Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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May 30, 1984 Tigers 2, A’s 1 (37-9)
Big players come up in big ways, and two big players came up big in this one.
To set the stage, Juan Berenguer was cruising along. Two hits through four innings. Then the wheels came off the wagon. An error and three walks led Oakland to the go ahead run in the fifth. Then with the bases loaded, Captain hook was true to form and brought in his horse from the pen, Willie Hernandez. With two outs and an inherited bases loaded, got Mike Davis to ground out to end the inning and stop the damage.
The Tigers would answer immediately in the sixth inning. Barbero Garbey tripled to lead off the inning. And then with one out and Garbey at third, future Tigers Tony Phillips made an error that allowed Garbey to score and tie up the game.
Hernandez would shutdown the A’s through the eighth, and in the top half of the ninth, with one out, Kirk Gibson, known for his clutch hits, jacked a solo shot to give the Tigers the lead for good. Aurilio Lopez finished the game to earn his seventh save.
May 29, 1984 A’s 8, Tigers 5 (36-9)
Oakland really pummelled Milt Wilcox, who dropped to 6-2. By the end of the fourth inning, he’d be gone, and the score was 8-1. Not a whole lot to say about this one. Chet Lemon hit his ninth homer, and only one other Tiger, Barbero Garbey, had an extra base hit.
And not to get too far away from the 1984 season, but I’ve never been a big fan of the save statistic. I wrote about it and John Hiller in a past column, but in this game, Oakland’s closer, Bill Caudill, earned his tenth save of the season. Oakland was a sub-.500 team, but using the benchmark statistic for closers, you could make the arguement that Caudill was more effective then either Willie Hernandez and Aurilio Lopez, both of whom had a lower save total.
In fact, Caudill would end the season with 36 saves, four more then Cy Young and MVP winning Willie Hernandez. Interestlingly enough, two relievers finished in the top three of the MVP balloting in 1984. Willie of course won it, but Dan Quisenberry came in third. They also finished first and second in the Cy Young. As best as I can tell, 1984 was the only time relievers were as represented at the top of the ballots for either award.
May 28, 1984 Tigers 6, A’s 2 (36-8)
A four run first sealed this one pretty early as Jack Morris didn’t give the A’s much to work with. He improved to 10-1, went the distance, and only gave up six hits while striking out eight. On top of that, neither of the two runs he gave up were earned.
Jack Morris was definitely the Tigers “ace.” This term gets thrown around a lot, but in my mind, it’s basically a great pitcher who’s also a losing streak stopper. Someone who goes out, and no matter how bad the team is doing, does what it takes to end that streak. And that’s exactly what Morris did here. He’d have his troubles later in the year (10-1 was sort of his pinnacle, as he’d go 9-10 the rest of the way), but the Tigers needed a win here to stop the three game skid.
I also specifically remember at around this point was when the “30 win” talk began to heat up.
Lance Parrish hit his eighth homer of the season, and Alan Trammell went three for four.
May 26, 1984 Mariners 9, Tigers 5 (35-7)
This one was over early. Starter Juan Berenguer, who would suffer from inconsistency throughout the season, could only manage to get one out before getting pulled. In all he gave up four runs. Three of the four Tigers relievers gave up runs in what could only be termed as a blowout.
The Tigers fought back with three in the top half of the ninth, but they couldn’t manage to pull off the nearly impossible. Kirk Gibson hit his sixth homerun, and Rusty Kuntz hit his second.
This had to be one of the oddest series of the year. After coming off of the high of the 35-5 start, the Tigers would get swept in Seattle (as we’ll see the finale tomorrow). And in all three games, they beat them pretty handily. Seattle had gotten off to a fair start (20-24 at the beginning), but they were still a sub-.500 team.
Attendace was also unusual for this weekend series. The Friday and Sunday games drew 15,000 and 12,000, but the Saturday game drew 41,000. Maybe they were giving something away in Seattle for that Saturday game.
May 25, 1984 Mariners 7, Tigers 3 (35-6)
It all had to end eventually. But to be sitting near the end of May, and to only have six losses, is quite an accompishment. The major league consecutive road victory streak record remained intact, with an added name, but it wouldn’t be broken.
Milt Wilcox never got on track in this one. He gave up three quick runs in the first two innings, and then gave up three more in the fifth inning. He walked with his first loss of the season. The pen pitched well, but the Tigers couldn’t put the runs on the board to come back.
The only real hitting highlight was Alan Trammell hitting his sixth homerun. Darrell Evans also put up a two hit game.
May 24, 1984 Tigers 5, Angels 1 (35-5)
Jack Morris is one of those players who ends up in history making situations. He’d later do it for the Twins in his classic 10 inning, Game 7 shutout during the 1991 World Series. He’d also be a part of history again in 1984 as he’d win the game most people recognize as what the 1984 Tigers embodied, their 35-5 start.
Morris would get off to a shaky start, giving up two hits and one unearned run in the first. He then went on to only give up two hits the rest of the way, while ending up with 10 strikeouts.
Alan Trammell’s two run homer in the fourth led to a four run inning that put the Tiger’s up for good. Lance Parrish added a solo shot in the sixth, but it was a run they wouldn’t end up needing.
With the win, the Tiger’s improved to 35-5, the best start ever over the course of the first quarter of the season (and as far as I could determine, the best 40 game stretch ever). They broke an AL record with their 17th consecutive road victory, and also tied the 1916 New York Giant’s major league record for consecutive road victories. It was truly a memorable day, and the 35-5 start would go down as possibly the Tiger’s greatest single accomplishment in the history of the franchise.
May 23, 1984 Tigers 4, Angels 2 (34-5)
Lance Parrish hit a two run homerun in the seventh to lead the Tigers to their record tying 16th consecutive road victory. Only the 1912 Washington Senators had won as many road games in a row as the 1984 Detroit Tigers.
Dan Petry, who was born Palo Alto, CA, 10 minutes away from the Angels ballpark, threw another gem of a game to pick up his seventh win. He walked two and gave up five hits, but the only real damage was the two run shot he gave up to Doug DeCinces in the fourth inning. Willie Hernandez pitched two perfect innings and struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his seventh save.
May 22, 1984 Tigers 3, Angels 1 (33-5)
It’s amazing how the great teams get exactly what they need to win. A few games ago, the Tiger’s needed a five run first inning to beat Oakland. Good starts would garner them a sweep, despite some late inning comeback attempts.
And things didn’t change here. If your offense only scores three runs, you’re not likely to win the game. But Juan Berenguer and Aurilio Lopez combined for a five hitter to give the Tiger’s their 33rd win of the season.
Berenguer struck out nine batters in six innings to get his third win of the season. He’d walk three and give up three walks, but only one Angel, Rod Carew on a solo shot, would cross the plate. Aurilio Lopez would shut out the Angels the rest of the way to lead the Tigers to victory.
41,000 fans would come out to see the Angels play the Tigers in Anaheim. On a Tuesday no less. And with the win, the Tigers won their 15th straight on the road, one shy of the AL record.
May 18, 1984 Tigers 8, A’s 4 (30-5)
This game would hardly got past the fifth inning, but it had the makings of high scoring one. The Detroit Tigers scored five in the first, and in total, scored in four of the five innings they batted in. Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson both drove in two runs, and Barbero Garbey and Darrell Evans hit homeruns.
Dan Petry went the distance to garner his sixth win. He’d struggle, giving up seven hit and four runs. But the bats were there for him. Another 40,000+ crowd came out to see the hometeam win their 30th of the season.
May 16, 1984 Tigers 10, Mariners 1 (29-5)
The Mariners never had a chance in this one. Five Tiger runs in the first put this one out of reach. Eight different Tigers drove in runs, and John Grubb hit his third homerun of the season.
Milt Wilcox improved to 5-0, pitching six innings of four hit ball. Bair, Hernandez, and Lopez all pitched a shutout inning a piece to finish the game up.
May 15, 1984 Tigers 6, Mariners 4 (28-5)
When your starter walks five, and your team makes three errors, you don’t usually expect to win. The Tigers almost blew a 6-1 lead in this one, but held on with some good relief pitching by Willie Hernandez.
Jack Morris notched his seventh win, but he walked five and gave up four runs. Willie Hernadez came into the game in the eighth, and was awesome. He struck out five of the six batters he faced, and earned his fifth save.
The Tigers bats showed some patience as they scored six runs on only five hits. They walked twelve times. Kirk Gibson drove in two without getting a hit (two sac. flies) and Howard Johnson had a two run single.
May 14, 1984 Tigers 7, Mariners 5 (27-5)
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to get back to their winning ways. They struggled in this one, but two runs in the bottom of the eighth finished off the Mariners. Alan Trammell followed up two hitless games with a three for five outing, which included his fourth homer of the year. Rusty Kuntz drove in the go ahead run, and went three for four with three runs.
The pitching wasn’t so great. Dan Petry struggled through five innings, but held the Mariners to three runs. Doug Bair, who had been rock solid and had a 1.174 ERA in 6 relief appearances going into the game gave up two runs in only two innings of work. Aurelio Lopez did the job though, as he shut down the Mariners in the final two innings and picked up his fourth win.
May 11, 1984 Tigers 8, Angels 2 (26-4)
The Detroit Tigers were the toast of the town as they broke the record for the best start by a team ever. This one wasn’t much of a contest, as the Tigers went up 2-0 in the second, and never looked back.
Six different Tigers had multihit games, and Dave Bergman drove in three runs.
Milt Wilcox pitched six strong shutout innings to improve to 4-0, and Willie Hernandez, although shaky, finished the game off. 44,187 fans came out to see the Tigers break the record set by the 1955 Dodgers, and the Tigers didn’t let them down.
May 9, 1984 Tigers 3, Royals 1 (25-4)
This one was all about pitching. Dan Petry threw 6 2/3 strong innings before walking two batters in the seventh. Sparky then handed the ball to Aurelio Lopez, and Senior Smoke simply did the job. He got out of the jam in the seventh, and walked only one batter in 2 1/3 innings to completely shut down the Royals the rest of the way. En route, he’d strike out four, and garner his fourth save of the season.
A lot of winning championships is catching magic in a bottle. If you look at most of the “surprise” championship teams, you have players having career years. Aurilio Lopez was having one of those years, and was an integral part of the Tiger’s championship run. He set a career high in innings pitched, won 10 games, and saved 14. And this was in a season where another reliever on the same team won the MVP and the Cy Young. Lopez basically gave Sparky a closer quality pitcher from both the right (Lopez) and left (Hernandez) side.
With the win, the Tigers tied the 1955 Dodgers mark for the best start in history. a mark which I believe still holds.
May 12, 1984 Angels 4, Tigers 2 (26-5)
It took a 250 game winner to do it, but the Detroit Tigers finally lost their fifth game of the season. Tommy John went the distance, giving up only eight hits and two runs. Lemon and Whitaker both had two hits, but only once did the Tigers garner more then one hit in a single inning.
Sparky Anderson was ejected for arguing an interference call in the ninth inning. But the fans at this point were really getting into the team, as another 38,000 fans came out to see the boys.
May 8, 1984 Tigers 5, Royals 2 (24-4)
For most of the early 1980s, when you think of closers, you thought of Dan Quisenberry. With his submarine pitching style, Dan led the league in saves in five of six seasons from 1980 through 1985. He wasn’t a big strikeout guy, but he rarely walked batters, and had a career 1.175 WHIP. He was also a more durable closer then people are now are used to, as during his prime years, he never pitched less then 128 innings.
1984 was one of those league leading years, for Dan Quisenberry but for the first time in his career, he made the BIG mistake. With the Tigers down 2-1, Dan inherited the bases loaded from starter Bud Black, and Alan Trammell made them all pay as he sent the ball over the leftfield fence for his third homer and first grand slam of the season. It was the first time Dan Quisenberry had ever given up a grand slam in his career.
Give credit to Jack Morris as well. He pitched another complete game, giving up only seven hits and two runs, while striking out five.
May 7, 1984 Tigers 10, Royals 3 (23-4)
This one was actually close through five innings, and then the Tigers bat heated up for eight runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Chet Lemon had another great game, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs, and Alan Trammell went three for five with two runs. At this point, Lemon had 27 RBIs in 27 games, and Tram was hitting .373 (Information provided by Sparky Anderson’s “Bless You Boys”).
Juan Berenguer pitched into the seventh inning, and Doug Bair nailed the door shut the rest of the way. Another day, another win.
May 6, 2004 Detroit 6, Indians 5, 12 innings (22-4)
The Detroit Tigers looked like they were going to drop this one, but a 4 run eighth, which included three hits and four walks tied the game up after the Tigers were down 5-1. Then an RBI single by Lou Whitaker in the 12th put this one away.
Milt Wilcox struggled in his five innings (although he did strikeout five), but the pen combined for seven shutout innings (only four hits) to let the Tigers back into the game.
May 5, 1984 Tigers 6, Indians 5 (21-4)
Even the good teams have bad overall games where one players rises above the rest and carries everyone on his back. And that’s exactly what Chet Lemon did in this one. He got the Tigers off to a good start with a two run single in the first inning. Then he’d score runs in the fourth and the sixth innings (the sixth inning run tied the game). Finally, in the eighth, he hit a solo homer to give the Tigers an insurance run that they’d end up needing. In all, he went four for four, scored three, and drove in three. He had four of the Tiger’s ten hits, and either scored or drove in five of the Tigers six total runs.
Sparky’s fourth starter by committee pulled together another win, as Glenn Abbott would pitch 5 1/3 decent innings to garner his second win of the season. Aurelio Lopez got the two inning save.
May 4, 1984 Tigers 9, Indians 2 (20-4)
The Detroit Tigers gave Dan Petry the support he needed in this one. The scoreboard doesn’t indicate it, but he really struggled. He only lasted five innings, and he gave up six hits and six walks. In the fourth, he walked three batters, but got out of the inning unscathed.
Willie Hernandez, on the other hand, was simply incredible as he slammed the door on any chance of an Indians comeback. He pitched four shutout innings, gave up only two hits, and struck out four, while earning his third save of the season.
Lou Whitaker was the hitting star in this one, as he went four for five, and scored two runs. Larry Herndon went three for five. Lance Parrish drove in two, one each on two sacrafice flies.
May 3, 1984 Red Sox 1, Tigers 0 (19-4)
A few firsts in this one. This was the first time the Tigers were shut out. It was also their first two game losing streak. And finally, it was Jack Morris’ first loss, despite throwing a heck of game.
His only real blemish was an eighth inning solo homer to Dwight Evans, but that would be all the Sox would need. For the second game in a row, the Tigers out hit the other team, but walked away with a loss.
The Tigers threatened in the ninth, so once again, they didn’t go down without a fight. Lance Parrish singled with one out and Larry Herndon walked. But Chet Lemon flew out, and Kirk Gibson struck out to end the game.
May 1, 1984 Tigers 11, Red Sox 2 (19-2)
When it was all said and done, the Tigers had racked up eleven runs on sixteen hits. Rusty Kuntz, Barbero Garbey, and Chet Lemon all had three hits (Chet had two dingers), and Trammell extended his hitting streak to eighteen games with a double and single. Eight different Tigers scored runs, and probably the oddest line was that only three players had RBIs. Kuntz had three, and Lemon and Garbey both had four.
Milt Wilcox had a fine game as well, as he pitched eight, while giving up only seven hits and two runs (one earned) as he advanced to 3-0.
And with the win, the Tigers sat on a 19-2 record, giving them a .905 winning percentage. This would be the last time they’d be above the .900 mark, but it just shows how impressive this run was. At this point, they were 16-3 away from their fabulous 35-5 run. And while 16-3 is very impressive, the fact that they started 19-2 to get there makes it equally impressive.
And I’m going to do some checking, but if someone can answer this, I’d appreciate it. What is the record for the best 40 game stretch (not just to begin the season, but at anytime during the season)? Do the Tigers have it at 35-5, or has someone gone 36-4?
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