Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tigers' Swoon In June '82 Too Much To Overcome

June can be a lovely month: weddings, graduations, school letting out. The weather can be the most pleasant of all the summer months -- usually not too hot or too cold. Just right. And there's baseball -- the season officially starting to get a little serious.

The 162-game season, with its marathon mentality, is always going to provide plenty of ebb and flow. Ups and downs. A rollercoaster, that overused description.

Yes, June can be a wonderful month -- and it has a better chance of being that way if your baseball team doesn't get pulled down by that force field known as the "June Swoon."

The Swoon has jumped up and yanked away pennant hopes -- both false and real. It has caused entire city populaces to run around in panic. It has brought more weather to already craggy manager faces.

I'm not sure what it is about the year's sixth month, but it has been an absolute death knell for so many squads, so many times in the past.

The Tigers, 25 years ago, had one of their worst June Swoons ever.

As is typical of the Swoon, it had no real warning signs. The Tigers, in 1982, sprinted out of the gate, their record sitting at a spiffy 36-19 on June 12. They led the pack. Everything was clicking.

There is an annoying name now for any hit, walk, hit batsman, sacrifice fly, or homerun that produces victory for the home team during its final at-bat. The walk-off________.

Such a nonsensical phrase didn't exist in 1982, but had it, it would have been used quite a bit in reference to the Tigers in June. Their 36-19 record turned to 37-33. Fourteen losses in fifteen games, including a ten-game losing streak. And many of those losses came in their opponent's last at-bat. A walk-off________.

Sparky Anderson, the white-haired leader, was as perplexed as anyone. He'd smoke his pipe after games and try to explain away a season spiraling out of control before July 4th. It was a June Swoon at its worst -- wheels tearing away as the carriage careened down the rocky slope.

The Tigers never really recovered in 1982. By the time they righted the ship, too many teams had leapfrogged them in a highly competitive AL East Division. They finished at 83-79 -- 12 games behind Milwaukee, in fourth place.

Could the 2007 Tigers be felled by a June Swoon? What team couldn't, really?


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