'84 Tigers Turned Pennant Race Mine Field Into A Walk In The Park
Darrell Evans says he'll be there. Alan Trammell, too---excused from his duties as Chicago Cubs bench coach. Kirk Gibson, as well---appearing with the consent of his employers, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The old white-haired manager himself, Sparky Anderson, has submitted his RSVP.
They'll all be there, and more, when the Tigers honor the 1984 World Series champs on Monday, prior to an all-important tilt with the Minnesota Twins. It's the Silver Anniversary of their mugging of the baseball world. If you're approaching middle age, like me, then you're ready to protest---wanting your 25 years back.
It's interesting that today's Tigers will go out after the pomp and circumstance on Monday and take on the Twins in a game with pennant implications, for a couple of reasons.
One, the Tigers' magical 1984 season began with the Twins---the Tigers sweeping them in Minnesota, long before the Metrodome began vexing them.
Second, the '84 Tigers didn't really have to play any heart-stopping, nailbiting games in September---at any time of the month, let alone in the season's final week.
If it wasn't for the Toronto Blue Jays' gallant effort, the Tigers would have had the AL East sewn up by Memorial Day. And that barely qualifies as an exaggeration.
You know the story of the '84 ride. A 9-0 start, which became 16-1, which turned into 26-4, which had even the oldtimer baseball people scurrying to the record books.
But the Tigers weren't done sprinting from the gate.
After another ten games, the Tigers' record was 35-5---a won/loss mark that is as famous in these parts as other storied baseball numbers like 61 and 715 and 56 and 511.
Thirty-five and five. It rolls off the tongue now, even to those too young to recall when the Tigers made a mockery of their competition.
But the Blue Jays were playing at well above a .600 clip, and in doing so were able to at least keep the Tigers on their radar.
Still, the Tigers' divisional lead was generally swaying back and forth between eight and twelve games most of the summer. Occasionally the Jays would get within seven, and there was cause for panic.
The 2009 Tigers mustered a seven game lead a few weeks ago and certain keyboard mashers like yours truly declared the race over with.
It's all relative, huh?
I'm glad the Tigers are honoring the 1984 heroes, who authored a season that we may never see again. A wire-to-wire lead, that unworldly 35-5 start. A no-hitter by Jack Morris. An 11-pitch at-bat by Dave Bergman on Monday Night Baseball, before a walk-off home run---against the Blue Jays.
And on and on.
I remember the Tigers, too soon, acknowledging the 1968 champs after just 10 years, in '78. Mickey Stanley was still an active player, to show you. It was nice and all, but ten years is gone in a flash.
Twenty-five years motor by, too, but it is a Silver Anniversary, so it's time.
The 1984 Tigers thrilled, they amazed, they made folks proud to be Detroiters.
The 2009 Tigers have caused most people to run for the Pepto-Bismol.
Both will be, when the dust settles, divisional champs. After that, who knows?
So take some time out on Monday---whether at the ballpark or watching from home---to give a nod to some ballplayers who made an entire baseball season a breeze.
Bless You, Boys!