Paying Tribute to the Greatest Tiger Team of My Generation
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Sparky Anderson loved to platoon. And left field was no exception in 1984. After coming off of back to back quality seasons in 1982 and 1983, Larry Herndon lost time to the recently acquired Ruppert Jones, who actually outplayed him in the time he got.
Herndon, as you’ll see, had a pretty mediocre season. He only played in 125 games, and although he did hit .280, it was really without a lot of punch. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Runs Created 54
Batting Runs Above Replacement 17
Fielding Runs Above Replacement 12
Equalized Average .266
Wins Above Replacement Player 3.2
The OPS+ of 104 and the equalized average of .266 tell it all. To take things one step further, his Batting Runs Above Average was 3, and his Fielding Runs Above Average was 0. It’s unanimous. Larry Herndon had a pretty average season, and doesn’t match up to George Foster.
Score Card 1975 Reds 5, 1984 Tigers 1
American League Championship Series Game 2October 3, 1984 Tigers 5, Royals 3 Tigers Lead Best of Five Series 2-0
While the first game was over pretty much after the first inning, this game showed why the Kansas City Royals walked away with the AL West division title.
Like Game 1, the Tigers went up quickly in the first to take a 2-0 lead. Lou Whitaker reached on an error, and moved over to second on a deep out to center by Alan Trammell. Mr. Clutch, Kirk Gibson drove in Lou with a double, and then was driven in himself on a double by Lance Parrish.
The Tigers extended their lead to 3-0 when Kirk Gibson hit a solo homerun in the top half of the third. Up 3-0, the Tigers looked to be comfortably in control, but the Royals were poised for a comeback.
It started in the bottom of the fourth off of starter Dan Petry. Pat Sheridan was driven in with a sac fly to cut the lead to 3-1. They added one more run in the seventh on an RBI single by pinch hitter Dane Iorg, then tied the game up off of Willie Hernandez in the eighth on a Hal McRae RBI double.
Neither team would score in the ninth or tenth innings, and it was finally in the eleventh when the Tigers sealed the game up. Lance Parrish led off with a single, and moved to second on an error committed while Darrell Evans was trying to move him over. Ruppert Jones forced out Lance Parrish at third to make it once again first and second with one out. Then John Grubb came up with the big hit, and drove in both baserunners with a two run double.
The Royals made an attempt in the bottom of the eleventh to come back by getting two men on, but Aurelio Lopez pitched out of the jam to earn the win.
And now the Tigers were heading home for two chances at home to take the series. Over in the NLCS, the Cubs had cruised to a similar 2-0 lead, and it appeared we’d have a rematch of the 1945 series.
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.
August 28, 1984 Tigers 5, Mariners 4 (87-45)
Another great comeback win for the Tigers. With the game tied 1-1 going into the bottom half of the seventh, Juan Berenguer had runners on first and second with two outs, when Spike Owen reached base on a Howard Johnson error. The Mariners went on to score three unearned runs as a result of the mishap before newly acquired lefthander Bill Scherrer came in to get the final out.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to bounce back though, because in the top of the eighth, Ruppert Jones led off with a double. Dave Bergman then singled to leave runners at first and third. Barbaro Garbey flew out before Lou Whitaker drove in a run on a sacrafice fly. Then with Bergman on first, Alan Trammell hit a two run two out homer to tie the game.
Then in the top of the ninth, Darrell Evans got a two out single. Rusty Kuntz ran for Evans, who moved to second on a wild pitch by reliever Mike Stanton. John Grubb struck out, but with two outs, Ruppert Jones drove in Kuntz with a double to take the lead.
Willie Hernandez once again did his thing, as he pitched the eighth and ninth, giving up only one hit to improve to 8-2.
The day before, Bill Lajoie pulled the trigger and got Sparky another left handed arm in the pen. For cash and a player to be named later (eventually being Carl Willis), the Tigers acquired Bill Scherrer from the Reds. He’d give the Tigers a much needed extra option, as he ended up throwing 19 innings with an ultralow 1.89 ERA.
August 25, 1984 Tigers 5, Angels 1 (84-45)
It’s definitely nice seeing Jack Morris put together back to back quality outings. In his seventeenth win of the season, Morris went eight innings, gave up nine hits and one run, while striking out four. Willie Hernandez came in to pitch a perfect ninth to finish off the game.
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 10, 1984 Tigers 5, Royals 4 (75-41)
It sounds like a broken record, but the usual suspects in the bullpen did it again. Dan Petry pitched 6 2/3 solid innings, but left the game tied 4-4. Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez were nearly flawless in the final 2+ innings, allowing Ruppert Jones to put the Tigers ahead with a solo shot in the eighth inning. Lopez improved to 10-0, and Hernandez saved his 25th game.
The contribution Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez made throughout the 1984 season were incredible. They threw a combined 278 innings, went a combined 19-4, and saved 46 games, all while striking out 206 batters and throwing up a 1.053 WHIP and a 2.43 ERA. Those numbers were by far better then any of the starters and shows why Willie Hernandez got the support he did for the Cy Young.
August 4, 1984 Royals 9, Tigers 5 (72-36)
Glenn Abbott got hit hard once again, giving up eight hits and four runs in 5 1/3. Doug Bair and Sid Monge also got shelled, as the Royals scored nine for the second time in as many nights.
Kirk Gibson went three for five and Ruppert Jones had three RBIs. Neither starter got a decision, as Mark Gubicza, then a rookie, only went 4 1/3 for the Royals. He’d eventually go on to have a nice career with the team, eventually winning 20 games in 1988.
Playing one doubleheader can give a manager headaches. In fact teams no longer are scheduled double headers like they were in the past. But due to some rainouts, the Tigers were forced to play not one, not two, but three consecutive double headers. The Tigers would survive, but their lead over the Blue Jays would once again drop into single digits.
July 31, 1984 Tigers 5, Indians 1 (71-32)
Juan Berenguer set the stage with 6 1/3 innings of four hit ball. Doug Bair finished the game with 2 2/3 perfect innings. Once again, a fine showing by the bullpen, and this time, it wasn’t even the usual Lopez/Hernandez tandem.
The Tigers scored all five of their runs in the second inning. Ruppert Jones hit a solo homer, Doug Baker had a three run triple, and Lou Whitaker drove in one on a sacrafice fly. Kirk Gibson added two hits.
July 31, 1984 Indians 6, Tigers 4 (71-33)
Dave Rozema got shelled and left the game in the third inning. Despite an amazing pitching performance by Aurilio Lopez, the Tigers couldn’t come back in this one.
You don’t see this anymore. Ever. Aurilio Lopez, basically the Tigers set up man, started pitching in the third, and finished the game. 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief. He gave up four hits, one walk, and stuck out five. Having Bair, Lopez and Hernandez gave Sparky a ton of flexibility, knowing he had three quality arms in the pen.
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 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 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 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 7, 1984 Tigers 5, Rangers 2 (57-26)
This was a nice win. At this stage of the season, Dave Rozema was basically a fifth starter/long reliever. In this slot, you wouldn’t expect too much from him, but he threw a fine game, going six innings and giving up only one earned run. Willie Hernandez pitched the final three innings, giving up only one hit and striking out five, to earn his sixteenth save of the season.
Lance Parrish hit his sixteenth homer and scored twice. Ruppert Jones went three for four, scoring once and driving in a run.
July 3, 1984 White Sox 9, Tigers 5 (55-24)
This one was pretty ugly. Jack Morris gave up eight runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings after the Tigers scored three runs in the first on a three run homer by Lance Parrish.
Hall of Famer Tom Seaver got the win for the White Sox. Near the end of a great career, Tom Seaver went 15-11 in 1984, and won 16 games the following year. In 1986, he pitched for the AL pennant winning Red Sox, but missed the post season, I think because of injury.
For those of you who have never picked up and at least flipped through Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, you’re definitely missing something. Pound for pound, there’s more baseball information in this book then any you’ll find. In it, Bill James lists Tom Seaver as the sixth best pitcher, but like Roger Clemens, mentions that you could put him into the number one spot because of the era he played in.
But the numbers he put up are astounding. 311-205, a career 2.86 ERA, a career 127 Adjusted ERA+. and a almost 3/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Tom finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young voting 10 times, and walked away with three awards. In 1971, he had an Adjusted ERA+ of 193. And his 61 shutouts puts him at seventh all time.
And he’d get the best of the Tigers on this day back in 1984. Ruppert Jones and Howard Johnson also had homeruns, and Kirk Gibson went two for three.
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 24, 1984 Tigers 7, Brewers 1 (52-18)
Jack Morris had missed a couple of starts due to a sore elbow, but the rest must have done him some good, as he bounced back nicely. He’d finish with six innings of one hit ball to improve to 12-3, and Aurilio Lopez would pitch the final three to earn his ninth save. In all, the Brewers only had three baserunners.
Lance Parrish went three for four and hit his thirteenth homer of the year, and Ruppert Jones, lumber trance and all, hit his third, a three run shot in the sixth.
With the win, the Tigers expanded their lead to 8 1/2 games heading into a road series with the Yankees. A nice cushion that would slowly get larger over time as the Blue Jays hit a rough patch.
June 16, 1984 Tigers 6, Brewers 0 (46-16)
Juan Berenguer was very impressive, throwing what would be his only complete game shutout of the season. He pitched a five hitter, and never gave up more then one hit in any given inning.
Darrell Evans had the hot bat, hitting a three run homer in the sixth, and adding another RBI with a sacrafice fly. Dave Bergman went three for four, and Ruppert Jones tacked on two hits, one of which was was second homer of the season.
The Blue Jays had also won their last two since the Tiger’s series, and remained stuck at six games back. Still enough to worry about.
June 7, 1984 Tigers 5, Blue Jays 3 (40-13)
When in doubt, you put the ball in Jack Morris’ hands. Nine innings, seven hits, and one walk was the final line as he improved to 11-2 in front of nearly 41,000 Tiger fans.
The big blast of the night was by Ruppert Jones, who made his Tiger debut that evening. And what a debut it was. Injury problems and a few rough seasons saw Rupert Jones on the chopping block at San Diego, and the Tigers signed him in April and sent him to AAA (which was at Evansville at the time, not Toledo). He was brought up the night before, and what a debut, because in the bottom of the sixth, with the score tied, Ruppert Jones took starter Jim Clancy deep for a three run shot to give the Tigers what they’d need to win it.
And for those of you who don’t remember Ruppert, he would become known for his batter’s box routine, which became known as the Ruppert Jones Lumber Trance. He’d hold the bat up near his eyes and just stand there staring at the bat. Classic stuff, and reading about this brought back some memories as I always liked Ruppert Jones.
With the win, the Tigers left Detroit with a split of the series against the Jays, so they walked away with the same lead they walked in with. Three of the four games drew 35,000+, which was pretty good for a weekday series. Now they’d have to go to Baltimore to face a team that beat them in their previous series.
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