Monday, August 14, 2006

Even In '84, Tigers Had Bumps And Bruises

Sometimes, when you feel the need to blog your way into people's hearts every single freaking day, you might have moments when the blank page mocks you, and your mind suddenly is as empty as a parking meter in downtown Royal Oak on a Friday night.

But then material presents itself.

Thanks to my pal Big Al at Wayne Fontes Experience, I have something to say. Actually, it's something to elaborate on.

Al correctly points out that the 1984 Tigers -- those Blessed Boys of Tram, Sweet Lou, Gibby, et al -- contrary to popular/I'm under 25 years old belief, actually had some stumbling blocks on their way to the AL pennant and World Series. Even a 35-5 start didn't make them immune from the pitfalls that a 162-game schedule will foist upon you.

The Tigers went 69-53 after the 35-5 start -- still admirable but hardly awesome. But it was enough to keep the Blue Jays at arm's length most of the way. Yet the way they got to 69-53 caused plenty of us to reach for the Tums -- or a pop -- often, especially after the All-Star break.

There was, for example, a weekend series with the Royals at Tiger Stadium in the first week of August. The Jays were hanging around, annoyingly so, about 7-8 games behind. How DARE they stick around, Tigers fans thought. Don't they know we started 35-5? That's supposed to be good enough to anoint the Tigers divisional champs, don't you know?

Well, it wasn't -- not until August turned into September. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Royals came in, and beat the Tigers Friday night. Then they beat them again on Saturday. Sunday was a doubleheader. The Royals won Game 1. They won Game 2.

Bless You Boys, indeed!

That gave the Tigers an unexpected four-game losing streak. The Jays were lurking, 7 1/2 games out. And now it would be on to Boston for a five-game series. The five games would be played in three days, including back-to-back doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday -- thanks to some April rainouts.

With scores that resembled slow-pitch softball games, the Tigers split the two doubleheaders. Then they lost Wednesday night, 8-0. It made them 2-3 in the five games, but it was enough to keep that 7 1/2 game lead. The series was wild. Jack Morris, in his start, gave up two grand slams before the third inning. Emergency starter Carl Willis got knocked out in the first inning. Same with Glenn Abbott, on Wednesday.

But despite all that, despite giving up 42 runs in the five games, the Tigers had enough offense of their own to win two games. Especially dear to manager Sparky Anderson's heart was Lance Parrish's 11th-inning homerun that won game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader. The Tigers had lost two of the first three games of the series, and looked headed for a third loss before Parrish connected to salvage Tuesday's nightcap.

After the game, Sparky closed the clubhouse doors to the media and told his team how proud of them he was. It was a moment that resonated, and has been recounted over and over by those who'd experienced it.

Following that maniacal week, the Tigers righted themselves, and punctuated that by taking the Blue Jays to the woodshed in Toronto in early September -- a three-game sweep that made the rest of the season inconsequential.

The '84 drive to the pennant wasn't the walk in the park some would have you believe -- if you didn't know any better. But now you do.

Thanks, Big Al!

1 comment:

Big Al said...

You're welcome, Eno!