Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tigers/Yankees Have No Playoff History, But Tigers/A's Sure Do

For all their years together in the American League, the Tigers and the Yankees have no postseason history between them. Prior to the league splitting into two divisions in 1969, the two original AL entries never tied for a pennant, thus not causing any postseason playoff games. And since MLB split yet again, like an amoeba, into three divisions per league in 1994, the Tigers ... well, they've been the Tigers. And the Yankees have been frequent October players.

All that might change this year, of course -- and in the very first round. If the Tigers finish as the AL Wild Card, then they'll square off against the Yankees in the ALDS -- even if the Twins finish with the league's best record.
Teams from the same division cannot meet in the first round, according to MLB rules. If the Tigers win the
Central, they'll play the Oakland A's -- no matter what.
Ahh, the Oakland A's.
Some of you might recall that the Tigers and A's DO indeed have some postseason history, and it was some dandy stuff.
The year was 1972. A players strike -- the first ever -- in spring training lapped into the regular season, canceling some games, which were never made up. As a result, the Tigers would finish 86-70, and the Red Sox 85-70. The Tigers wrapped up the division on the season's final weekend by taking two of three from the Bosox at Tiger Stadium.
That meant the Tigers would take on the A's in the best of five ALCS. The first two games were in Oakland. In Game 2, A's shortstop Bert Campaneris, enraged by being hit in the foot by a Lerrin LaGrow pitch, inexplicably threw his bat at LaGrow, who had to duck to avoid it. Tigers manager Billy Martin led the charge of Detroiters out of the dugout, and the expected melee ensued. The Tigers dropped both games in Oakland, but came home to Detroit and won Game 3.
In Game 4, the A's went up by two in extra innings. It looked dire. But the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out, and eventually scored three times to force a deciding Game 5.
The final game was a heartbreaker. The A's won it, 2 to 1, despite an awesome pitching performance by the Tigers starter Woodie Fryman. The Tigers were that close to advancing to their second World Series in five seasons.
The '72 club was aging, and before long it was evident that the world champs from four years earlier didn't have much left in the tank. With the Tigers' minor league system unable to produce any impact players, team management stuck with the vets until it was too late. A ninety loss season in 1974 and a 102 loss stinker in 1975 resulted.
If the Tigers play the A's in the ALDS, it'll be another best of five deal. And the first ever Yankees and Tigers postseason series might be in the offing.


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