October Surprise Part 9: Comeback Complete

This is the final installment in our series that looked back on the Tigers’ and Blue Jays’ epic fight for the 1987 American League East title.

American League East Standings: October 4, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Detroit 97-64 .619 –
Toronto 96-65 .596 1


BallBatGrass.jpgIn the first six games one thing was constant: the team that scored first would go on to lose. The Blue Jays, with the season in the balance, would take their chances and welcome an early lead off Tigers starter Frank Tanana.

Instead, the Tigers struck first. Larry Herndon led off the Detroit third inning with a home run off Blue Jays starter Jimmy Key. A strong wind gust nudged the ball over Bell’s outstretched glove and into the lower deck in left. The Tigers led 1-0 on Herndon’s first homer since Aug. 18.

“Luckily, I just got enough,” Herndon said to Tommy George of the Free Press. “I saw Bell go back and it looked like he had a chance to catch it. I looked at Bell all the way. And then when I heard and saw the crowd reaction behind the fence, I knew it was out.”

Continue reading “October Surprise Part 9: Comeback Complete”

October Surprise Part 8 – Tigers Pull Ahead

On the next-to-last day of the 2009 season, with the Tigers’ fate still undecided, we continue our series on the Tigers’ and Blue Jays’ battle for the A.L. East crown on the next-to-last day of the 1987 season.


American League East Standings: October 3, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Detroit 96-64 .600 –
Toronto 96-64 .600 –

In game two of the final series, Jack Morris and Mike Flanagan faced off on a bright and blustery Saturday afternoon.

HotDogPopTicketXSmall.jpgAs they had in Toronto nine days earlier, the two veteran pitchers sparkled. The Jays grabbed an early 1-0 lead. The Tigers countered with a Mike Heath single and Bill Madlock double to knot the game. Both teams scored in the fifth.

But over the next seven innings neither team scored. Morris pitched nine strong innings to Flanagan’s 11.

“I’ve been in this league eight years facing Flanagan, and I’ve never seen him better,” Tom Brookens said to the Free Press‘s John Lowe.

Mike Henneman relieved Morris in the tenth and shut down the Jays. Jeff Musselman took over for Flanagan but couldn’t pick up where the starter had left off.

Continue reading “October Surprise Part 8 – Tigers Pull Ahead”

August 2 in Tigers History: How the Tigers Have Celebrated My Birthday

BaseballCandlesXSmall.jpgI thought it was my birthday gift from the Indians — Carl Pavano starting? That’s gotta be a win waiting to happen, no? No. Not against this mirage of a first-place club.

Some birthday for me. Actually, yesterday was a fine day and I never let the Tigers’ performance impact my birthday mood.

Because there’s absolutely nothing positive to discuss about the Tigers’ finale against the Tribe, humor me as I walk through notable Tigers games and events that happened on Aug. 2 since the year I was born.

  • Overall, the Tigers are 20 and 15 on my birthday; in seven years they didn’t play, including during the 1981 strike.

  • The Tigers beat the Twins 6-5 at Metropolitan Stadium on the day I was born in 1968. Don McMahon got the win in relief of Joe Sparma. Bill Freehan drove in three runs while the Twins’ Rod Carew went 3 for 4, of course.

  • On Aug. 2, 1972, the Tigers purchases the contract of P Woodie Fryman from the Phillies. Two days later, they purchased C Duke Sims‘s contract from the Dodgers. Fryman, just 4-10 for Philadelphia, goes 10-3 for Detroit, while Sims hits .316 for the Tigers in 38 games.

  • In 1975, at Fenway Park the game-time temperature was 103 degrees and the Tigers wilted under the heat of Rick Wise and the Red Sox and lost 7-2.

  • In 1984, I was there when Jack Morris out dueled Bert Blyleven as the Tigers beat the Indians 2-1.

  • On Aug. 2, 1985, Frank Tanana allowed one hit, a homer by Ben Oglivie in the 5th, and struck out eight on his way to beating the Brewers, 4-1.

  • In 1990, Yankees rookie Kevin Maas hits his 10th home run in just 77 at bats, the fastest any player has ever reached that mark. Big deal. The Tigers won 6-5 in 11 innings.

Thanks for taking the trip down memory lane with me. Assuming you’re still there. Hello…?

The Curious Case of June 2, 1980: Tigers and Mariners Play to a Tie

OldTimeWriterXSmall.jpgIn case you were wondering, here’s how the Tigers have fared against the Mariners since Seattle joined the American League in 1977:

  • All-Time Record: 185-152-1
  • All-Time at Home: 104-64-1
  • All-Time at Comerica Park: 22-18
  • All-Time at Seattle: 81-88

Wait a second. The Tigers and Mariners played to a tie? In the 20th century?

This little item sent me scrambling to my favorite site, Baseball-Reference.com, for the details. Here’s what I found:

Continue reading “The Curious Case of June 2, 1980: Tigers and Mariners Play to a Tie”

Talking with Johnny Grubb, Part II

JohnnyGrubb2.jpgThis is the second and final installment of my conversation with former Tigers outfielder and pinch-hitter extraordinaire, Johnny Grubb. You can find the first installment here.


Mike McClary: Heading into the 1984 season, was it a long off-season? It would seem like you would be chomping at the bit to get back on the field shortly after a little break. Was everyone coming into spring training raring to go?

Johnny Grubb: Yeah, I think so. I remember us getting Dave Bergman and Willie [Hernandez]. So they came over, and they fit right in with the team, too. I mean, we just had a good group of guys that got along, and Dave Bergman is a heck of a guy and so was Willie. So it worked out great.

MMc: Let’s talk about the ’84 season in general. Obviously, you got off to a great start, 9-0, and in the middle of that, Jack Morris throws a no-hitter. As you were getting older and becoming the seasoned veteran, were you really just enjoying about every moment of that season?

JG: Oh, gosh, yeah. It was fun to watch those guys play and every once in a while to jump in and do something myself. But it was a lot of fun watching Gibby and Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker and Darrell [Evans] — and Lance did a great job. And Howard Johnson had the great season for us. I thought he did a great job. And Larry Herndon and all those guys really did well in the pitching.

So really what I remember most about it is that I never really felt like we were out of any ballgame. Any lead a team could get, we felt like we could have a big inning and jump right back in the game. And we had real good pitching, so if we had the lead, we had Willie and [Aurelio] Lopez coming in to shut the door on them. The pitchers did their job, and the hitters did their job. And we just felt like we could win any game.

That 35-5 start really helped a lot, too. But I think that pretty much was an indicator of how strong we were because that’s pretty phenomenal when you think about a 35-5 start in the major leagues. That’s pretty good.

Continue reading “Talking with Johnny Grubb, Part II”