Monroe's clutch homer is for mom

Monroe's tater beats Yanks

NEW YORK -- Craig Monroe spent Tuesday night taking his mom to her first Broadway play. Twenty-hour hours later, he was the show-stopper.

One out away from a doubleheader sweep, with a Yankee Stadium capacity crowd on its feet, Craig Monroe was looking at one person in the crowd. As he crossed home plate to punctuate his go-ahead three-run homer, sending the Tigers on their way to a 5-3 win over the Yankees in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader, he looked to the family section behind home plate, saw his mother and pointed.

Of all the clutch home runs Monroe has hit this year -- seven of his 23 home runs have come in the seventh inning or later with the Tigers tied, down a run or close enough to have the potential tying run on deck -- few of those shots have been as big as this one.

For the Tigers, it salvaged a day in which two solid starting pitching performances went unrewarded. For Monroe, it capped a trip in which he had a chance to give back to his mom.

"Marilyn Monroe is here in New York," he said. "And I'm thrilled."

That name was synonymous with the Yankees franchise years ago. The movie star of the same name, of course, was briefly married to Joe DiMaggio in one of the most famous marriages of the sporting and entertainment worlds.

Craig Monroe's mother, Marilyn, arrived in New York this week from Texarkana, Texas, with much less publicity. But it was a very big deal to her slugging son, who looked up to her as a tremendous athlete in her younger days.

"It really wasn't planned," he said of bringing her to New York for the series. "I wanted to do something for her. I wanted to do something special. Of course, you're going to do all the things like buy her a house and all those things you dream about as a kid of doing.

"But I wanted her to come here and enjoy the atmosphere of me playing in New York and being in New York -- Times Square, the lights, the whole thing -- because we're country people, and [I wanted her] to get a chance to get out and to see the things I see. She doesn't get out, so it's exciting for me that I get to share my big-league moments with somebody who was my idol."

In the process, he ended up doing something very big for the Tigers.

"Craig did what he's been doing for much of the season," manager Jim Leyland said. "He hit a big one for us."

Once Derek Jeter pulled the Yankees ahead in a three-run sixth inning, the Tigers put the potential tying run on base in each of their last three innings. Yankees relievers squashed the rallies in the seventh and eighth before Monroe bypassed a tie game in the ninth and went straight for the win.

Scott Proctor, who made one pitch in New York's 2-0 win in the first game of the doubleheader, came on for the ninth. After a one-out walk to Brandon Inge, Proctor retired Ivan Rodriguez for the second out and had two strikes on Curtis Granderson.

The struggling leadoff hitter worked the count full, then fouled off three straight pitches before taking ball four. It was a huge walk from a team known for its free swinging and a leadoff man who leads the American League in strikeouts.

"That was tremendous," Leyland said. "It was a great at-bat. He just worked him and worked him until he walked him."

It extended the inning for Monroe, who remembered his mom teasing him between games that he'd better do something while she was there.

"Curtis had a great at-bat," Monroe said, "and when he walked and I looked up [into the stands] and I saw her stand up, it's such a great feeling to look up and see her standing on her feet and nodding her head at me like, 'Let's go. Let's do it.' I had a long stare at her, and I honestly felt like we were in agreement that I was going to get it done."

Since Mariano Rivera had worked the ninth inning of the Yankees' 2-0 win in the afternoon, he wasn't coming out for this one, not even for an out. Proctor, now over 25 pitches, was staying in. Though Monroe has made pitchers work at times this season, he wasn't going to make him work if he saw a pitch to hit.

"We don't take too many pitches," he said. "We're a swinging team. Sometimes it gets us in trouble. Today, it worked. The good thing for me is that I got into a good hitting position, and I was ready for any pitch -- fastball, slider, whatever. And it was a pitch over the middle of the plate that I didn't miss."

Aside from Carlos Guillen's second-inning home run earlier in the game, it was the best swing by a Tiger on the day. The ball went out to left-center field and added to what is becoming a lengthy list of Monroe heroics.

Among the heroics, his ninth-inning home run on May 25 at Kansas City completed Detroit's comeback from a 6-0 first-inning deficit in a 13-8 victory. His sixth-inning grand slam on July 19 powered the Tigers to their first win over the White Sox this season after seven straight losses. His eighth-inning home run on Aug. 4 pulled the Tigers past the Indians for a 7-6 win.

Only David Ortiz, Jeff Francoeur and Albert Pujols have more home runs in close and late situations. But none of the other home runs came with Marilyn Monroe in the stands.

"When I was crossing the plate," Monroe said, "all I could do was just point at her and tell her that was for her."

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