Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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Championship teams usually consist of a convergance between an improving core of young players with a handful of career years from a couple of your veterans. Milt Wilcox had a 16 year career in baseball, and he never won three games more then he lost in a season. Had it not been for his 17-8 campaign in 1984, he would have ended his career with a losing record. Simply put, in 1984, Milt Wilcox came out to pitch, and pitch he did.
He also saved his best for the end of the season. In game three of the ALCS against the Royals, Wilcox gave up only two hits in eight innings of shutout ball to put the Tigers into the World Series.
Let’s take a look at how he did in 1984:
Innings Pitched 193 2/3
Pitching Runs Above Average 37
If you take a look at the differences between Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and Milt Wilcox, you won’t many. Wilcox threw around 40 innings less then both of them, but when he was in there, he was equally effective. In fact, their strikeout rates are nearly identical, with the best (Petry) just .02 SO/9 better then the worst (Wilcox).
At first glance, I thought this one was going to be a lot tighter, but it’s really no contest. Billingham threw a few more innings, but that’s about all you can say.
Scorecard 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 5
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 21, 1984 Yankees 5, Tigers 3 (98-55)
The Tigers got off to a hot start, scoring three runs on an Alan Trammell homer and a Ruppert Jones double. All three runs came off of starter John Montefusco, but that’s all they’d get the entire game as they’d only get three more hits
Milt Wilcox gave up three in the third and then two in the sixth. He gave up five hits, but walked five en route to the loss.
September 15, 1984 Tigers 2, Blue Jays 1 (94-54)
What a performance by Milt Wilcox to pick up his seventeenth and final win of the season. Seven innings, one hit, one walk and eight strikeouts. The only blemish was a solo shot in the top of the second by George Bell. Willie Hernandez finished off the game by pitching the eighth and ninth to earn his twenty ninth save of the season.
Ruppert Jones was the batting hero. With the game tied in the fourth, he hit a solo shot to put the Tigers up for good. With the win, the Tigers cut their magic number to four.
September 9, 1984 Tigers 7, Blue Jays 2 (92-51)
Another late inning surge pushed the Tigers past the Blue Jays. With the Tigers up 3-2, Kirk Gibson hit a three run homer in the top of the seventh to give the Tigers a nice cushion. Milt Wilcox gave the Tigers a solid six inning before letting the pen take over and close out the game.
What a weekend series. The Tiger’s were struggling before coming into Toronto, but they really came through when it counted. With a magic number of nine, they had a realistic chance of clinching the division by the following weekend.
August 31, 1984 A’s 7, Tigers 6 (87-48)
Milt Wilcox struggled as he walked five batters and gave up four hits in 3 2/3 innings. By the time he left the game, the A’s were up 5-4. The Tigers tied it in the fifth on a solo shot by Alan Trammell.
With the scored tied 5-5 going into the ninth, both teams scored a run to put the game into extra innings. Then in the bottom of the thirteenth, right fielder Mike Davis scored on a Dave Rozema wild pitch to win the game.
Once again, the usual combo of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez kept the Tigers in this one and at least gave them a chance to win. They combined for 8 1/3 innings, giving up only three hits and one run, while striking out eight.
The loss once again put the Tigers back into a single digit lead over the Blue Jays. With 27 games left, they were 9 1/2 games ahead of Toronto.
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 21, 1984 Tigers 12, A’s 6 (83-44)
For the second straight game, the Tiger’s bats allowed the pitchers a virtual night off. Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez both gave up two runs in an inning of work each, but four runs in the first and four in the sixth pretty much sealed this game up early.
Milt Wilcox pitched a nice game, going six innings and striking out seven. He improved to 14-7. Lance Parrish, Larry Herndon, and Darrell Evans all hit homeruns. Lance Parrish’s dinger was a grand slam in the first inning, and Darrell Evans ended the day going four for five, scoring three times, and driving in three runs.
August 17, 1984 Tigers 6, Mariners 2 (80-43)
The last time the Tigers faced Seattle was the day after their heralded 35-5 start. The Mariners went on to hand the Tigers losses six, seven and eight in a three game sweep, and the Tigers got their revenge in this one.
By the end of the third, the Tigers were up 4-0, and that was really all they needed. Milt Wilcox pitched a nice game for his thirteenth win, going eight innings, and giving up one run on seven hits.
In Sparky’s book Bless You Boys, he mentions that this was the game where they broke the attendance record set in 1968. For only the second time, they pulled in 2,000,000 fans. They’d end up drawing 2,704,794, still a record. They’d draw 2 million three more times during the 1980s (1985, 1987 and 1988) and then wouldn’t draw as many until 1989, the final season at Tiger Stadium. Since then, only Comerica Park’s opening season has brought 2,000,000 fans to the ball park
August 12, 1984 Tigers 8, Royals 4 (77-41)
A four run first inning put the Tigers up for good as Milt Wilcox held the Royals scoreless through the first six innings. The Royals tagged Milt for four runs in the seventh, but the typical tandem of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez finished the game up to give the Tigers the weekend series sweep.
August 7, 2004 Red Sox 12, Tigers 7 (73-40)
Jack Morris got pounded again. Coming off the heels of the best start he’s had in a while, Jack gave up six hits, two walks and nine runs 1 1/3 innings, forcing Sparky to go to the pen early. Bruce Hurst was hardly stellar, but when you’re given a seven run lead after two innings, there’s not much you can do to lose the game.
August 7, 1984 Tigers 7, Red Sox 5 (74-40)
Milt Wilcox cruised through the first six innings, and then gave up four runs in the seventh to give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead. As a precursor to the 1986 World Series debacle, Dave Bergman scored in the ninth on an error by firstbasemen Bill Buckner that sent the game into extra innings.
August 3, 1984 Royals 9, Tigers 6 (72-35)
Milt Wilcox was cruising along until the Royals hit him hard in the fourth. By the end of the inning, Wilcox would be sitting, and Aurilio Lopez would be in the game. Lopez threw another six innings of relief, but it still wasn’t enough.
Lou Whitaker went four for five, and Alan Trammell and Tom Brookens hit homeruns.
July 29, 1984 Tiger 3, Red Sox 0 (70-32)
Milt Wilcox threw a gem, as he pitched eight shutout innings, giving up only three hits, and walking none. Willie Hernandez closed out the game for his 21st save by pitching a perfect ninth.
The Tigers only managed four hits of their own against Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, but they made them count. Boyd struck out ten Tigers, and the only extra base hit in the entire game was a triple by Ruppert Jones.
July 24, 1984 Tigers 9, Indians 5 (68-29)
Milt Wilcox threw a nice game to win his tenth of the season, going 6 2/3, giving up six hits, one walk and four runs (none of them earned). He left the game to Willie Hernandez with nice lead, and he finished things off.
Lou Whitaker went three for five with three runs, and Kirk Gibson, Larry Herndon, and Lance Parrish all had two RBIs. Whitaker, Gibby and Dave Bergman all homered in the game. Doug Baker, Alan Trammell’s fill in while he was on the 15 day DL, went four for five hitting in the nine spot.
At this point in the season, the Tigers had moved into what was basically an insurmountable position. They held an 11 1/2 game lead over the Blue Jays, who had hit a rough patch. At this point, things were little more then formality as they had two more months until the playoffs started.
July 19. 1984 Tigers 9, Rangers 2 (63-29)
A three run second inning put the Tigers up for good as they racked up nine runs on thirteen hits, chasing starter, and future four time 20 game winner Dave Stewart out in the fifth inning.
Lou Whitaker went three for five, Ruppert Jones went four for four, and Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson had homeruns.
Milt Wilcox threw a nice game,, going 7 1/3 and giving up only two runs. The usual suspects, Willie Hernandez and Aurilio Lopez finished the game out.
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 4, 1984 White Sox 8, Tigers 2 (55-25)
I’m sure the Tigers were very happy to get out of Chicago. Three games. Three beatings. Richard Dotson pitched eight innings of three hit ball to shut down the Tigers. The Tigers tried making a run in the ninth, but fell way short.
Milt Wilcox walked seven and gave up five hits and six runs, all in the sixth inning.
Darrell Evans and John Grubb hit homers for Detroit to account for their two runs.
Forty games after starting 35-5, the Tigers still stood at third games over .500. After a forty game stretch of .500 ball, they stood seven games ahead of Toronto, losing 1 1/2 games from where they were at the forty game mark.
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 23, 1984 Tigers 5, Brewers 1 (51-18)
The Tigers got off to a quick start, scoring all five of their runs by the end of the third inning. Kirk Gibson hit his ninth homerun, and Howard Johnson hit his sixth (another three run shot).
Milt Wilcox pitched a gem, going eight innings and giving up only four hits. The Brewers didn’t score off of him until the eighth inning when Jim Gantner drove in Ed Romero on a sacrafice fly. Doug Bair pitched a perfect ninth to complete the combined four hitter.
At this point, the Tigers were still on pace to win close to 120 games. They’d hit a rough stretch in the middle of the season, but they were still drawing 40,000+ to a lot of their games, and the fans were definitely excited.
June 18, 1984 Yankees 2, Tigers 1 (47-17)
The knuckleball specialist, and eventual 300 game winner, shut down the Tigers to break their three game winning streak. On a sub-.500 team (I know this is hard to believe, but the Yankees had a mediocre stretch in the mid to late 1980s), Phil Niekro improved to 10-3 by throwing 8 2/3 innings of three hit ball. The only Tiger who crossed the plate was Kirk Gibson (who actually got two of the three hits), who hit a first inning solo shot.
Phil Niekro had an impressive career. From 1977 through 1979, he threw no less then 330 innings in each season, something that would be unheard of in this day. He also led the league in hits allowed and runs given up as well. The Hall of Fame pitcher never won a Cy Young, but finished in the top six on six different occasions. In 1967, he led the league with a 1.87 ERA by throwing 207 innings in 46 games (20 starts, 26 relief appearances). He’s 14th all time in wins (has Clemens passed him yet?) with 318, fourth in games started at 716, and fourth all time in innings pitched with 5,404 1/3. The three guys ahead of him in innings pitched all threw before 1927.
And today, he got the best of the Tigers. Milt Wilcox threw seven quality innings of seven hit ball, but it wasn’t enough. 40,000+ fans came out to see the Tigers on a Monday night.
June 13, 1984 Blue Jays 7, Tigers 3 (44-16)
The Tigers ran into a brick wall in Dave Stieb, and they never really had a chance in this one. Stieb pitched seven strong shutout innings, giving up only three hits. It wasn’t until the eighth inning, against rookie reliever Jimmy Key, that Tigers managed to get on the board with three runs.
Milt Wilcox threw five mediocre innings, and Doug Bair got lit up for three runs in his two relief innings.
No real hitting stars in this one, as the Tigers only managed to get seven hits, and nobody had more then one.
So the Tigers had a chance to really extend their lead, but by dropping the last two games, they gave Toronto some help. Six games was a nice cushion, but hardly insurmountable this early in the season.
June 8, 1984 Tiger 3, Orioles 2 (41-13)
The Tigers beat the Orioles in front of over 50,000 fans in a tight affair. Milt Wilcox threw six solid innings to win his seventh game, and the bullpen was stellar. In all, the Tiger’s staff only gave up six hits and three walks. Once Milt was taken out, Doug Bair threw a perfect seventh, and Willie Hernandez finished things out by pitching two strong innings to earn his eighth save.
The Tigers stranded ten baserunners again, but this time it didn’t cost them a win. With the score at 2-1, the Tigers scored two runs in the top half of the seventh on a double by Howard Johnson and a sacrafice fly by Alan Trammell.
June 3, 1984 Orioles 2, Tigers 1 (38-11)
Another pretty poor performance all the way around by the Tigers as Mike Flanagan pitched a seven hit complete game shutout. The only ding against him was a solo shot by Tom Brookens, his first homer of the season.
Milt Wilcox struggled, but still kept Detroit in the game. He walked six in 5 2/3 innings. Dave Rozema finished the game by pitching 3 1/3 innings of one hit ball.
Tomorrow, the Tigers had their first season series against the Blue Jays, who now sat 4 1/4 back of Detroit. The Tigers were mired in a slump that would have been considered impossible, as they lost six of nine after starting the season 35-5.
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 20, 1984 Tigers 4, A’s 3 (32-5)
This was another one run game where the Tigers got off to a nice early lead, but watched the other team nearly come back to beat them. Milt Wilcox was simply awesome, and improved to 6-0. He threw six innings, and only gave up three hits and a walk. Willie Hernandez pitched the final three innings, and his only blemish was a solo homerun by Mike Heath. In total, the two pitchers would hold the A’s to four hits while only giving up one walk.
Dwight Lowry, the Tiger’s backup catcher, hit the first homerun of his career. Larry Herdon picked up two singles to be the only Tiger with a multihit game. Nine of the ten Tiger hits were singles, with the Lowry homer being the exception.
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 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 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 25, 1984 Tigers 9, Rangers 4 (15-1)
Dave Stewart didn’t make it out of the first inning in the Tiger’s Home Opener, and he didn’t fair too much better in this one as the Tigers finally got to him in the seventh inning. By the end of the game, the Tigers scored nine runs on thirteen hits.
John Grubb, Howard Johnson, and Lance Parrish all hit homeruns in this one. In fact Lance Parrish hit his second three run shot in as many games. Milt Wilcox went six innings, and Willie Hernandez finished the game by pitching the final three innings, as he picked up his second save of the season.
April 20, 1984 Tigers 3, White Sox 2 (10-1)
This time, the Tigers managed to get eleven hits, but they had a hard time making them count as they also left eleven men on base in this nail biter. The Tigers never had the lead in this one until the game ended, and Milt Wilcox, despite not getting the win, threw a great game to keep the Tigers in this one. Eight innings, eight hits, three walks, and only two runs.
The Tigers were down 2-1 going into the seventh when Larry Herndon drove in Barbero Garbey on a single. Then in the ninth, with the score tied 2-2, Lou Whitaker drew a lead off walk. Tram bunted him over to second. Dave Bergman grounded out, but moved Lou over to third, and then Lance Parrish drove in Whitaker on a two out walk off single.
A great game, and the fans were beginning to appreciate what the Tigers were doing, as they drew nearly 34,000, the most since opening day.
April 13, 1984 – Tigers 13, Red Sox 9 (8-0)
Neither Milt Wilcox nor Boston starter Bruce Hurst would make it past the first inning in this slugfest. The Tigers started things off by scoring 8 runs in the top half of the first inning. Four Tigers would bat twice in the inning, and in a fashion, Lance Parrish was responsible for all three outs. He struck out in his first at bat, then grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Boston responded with five runs of their own in the bottom half of the first, chasing Wilcox out of the game. Doug Bair, another key member of the Tigers bullpen, came in and pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up only 3 hits and one walks, and striking out five.
Six different Tigers had multihit games in this Friday the 13th game, and the Tigers would improve to 8-0.
And the diary will take a short break. In an unusual stretch of the season, the Tigers had four consecutive days off because of rain, and even snow. So be sure to check back on April 18th. In the meantime, hopefully the 2004 Tigers will give me more to write about.
April 6, 1984 – Tigers 3, White Sox 2 (3-0)
The Tigers drew first blood , as they scored three runs before the White Sox even batted. Dave Bergman came up with a big two run, two out single to give the Tigers that three run lead. Of course they would have never known that all those runs would be very important, as they’d get only three more hits the rest of the way.
Milt Wilcox pitched seven quality innings, giving up only four hits and one run in seven innings. He did walk four, and one of those, drawn by Harold Baines, was the only player to score on him.
And then the Tigers got a minor scare in eighth. Pitching in his third consecutive game, Willie Hernandez gave up one run in the eighth, but slammed the door shut in the ninth, givng the Tigers their third straight win and Hernandez his first save of the season.
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