Granderson, Curtis 1981–

views updated

Curtis Granderson 1981–

Athlete

Curtis Granderson became one of the newest stars in the Detroit Tigers' line-up when the perennial underdog Major League Baseball (MLB) team made its first appearance in the World Series in 2006 in more than two decades. The Tigers failed to win the pennant that year, but Granderson entered baseball record books a season later by achieving the elusive “20-20-20-20” number, denoting twenty stolen bases, twenty home runs, twenty doubles (two-base hits), and twenty triples (three-base hits) in a single season. The center fielder is a fan favorite in the Motor City, with Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press asserting that Granderson “embodies the ambition, humility and realism” of the team in the twenty-first century. “Along with the Tigers, Granderson had a breakthrough 2006. Along with the Tigers, he must deal with heightened expectations. Along with the Tigers, he represents the unbridled hope of a dynasty to come.”

Granderson was born on March 16, 1981, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Both of his parents were schoolteachers, so they placed a premium on academic excellence over athletic prowess for Granderson and his sister Monica—for example, he was not allowed to participate in sports if his grades dipped below a B average. After graduating from Thornton Fractional South High in Lansing, Illinois, he stayed close to home for college thanks to a baseball scholarship offered to him by the University of Illinois at Chicago. During his junior season with the Flames, he held the number-two spot in National Collegiate Athletic Association standings with a .483 batting average. In 2002 the Detroit Tigers offered him a $469,000 signing bonus as their third-round draft pick, and he accepted it, making clear his intentions to finish a dual degree in business management and marketing.

Spent Five Seasons in the Minors

Later that year Granderson made his minor-league debut with the Oneonta Tigers, a New York-Penn League team that is part of the Detroit Tigers' farm system (leagues and teams whose players are developed for MLB status). He played the following season with the Erie Seawolves, also known as the Lakeland Tigers, another affiliate team of the Tigers, and in September of 2004 he was called up in the final weeks of the Tigers' season to play center field. At the start of the 2005 season he was one of the most promising new players with the Toledo Mud Hens, the Tiger organization's Triple A farm team, and he was once again brought up for late-season play with the Tigers in September. He hit his first home run wearing the Tiger uniform on September 15, 2005, in a game against the Minnesota Twins, and it was a hit that led the Tigers to a 4-2 win.

As the Tigers' new starting center fielder, Granderson was one of the most exciting rookies of the 2006 season. With each passing week, Granderson's performances heartened fans hoping for a decisive turnaround to their team's long history of poor season finishes; in a May 20 game against the Cincinnati Reds, he hit a ninth-inning home run that tied the game, and Detroit then beat the Reds in an extra inning with a score of 7-6. Entering the American League postseason playoffs as a wild card, the Tigers were matched against the legendary New York Yankees, who took Game 1. In Game 2, however, Granderson scored a triple that helped the Tigers win 4-3, and the team then vanquished the Yankees in Game 3 and Game 4 for the American League Division title. They then went on to beat the Oakland A's for the American League pennant, and with their Game 4 victory became a World Series contender for the first time since 1984.

Granderson played well during the World Series despite the difficult October weather in both Detroit and St. Louis, but his team lost its chance at another series pennant to the Cardinals in Game 4. Baseball-trivia fans were intrigued by Granderson's seventh-inning slip on the wet grass as he chased a fly ball, his misstep letting St. Louis score a pair of runs to take the lead at 3-1; during the 1968 World Series, when the Cardinals and Tigers had also faced off, St. Louis's center fielder Curt Flood had made a similar slip in Game 7, which helped Detroit take the MLB pennant that year.

Cracked Legendary Baseball Statistic

When the 2007 season started, Tiger fans were hopeful that Granderson and other stars on the team—particularly right fielder Magglio Ordonez and catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez—would bring the team to another World Series berth. That failed to happen, but the Tigers did finish the season 88-74, and two plays by Granderson became notable highlights of the year. In July, during a home game against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park, a fastball began heading toward center field, and “Granderson began a hard sprint toward the fence. When he got there, he vaulted into the air without breaking stride, reached over the top of the fence as he smacked into the wall like a bug on a windshield, and snow-coned the ball, which he held on to even as he landed hard,” wrote Sports Illustrated's Albert Chen of the memorable play, which was shown on evening sportscasts across the country later that day.

On September 10, 2007, during the first inning of a home game against the Seattle Mariners, Granderson stole his twentieth base of the season and entered the MLB record books as only the third player to achieve a 20-20-20-20 benchmark in a single season. The last player to achieve this magic number was baseball legend Willie Mays in 1957, and before that Frank “Wildfire” Schulte had done it back in 1911. Embarrassed by the standing ovation he received, from both fans and his teammates at the dugout, he was unsure of how to react, he told Morosi, the Detroit Free Press sportswriter. “Everyone started standing up, and I was trying to think, ‘OK, now what do I do?’” With the graciousness that has made him a fan favorite, he deflected the honor by gesturing to his team in the dugout, and then to the crowd.

At a Glance …

Born on March 16, 1981, in Blue Island, IL; son of Curtis Sr. and Mary Granderson. Education: Earned business management and business marketing degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago, 2003.

Career: Drafted by the Detroit Tigers, 2002; began career in 2002 with the Oneonta (NY) Tigers; also played center field for the Erie Seawolves and the Toledo Mud Hens; made major-league debut with the Tigers on September 13, 2004; became the Tigers' starting center fielder, 2006; Grand Kids Foundation, founder and spokesperson, 2006; Major League Baseball Players Association, alternate player representative and member of the licensing committee.

Addresses: Office—Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201.

In the off-season Granderson returns to his room at his parents' suburban Chicago home. He has also served with the MLB's Ambassador Program in Europe, conducting clinics and making public appearances in Italy, England, and the Netherlands. Back in Detroit he launched the Grand Kids Foundation to provide extra educational opportunities for students in a beleaguered Detroit public school system. Noting that both his parents had been teachers, and that his sister Monica was now a college professor, he explained that growing up in that type of household “helped to lay the groundwork for the success I've been able to have at such an early age,” a press release from the team quoted him as saying at the kickoff of a music, art, and essay competition.

Sources

Periodicals

Baseball Digest, October-November 2007, p. 44.

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 24, 2007.

Detroit Free Press, April 1, 2007; September 10, 2007.

New York Times, October 27, 2006; August 24, 2007.

Sports Illustrated, September 24, 2007, p. 50.

USA Today, October 18, 2006; August 29, 2007.

Online

“Curtis Granderson Teams with Detroit Public Schools for Baseball-Themed Art, Essay, and Music Contest,” DetroitTigers.org, http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20070416&content_id=1902825&vkey=pr_det&fext=.jsp&c_id=det (accessed December 5, 2007).

—Carol Brennan

About this article

Granderson, Curtis 1981–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article