Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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If there was one player I most tried to mimic as a kid, it was Chet Lemon. The way he’d casually go back, stand under the ball, and just sort of hold his mitt under the ball, letting it fall into his glove was classic. Rarely did he catch anything two handed, and rarely did I. In fact I still catch grief when I play softball, since I basically conditioned myself to catch the ball without both hands.
1984 was a great season for Chet Lemon. What’s funny is, I don’t remember him for a great catch. And I don’t remember him for a clutch homer. What I do remember him for is going back on a fly ball, losing it in the sun, and getting clocked in the head. I vividly remember sitting in friend’s basement and watching Gibby and a couple other Tigers carrying Chet off the field.
Chet Lemon didn’t set any career marks in 1984, but he probably had his best all-around season. His twenty homers were second best to the year before, and his batting average, on base percentage, and slugging were all above his career marks.
Here’s the numbers:
Runs 77 Slg% .495
Runs Created 88
Batting Runs Above Replacement 41
Fielding Runs Above Replacement 41
Equalized Average .295
Wins Above Replacement Player 9.0
Chet Lemon had a WARP of 9.0, which tied him with Tram for the team lead, so he was as much of an MVP on this team then anyone. Gibby had a monster season at the plate, but his defensive skills (or lack of) hurt when it came to WARP.
And it looks like Blade doesn’t have much to argue about here. In fact he conceded a lot more easily then I thought.
Scorecard – 1975 Reds 5, 1984 Tigers 2
1984 World Series Game 5 – October 14, 1984
Tigers 8, Padres 4
Tigers Win Best of Seven Series 4-1
The score looks like a blowout, but what a game. The Tigers took the series in five, and beat the Padres to win the World Series at Tiger Stadium. In all, they went 4-0 in the playoffs in front of their home fans.
For the fourth straight game, the Tigers got to the Padres very early. Lou Whitaker led off the game with a single, and was forced out on a fielders choice by Alan Trammell. Kirk Gibson then hit the first of two big blasts to put the Tigers up 2-0. Lance Parrish then singled and stole second, was moved to third on a single by Larry Herndon, and was then driven in on a single by Chet Lemon. Starter Mark Thurmond was then pulled after only 1/3 of an inning in which he gave up five hits.
Reliever Andy Hawkins would get the Padres out of that jam. Larry Herndon was caught stealing third, and Barbero Garbey popped out to end the inning. Starter Dan Petry had a nice three run cushion to work with.
After giving up a single in each of the first two innings, Dan Petry gave up his first run in the third on an RBI single by Steve Garvey. In the fourth, he gave up a lead off walk to Kurt Bevacqua. Garry Templeton doubled to put men at second and third when Bobby Brown drove in Bevacqua on a sacrafice fly. Alan Wiggins singled to drive in Garry Templeton, and all of a sudden, we had a tie ball game. Sparky had seen enough, and went to Bill Scherrer in his pen, who got Tony Gwynn to fly out for the final out of the inning.
The Tigers would strike back in the bottom of the fifth. Kirk Gibson, who did it all in this game, singled and moved to second on a fly out by Lance Parrish. Larry Herndon and Chet Lemon walked to load the bases. Gibby then scored on a sac. fly (it was actually a pop out to second base) to put the Tigers up 4-3.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers added a run on a solo homerun by Lance Parrish. With two innings left to play, the Tigers had a two run cushion that was short lived as the Padres put another run on the board with a solo shot by Kurt Bevacqua. The Tigers now had a razor thin one run margin, and they had one chance to put up some insurance runs for Willie Hernandez.
And insurance he got. In the bottom of the eighth, Marty Castillo walked, and Lou Whitaker bunted himself on. Alan Trammell moved them both over with a bunt of his own before one of the memorable at bats in Tiger’s history happened. Kirk Gibson came to the plate and hit a massive three run shot off of Goose Gossage to give the Tigers a comfortable four run lead. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was shown often during rain outs, where Goose Gossage talked the pitching coach down from intentionally walking Gibby, claiming he would strike him out. Gibson would finish the game three for four, with three runs and five RBIs.
The Padres managed a single in the ninth, but never really threatened. Willie Hernandez earned the save, the Tigers won the World Series. They were World Champions.
1984 World Series Game 3 – October 12, 1984
Tigers 5, Padres 2
Tigers Lead Best of Seven Series 2-1
Milt Wilcox got the nod in game three after pitching an incredible game a week before in the ALCS. He started out this game on a decent note. He let a baserunner on in each of the first two innings, but neither crossed the plate.
In the bottom of the third, the Tigers once again gave their starter a nice cushion. Chet Lemon got a one out single, and moved over to second on a Tim Lollar wild pitch. Darrell Evans moved him over to third base on a deep fly, and then Marty Castillo came up big, and hit a two run shot to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
The home team wasn’t done though. Lou Whitaker drew a walk, and was driven in on an Alan Trammell double. A Kirk Gibson walk and a Lance Parrish infield single loaded the bases before Tim Lollar got yanked. Reliever Greg Booker then walked in Tram, and then finally stopped the bleeding by getting Barbero Garbey to fly out (he also led off the inning with a fly out).
After only two innings, the Tigers had a 4-0 lead, and they had knocked out the Padres starter. This was a trend throughout the series, and the four runs the Tigers scored actually stood. The Tigers added a run in the third when Kirk Gibson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Padres did manage to tag Milt Wilcox for a run in the third. He pitched six before handing the ball to Bill Scherrer who gave up a run in the seventh. Willie Hernandez then summarily ended any chance of the Padres coming back by throwing 2 1/3 innings of one hit ball.
With the win, the tide had once again turned in the Tiger’s favor. For the second straight game, they forced the Padres to work deep into their pen, and never really gave them a chance to come back with strong pitching.
1984 American League Championship SeriesOctober 5, 1984 Tigers 1, Royals 0 Tigers Win Best of Five Series 3-0
I really enjoy a good old pitching duel. One of my favorite games was Jack Morris’ 10 inning shutout in the 1992 World Series. This one was just as good, and it send the Tigers to the World Series for the first time in 16 years.
Things started out innocently enough. The Tigers drew first blood in the second. Barbero Garbey led off with a single, and was forced out at second by Chet Lemon. Darrell Evans singled, sending Lemon to third. And then Marty Castillo hit into a fielders choice that scored Chet Lemon.
And that was it. The Tigers managed only one other hit the rest of the game, as Charlie Leibrandt threw the game of his life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough.
Milt Wilcox went eight innings, giving up only two hits, two walks, and he struck out eight Royals. The Royals first hit came in the fourth, and the second came in the eighth. They were both singles, and no Royal made it past first base off of Milt.
In the ninth, Willie Hernandez came in to finish things out. He gave up a single to Hal McRae with two outs, but like Wilcox, he didn’t let the runner past first base. The Tigers were going to the World Series, and they did it grand fashion.
Things did not go as well for the Chicago Cubs. After taking a 2-0 lead in the NLCS, the San Diego Padres won all three home games to earn the right to face the Tigers in the series.
September 26, 1984 Brewers 7, Tigers 5 (102-56)
The Tigers would have to wait for another game to have a shot at tying the 1968 Detroit Tigers 103 wins, and the for one of the few times this season, it was the bullpen to blame.
Milt Wilcox cruised through first five innings, giving up only one run on four hits. Roger Mason gave up two runs in the sixth to narrow the Tigers lead to 4-3. Then with the Tigers up 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Aurelio Lopez gave up four runs on three hits and walk, which included a two run double by Ben Oglivie. After 68 games pitched and 136 1/3 innings, Aurelio Lopez finally lost a game.
September 24, 1984 Tigers 7, Brewers 3 (101-55)
Juan Berenguer joined fellow Detroit Tigers Jack Morris, Milt Wilcox, Dan Petry, and Aurelio Lopez as pitchers who achieved ten or more wins. He pitched five solid innings, giving up only five hits and one run, before yielding to the pen.
September 22, 1984 Tigers 6, Yankees 0 (99-55)
Other then Jack Morris’ no-hitter, Dan Petry had probably the next five best pitching performances for the 1984 Tigers. And he saved some of his best stuff for last, as he went the distance, gave up only four hits, and struck out nine. He won his eighteenth of the season it what would be his final start of the regular season.
September 12, 1984 Orioles 3, Tigers 1 (93-53)
Roger Mason made his first career start, going four innings and giving up three runs. The rookie would be traded the following year to the San Fransisco Giants for Alejandro Sanchez. Randy O’Neal made his major league debut in relief of Roger Mason, pitching three solid innings of one hit ball. O’Neal’s career would run through the 1990 season, and he played for five different teams, mostly as a long reliever/spot starter.
Just a quick note on Alejandro Sanchez. He played six seasons, and racked up 214 at bats, mostly as an outfielder. Most notable about his stats are the fact that he walked only one time in his entire career, and it wasn’t until his next to last season with the Twins.
September 7, 1984 Tigers 7, Blue Jays 4 (90-51)
Wow, what a game. Up 4-0, future Tiger Doyle Alexander was cruising along until the top half of the eighth inning. Dave Bergman doubled to lead things off before John Grubb ground out to short. Lou Whitaker drew a walk, and then Alan Trammell flew out to right. Then Mr. Clutch, Kirk Gibson, hit a three run shot to cut the lead to one.
Lance Parrish drew a walk before Alexander was relieved by Jimmy Key. Barbero Garbey singled, and then Larry Herdon walked to load the bases. Then Chet Lemon drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game up at four a piece.
Willie Hernandez then came in to slam the door shut. Neither team scored until the tenth when Dave Bergman hit a three run shot off of Blue Jays reliever Ron Musselman. Willie Hernandez walked one in the bottom half of the tenth, but that was all they could do against him as he earned his ninth win.
With the win, the Tiger’s magic number was now 13. They definitely controlled their own destiny, they just had to fulfill it.
August 30, 1984 Mariners 2, Tigers 1 (87-47)
Starters Jack Morris and Jim Beattie both took shutouts into the eighth inning before either scored. In the bottom of the eighth, the wheels came off the wagon for Morris though. Spike Owen led off with a walk. Then second basemen Jack Perconte laid down a bunt, and according to Retrosheet.org, Morris dove for the pop up, missed it, then three the ball into rightfield while sitting down. To make matters worse, Kirk Gibson then threw the ball into the Mariners dugout trying to throw Perconte out at third base. So the Mariners scored both of their runs without even getting a hit.
In all, Morris pitched a great game though. He went the distance, gave up only four hits, and struck out eight.
The Tigers tried to answer in the ninth. Barbaro Garbey drew a lead off walk before Chet Lemon grounded out. Larry Herndon then also drew a walk to put runners at first and second. Howard Johnson singled to load the bases, but Lou Whitaker struck out to leave it up to Alan Trammell. Tram came through by drawing a walk and driving in a run, but Kirk Gibson grounded to second to end the game.
August 26, 1984 Tigers 12, Angels 6 (86-45)
Kirk Gibson had a monster day, going three for four, scoring three, and driving in two on two solo homers. Marty Castillo went three for four as well, also scoring three times and hitting a solo shot himself. And Chet Lemon had the blow that set the stage for the win, as he hit a grand slam in top of third.
Milt Wilcox cruised to his fifteenth win, going six innings, striking out five, and giving up five hits. Doug Bair struggled, but by the time the Angels even scored the run, the Tigers had eleven. Aurelio Lopez closed the game getting the final four batters out in order.
August 24, 1984 Angels 5, Tigers 3 (84-45)
Dan Petry gave up four runs in the first inning, and that was basically the difference in the game. He’d end up calming down and actually finishing the game, but homeruns by Chet Lemon and Marty Castillo weren’t enough for the Tigers to ever get the lead.
Angel’s starter Mike Witt threw a nice game, going eight innings while giving up eight hits and three runs, while striking out six.
August 20, 1984 Tigers 14, A’s 1 (82-44)
Not even with the way Jack Morris had been pitching could he have blown this one. The Tigers scored fourteen runs on twenty hits. Larry Herndon, Doug Baker, and Darrell Evans had three hits a piece, and Chet Lemon drove in three runs.
By the end of third, the Tigers had a 6-1 lead. With five in the fifth, they went into double figures. Jack Morris won his sixteenth by pitching seven innings of three hit ball, and Dave Rozema pitched two solid innings of relief.
August 6, 1984 Tigers 9, Red Sox 7 (73-38)
Dan Petry didn’t have his best stuff, as he gave up six runs and eleven hits in only 4 2/3 innings, but Bob Ojeda was just as worse, as the Tigers scored six on the Red Sox starter as well. Aurelio Lopez pitched 2 2/3 to improve to 8-0, and Willie Hernandez picked up his 23rd save.
August 6, 1984 Red Sox 10, Tigers 2 (73-39)
A drubbing, plain and simple. Carl Willis got one batter before getting pulled, and Doug Bair didn’t much better. By the end of the fourth inning, the Tigers were down 9-1. Rookie starter Roger Clemens threw a solid eight innings, holding the Tigers to six hits while striking out nine.
July 28, 1984 Red Sox 3, Tigers 2 (69-32)
The 70th win of the season keeps on eluding Detroit, as Jack Morris pitched his best game in a while, but still came away with the loss. Jack threw seven innings, giving up eight hits and three runs while striking out seven. But three Boston pitchers held the Tigers to two runs, while striking out ten.
Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon, and Kirk Gibson all had two hits. Lou hit his sixth homer of the year.
July 27, 1984 Tigers 9, Red Sox 1 (69-30)
Another masterful outing by Dan Petry led the way for the Tigers. Dan went the distance in a six hitter, and it wasn’t until the ninth inning, when Rich Gedman hit a solo shot, that a run crossed the plate.
Chet Lemon hit his fourteenth homer, and Lance Parrish his 21st. The Tigers scattered nine hits, and they were all by different players.
July 27, 1984 Red Sox 4, Tigers 0 (69-31)
Bob Ojeda turned the table on the Tigers as he actually outdid Dan Petry in the earlier game. Ojeda pitched a three hitter, striking out five.
Glenn Abbot got shelled, lasting only 3 1/3. He gave up 10 hits and four runs. The bullpen shut the Red Sox down, but the Tigers couldn’t figure out Ojeda. Berenguer, Monge, Bair, and Lopez all pitched shut out innings (2 2/3 by Berenguer).
The prospect of a 70-30 start would have been nice, but the Tigers fell just short. Another loss by the Blue Jays put the Tigers up by a season high twelve games though, so the team had to be feeling good about itself.
July 21, 1984 Tigers 7, Rangers 6 (65-29)
Bullpen, Bullpen, Bullpen.
Tiger starter Glenn Abbott got shelled in the third inning, giving up five runs, and getting chased out of the game. But Sid Monge, who was used only sporadically up until this point, pitched four innings of three hit ball to let the Tigers come back.
The Tigers would get five big runs in the bottom of the fifth to finish off the Rangers. Ruppert Jones had a one run single, Chet Lemon a two run double, and Howard Johnson a two run single. Willie Hernandez pitched the eighth and ninth, giving up only one hit and earning his nineteenth save.
July 20, 1984 Tigers 3, Rangers 1 (64-29)
Dave Rozema pitched eight solid innings to give the Tigers the win. Six hits and one run were all he gave up. Willie Hernandez garnered his eighteenth save with a perfect ninth inning.
Future Tiger Frank Tanana pitched nearly as well, but he gave up a two run shot to Barbero Garbey in the third, and a solo shot to Chet Lemon in the fourth. He’d go the distance, but take his ninth loss of the season. Chet Lemon ended up with three of the eight Tiger hits.
July 16, 1984 Tigers 7, White Sox 1 (61-28)
Glenn Abbott pitched his best game of the season, throwing a five hit, one run complete game. Glenn Abbott was used as fourth/fifth starter in certain situations, racking up eight starts over thirteen games. After a rough stretch, the Tigers ended up releasing him on August 14, 1984, ending his major league career.
Kirk Gibson was the hitting star, driving in three runs and scoring three on a homerun and a triple. Chet Lemon had two hits, and Lou Whitaker and Ruppert Jones also drove in runs.
July 15, 1984 Tigers 6, Twins 2 (60-28)
Dave Rozema pitched six strong innings and Aurilio Lopez pitched 3 2/3 innings of one hit ball to earn his eleventh save of the season. The two pitchers each had five strikeouts.
Dave Rozema had some nice years for the Tigers, but never reached his full potential. In 1977, he was the Tigers Rookie of the Year after going 15-7 with a 3.09 ERA. The fact that he struck out only 92 batters in 218 1/3 innings sort of gave everyone a reflection that this first season might have been an anamoly. He finished eighth in the Cy Young voting that year, but he’d never reach double digits in wins again.
By 1984, Dave was near the end of his career. He did have a fine season, as all the Tigers seemed to do that year, playing the role of spot starter and long reliever for the Tigers. He pitched 101 innings, and racked up an impressive ERA of 3.74.
Lou Whitaker went four for five, and Darrell Evans hit had three RBIs and a homerun. Lemon, Bergman, and Howard Johnson all had two hits.
July 14, 1984 Tigers 6, Twins 5 (59-28)
Chalk up another win for the bullpen. Starter Milt Wilcox pitched 5 2/3 mediocre innings before leaving the game with the Tigers down 4-3. Doug Bair pitched 3 1/3 perfect innings, and Willie Hernandez pitched three innings of one hit ball to earn his second win in as many games.
With the Tigers down by a run in the ninth, Dave Bergman hit a solo homer to send the game into extra innings. Then an RBI single by Chet Lemon and a Sac. Fly by Dave Bergman in the twelth put the game away. Tim Teufel his a solo shot off of Hernandez in the bottom half of the twelth, but it wasn’t enough.
July 8, 1984 Rangers 9, Tigers 7 (57-27)
Doug Bair got his only start of the season, and basically got pummelled. Jack Morris was picked to pitch in the All Star Game, so Sparky had to let him have the day off on this Sunday game. Bair only lasted 2 2/3, and by the end of the third inning, the Tigers found themselves down seven to nothing. An inning later, and it was eight to two.
The Tigers made an attempt to come back, scoring four in the sixth and one in the seventh, but it just wasn’t enough. Chet Lemon went two for three with three RBIs, and Howard Johnson hit his eighth homer of the year, and drove in three.
Since starting 35-5, the Tiger’s went into the break still exactly 30 games above .500. So for an extended stretch, they were basically playing .500 ball. They still held a seven game lead, but it still didn’t seem like enough.
July 6, 1984 Rangers 5, Tigers 3 (56-26)
Juan Berenguer only lasted 2 2/3, giving up five hits, two walks, and three runs. The three runs in the third were most of what the Rangers needed to win this, as the Tigers only scored three runs, and it wasn’t until the eighth inning on a three run shot by Lance Parrish. Future Tiger manager Larry Parrish hit his thirteenth homer of the season, going three for four.
Berenguer dropped to 4-7, and Aurilio Lopez pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief. The only other Tiger notable was Chet Lemon, who went two for four.
June 30, 1984 Tigers 4, Twins 3 (55-21)
Dan Petry pitched 8 1/3 strong innings, giving up three runs on seven hits, while striking out ten, but it almost wasn’t enough. Down 3-2, the Tigers tied the game in the seventh on a sac. fly by Ruppert Jones, and then scored the go ahead run in the bottom of the eighth on a wild pitch by Ron Davis. Willie Hernandez picked up his 14th save by getting the final two batters out.
Dave Bergman hit his second homer of the season, and Chet Lemon picked up two hits and scored a run.
June 29, 1984 Twins 5, Tigers 3 (53-21)
Jack Morris got hit hard, giving up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Doug Bair pitched 3 1/3 strong innings of two hit ball to allow the Tigers a chance to come back, but it was too much to overcome as they hit the ball (11 hits), but couldn’t get men across the plate.
Lou Whitaker went three for five, and Lance Parrish had a two run double.
June 29, 1984 Tigers 7, Twins 5 (54-21)
Another win for the bullpen. It’s amazing how game in and game out, the pen allowed this team to get back into games.
Milt Wilcox gave up five runs through five innings, allowing the Twins to take a one run lead. But the usual combo of Aurilio Lopez and Willie Hernandez slammed the door shut tight to let the Tigers come back and win this one. Lopez went 2 1/3, and Hernandez went 1 2/3 to improve to 4-0.
Kirk Gibson had a big day, hitting two homers and driving in four runs. Ruppert Jones and Chet Lemon hit solo shots.
June 27, 1984 Yankees 5, Tigers 4 (53-20)
You definitely can’t win them all, and this is one that the Tigers let get away. With a two run lead, rookie Carl Willis gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (although two of those scored on Doug Bair, who inherited the runners) as the Tigers dropped the series.
The Tigers only had five hits in this one. Barbero Garbey drove in two runs and scored, and Chet Lemon drove in a run and scored as well.
June 20, 1984 Tigers 9, Yankees 6, 13 innings (49-17)
The Tigers won a back and forth affair when Howard Johnson hit a three run shot in the bottom of the thirteenth inning. The Yankees had a 2-0 lead and a 4-2 lead before the Tigers picked up a few runs to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, then took a one run lead in the bottom of the seventh. Then the two teams went back and forth, scoring one run each until the game ended regulation at a 6-6 tie.
Willie Hernandez pitched four strong innings of relief, and Doug Bair improved to 4-0 by pitching two innings of one hit ball. Alan Trammell, Lance Parrish and Chet Lemon all hit homer to go along with HoJo’s extra innings blast.
June 17, 1984 Tigers 7, Brewers 4 (47-16)
Dave Rozema improved to 3-0 with a solid five innings of four hit ball. Aurilio Lopez inherited a five run lead, and although he wasn’t stellar, picked up his eighth save by going four innings to finish the game off.
The Tigers did the bulk of their damage in the fifth when they scored five runs. Tom Brookens had a two run triple, and Barbero Garbey scored by stealing home. Chet Lemon led the hit parade by going three for five while driving in two runs.
The Tigers headed home with three straight wins a struggling Yankees team still six games ahead of Toronto. The race at this point was pretty much a two team one, as Baltimore had tapered of to 11 1/2 back (still a better record then the division leading California Angels).
June 12, 1984 Blue Jays 12, Tigers 3 (44-15)
Jack Morris got shelled, plain and simple, and the pen followed suit with some equally bad pitching. This would be the most runs the Tigers would give up in a game all season (the twelve runs would eventually be matched in August, but not surpassed).
Three innings, eight hits, and six runs was the final line for Morris. By far his worst outing of the season. Sid Monge, who was picked up the day before, pitched four innings and gave up three runs. Even the reliable Aurilio Lopez gave up three runs in an eighth inning that didn’t mean too much.
Tiger’s hitting stars included Lou Whitaker, who went three for four with two RBIs. John Grubb went two for four, and Howard Johnson went two for three and scored twice. Chet Lemon was the only other player to get a hit.
June 9, 1984 Orioles 4, Tigers 0 (41-14)
For the second time in a week, Mike Flanagan was too much for the Tigers as he pitched nine shutout innings, walking nobody, and only giving up six singles and a double.
A couple of firsts in this one. Aurilio Lopez got shelled. He gave up three hits and a walk while only getting one out. He was relieved by Carl Willis, who made his major league debut and pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Starter Juan Berenguer was erratic, giving up four walks, but striking out six in 5 1/3 innings.
Nothing much to report on the hitting front. Barbero Garbey went two for four, and Chet Lemon had the only extra base hit of the game, a ninth inning double.
June 1, 1984 Tigers 14, Orioles 2 (38-9)
At the beginning of June, the Tigers held a 5 1/2 game lead over second place Toronto, who were 32-15 (second best record in the majors) and 10 1/2 games ahead of Orioles, who sat at a respectable 28-21. Had Baltimore been in any other division, they would have sat in first place in the AL West (by three game), and would have also been in first place in the NL West. They tapered off later in the year, but were in the midst of a five game winning streak as they went off to Detroit to face the Tigers.
In front of 47,252 fans, Dan Petry pitched six strong shutout innings, giving up only three hits. More importantly, he’d be handed a 13 run lead, as the Tigers scored more runs in a game in that 1984 season. They’d match the 14 runs later in the year, but would never surpass it.
Alan Trammell, Chet Lemon, and Lance Parrish all hit homers with at least one man on base. The Tigers had a six run lead after two, a nine run lead after three, and a twelve run lead after four.
Dan Petry improved to 8-2, and Doug Bair earned his third save of the season. The save was of the three garbage inning variety. No offense to Doug Bair though, who continued to give the Tiger’s quality innings when they needed them or not.
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 27, 1984 Mariners 6, Tigers 1 (35-8)
Not a whole lot went right in this one. Dan Petry got shelled, giving up nine hits and four runs in four innings. Aurelio Lopez had his worst outing of the year as well. On top of all that, the Tigers had ten hits, but only managed to score one, on a solo shot by Chet Lemon.
This was the first three game losing streak of the season, and the first time the Tigers were swept. At this point, the Tigers next 40 games would result in a 20-20 record, a pretty long stretch of mediocrity for a team that was so good for the first quarter of a season.
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 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 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 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?
April 28, 1984 Tigers 6, Indians 2 (17-2)
In Sparky Anderson’s book on the 1984 season, “Bless You Boys,” he mentions that he sent Jack Morris home in the 13th inning of the previous night’s game, and that move may have made the difference in this one, as he basically shutdown a tired Indians team. He only gave up three hits and three walks in nine innings, and the three runs the Tigers scored in the first two innings were all the Tigers would need in this one.
Chet Lemon and Lou Whitaker hit homers. Trammell knocked in two with a double and stole his seventh base of the season. Detroit was also effecient in this one, garnering ten hits and two walks, while only stranding four baserunners.
April 26, 1984 Tigers 7, Rangers 5 (16-1)
Neither starter was effective in this one. Future Tiger Frank Tanana gave up six runs in less then four innings, and Dave Rozema was just marginally better as he gave up five runs in 4 1/3. Once the starters were pulled, things really calmed down, as only the Tigers scored one run in the final four innings of this one. Doug Bair pitched two shutout innings to notch his second relief win of the year, and Aurelio Lopez threw 2 2/3 perfect innings to garner his second save.
Whitaker, Trammell, Herndon, and Lemon all had multi-hit games, and Lance Parrish homered in his third consecutive game, boosting his season total to five.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 16-1 on the season, and had a six game lead in the AL East. Everyone points to their 35-5 start, which is simply an incredible start, but it’s only after you go back and see what they actually did throughout those first couple of months can you appreciate what this team accomplished.
April 24, 1984 – Game 1 – Tigers 6, Twins 5 (13-1)
Jack Morris had his worst outing of the season so far, but managed to walk away with his fourth straight victory. He went the distance, giving up five runs on seven hits and five walks. But as was typical of this magical season, it was just enough as the Tigers won in dramatic fashion.
The Tigers entered the bottom of the ninth down 5-3. Kirk Gibson led off the inning with a triple. John Grubb then reached base on a fielder’s choice (and would leave the game as Rusty Kuntz would run for him). Dave Bergman then drove in Gibson with an RBI single, cutting the lead to one rune.
Then, the wheels really came off the wagon as relief pitcher Ron Davis would put one in the dirt, allowing the tying run to score on a wild pitch, and moving Bergman over to second. Howard Johnson grounded out to third, and with one out, Chet Lemon was given the intentional pass. Lance Parrish then lined out to second base.
So with two outs, and runners on first and second, Lou Whitaker singled, and drove in Bergman to win the game. Tigers Win 6-5!!!
April 24, 1984 – Game 2 – Tigers 4, Twins 3 (13-1)
Lance Parrish hit a three run homer in the fifth inning, and Aurelio Lopez shut the Twins down in the final three innings in the back end of the double header. Starter Dan Petry was forced to leave the game with a sore shoulder in the third.
Glenn Abbott took over in the fourth and gave up two runs in the top half of the sixth, but Parrish answered in the next inning with his three run shot.
Aurelio Lopez got the three inning save, as he pitched three shutout innings, giving up only one hit and two walks, while striking out three.
April 22, 1984 Tigers 9, White Sox 1 (12-1)
A Kirk Gibson first inning two run homerun was all the Tigers would end up needing in this, but they got a lot more. In total, the Tigers would score nine runs on eighteen hits. Five different Tigers had multi-hit games, including a 4 for 4 outing by Chet Lemon. Six different Tigers would score, and five different Tigers would drive in a runs. A good all around team effort.
Juan Berenguer was exceptional in his first start of the season. He pitched seven shutout innings, struck out seven, and only gave up two hits and a walk. He had a no-hitter going into the fifth, but gave up a single to Kalamazoo native Mike Squires. Mike would also make his pitching debut, and finale in this one, getting the final out in the eighth inning.
April 12, 1984 – Tigers 9, Rangers 4 (7-0)
Alan Trammell, Chet Lemon, and Lou Whitaker all homered, as the Tigers trounced the Rangers 9-4. Through five innings, Texas was hanging in there, but the Tigers scored four in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Jack Morris was his usual self, going seven innings, while giving up seven hits and one walk. The only two runs he gave up were unearned.
And with that win, the Tigers broke the franchise record for most consecutive wins to start the season. They also already had a three game lead in their division. The only question for Tiger fans was how long they could keep it up.
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