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”

October Surprise Part 7: Doyle Foils Jays to Knot Division Lead

The final weekend of the 2009 season is here and the Tigers are in position for the American League Central title. Twenty-two years ago tonight the Tigers started the final season with the A.L. East in their sights. Here’s part seven of our series.


American League East Standings: October 2, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Toronto 96-63 .604 –
Detroit 95-64 .597 1

Doyle.jpgOf all the scenarios facing the Tigers for the final weekend, one was the most cut and dried: sweep the Blue Jays, win the division.

Game one of the decisive series took place on a cold Friday night. A crowd of 45,167 witnessed a rematch of the previous Sunday, Doyle Alexander and Jim Clancy.

The Jays scored first in the top of the second on Manny Lee’s three-run homer to right-center. In the bottom of that same inning the Tigers scored two runs of their own on a Chet Lemon single and a home run by rookie outfielder Scott Lusader.

Continue reading “October Surprise Part 7: Doyle Foils Jays to Knot Division Lead”