutting windshields for GM cars. “I told the guys, ‘This is not a year to not run out ground balls.’ We get a check every two weeks, and there are people who just found out they ain’t getting a check. We’ve got to pinch ourselves and realize how lucky we are.”
The GM bankruptcy doesn’t impact me directly. I don’t have any family of friends who work there and anyone I care about deeply left Detroit years ago. To the extent I’m affected, it’s the same way most people are affected: indirectly via macroeconomic forces.
But there are some random strands of my DNA that are tied up in the domestic auto industry, and they’re making all of this rather difficult for me. My great grandfather came to this country from Romania at the turn of the last century and struggled like hell to feed his family until the day he got a job finishing woodwork for the dashboards on Cadillacs. My dad grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, which in those days was like on campus housing for the Ford Motor Company. The Ford family, with the help of their toadie, Mayor-for-life Orville Hubbard, did everything they could to make life miserable for any non-white, non-Christians who dared move to Dearborn back then, but most folks in Dearborn loved Ford like a boy loves his momma. Though neither of my parents worked for GM, I lived the first eleven years of my life in Flint, the most GM-dominated town there ever was. Yes, malaise was just over the horizon, but when I was in Flint salaries were still high and unemployment was still low. Everyone on my block worked at the Chevy Truck and Bus plant at the corner of Bristol and Van Slyke, and they lived very, very well all things considered.
Intellectually I realize what happened to the U.S. auto industry. Complacency, inefficiency, laziness and a business model that only made sense if the rest of the world was reduced to rubble (which it was, by the way, when the business model was conceived) meant that life as we knew it in southeastern Michigan in the mid-to-late 20th century was utterly unsustainable. There was no way that GM was ever going to avoid bankruptcy and, truth be told, it probably should have gone that way a hell of lot longer ago than it did. As an institution, I am more than happy to say good riddance to the domestic auto industry as we knew it.
But institutions are abstractions. People are not. Whatever the reasons and whoever is to blame, the people in Michigan are hurting like hell today, and based on my upbringing, I have a bit clearer a picture of what those people look like than some people do (hint: the popular caricature of the obnoxious UAW worker with an overactive sense of entitlement is about as prevalent as any other caricature created by idiots with an agenda).
I think those people are strong enough to tolerate Gerald Laird dogging it down to first on a grounder once in a while, but it’s nice of Jim Leyland to be able to put himself in the fans’ shoes and, like Baker in the previous item, say something his audience needs to hear.