© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

10/28/06 6:40 PM ET

Warm memories linger in chilly Detroit

Tigers return without ado, but fans cling to remnants of magic

DETROIT -- As bad as the weather turned in the Motor City on Saturday, with temperatures topping out in the low 40s and winds gusting up to 40 mph, the Tigers had been hoping to play some more baseball. Now that the World Series and their season are over, it felt even more like winter.

They returned from St. Louis in the early hours of Saturday morning without much fanfare. They didn't have a consolation party orchestrated, and the only plans for players over the coming days involved returning to Comerica Park on their own to pack their belongings and return to their respective homes.

"They could come over to my house and help me pack," closer Todd Jones joked after Friday's loss in Game 5.

Meanwhile, the traffic around Comerica Park on Saturday involved either equipment being packed up from what would've been Game 6 of the World Series or fans coming in for a high school football game across the street at Ford Field. By Sunday, what would've been an electric atmosphere for a Game 7 will instead be relative silence, with even the NFL's Detroit Lions on a bye week.

Yet around downtown, there were still some reminders of the magical run the Tigers had taken to the World Series with the city along for the ride. Among them, on the other side of Woodward Avenue, the marquee on both the Fox Theatre and State Theatre thanked the Tigers "for a great season."

More importantly, those who witnessed the magic won't soon forget how it unfolded, despite the disappointing end.

"It's pretty disappointing," said Fr. Steven Kelly, Rector at St. John's Episcopal Church next door to Comerica Park. "But soon after they lost [Friday] night, it kind of dawned on me: If you had told me last year that they would be in the World Series, I would've laughed. We really got two extra months [of games], because it's the first time in a while that the games in September meant something. I was more depressed about it last night at 12:30, and a bit more optimistic later looking forward to next year."

Like the theaters, Fr. Kelly changed his signs. Where his electronic board once read, "Pray for the Tigers," the sign reads, "Thank God for the Tigers."

Tigers fans around the country were going through similar mixed emotions. To get this far provided plenty of satisfaction in a campaign where simply a winning season would've made a lot of people happy. Yet to come so close to what would've been the franchise's first championship since 1984, only to fall three wins short, was for many a cruel surprise ending to this storybook plot.

It's ironic, since more than a few fans waited in fear of an eventual plummet after the Tigers rushed out to the best start in the Majors over the first couple months.

"As a lifelong Tiger fan, this was a dream season for me," local fan Jeff Machesky wrote in an e-mail. "Whether I was watching comeback victories on my TV during the summer or watching us roll over the Yankees and the A's from my seat in Comerica, I was sometimes almost near tears of joy. Kenny Rogers gave me so many postseason memories that will not be tarnished.

"Did I have flashbacks of 2003 in the last couple of World Series games? Yes, I did ... but it was the World Series!"

Because it's the World Series, of course, local politicians will have to pay up on some friendly wagers. Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is expected to send a gift package to St. Louis mayor Francis Slay next week that includes local treats such as Faygo and Vernor's soda, Better Made potato chips, Sanders hot fudge and some Avalon International breads. Eventually, he'll also be photographed wearing a Cardinals jersey.

But as nearly everyone pointed out, the bright side of at least getting to the World Series is that the offseason is four weeks shorter. The other change on Fr. Kelly's sign outside the church points out that Opening Day is April 2.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.