Sept. 18, 1984: Tigers Clinch American League East Title

On this date in 1984, the Tigers clinched the American League East title, beating the Brewers 3-0.

Randy O’Neal pitched seven shutout innings, allowing four hits, one walk and striking out six. As he often did, Willie Hernandez earned a two-inning save, his 30th of the year.

Tom Brookens hit a solo homer off Brewers’ starter Bob McClure. Lance Parrish drove in Detroit’s other two runs.

If you want to take a deep dive into the ’84 club, pickup a copy of Detroit Tigers 1984: What a Start! What a Finish! from Amazon.com. (Disclosure: I wrote the bios of Rusty Kuntz, Johnny Grubb, Chet Lemon and Carl Willis that appear in the book.)

October Surprise Part 4: Bullpen Collapses in Game 3

As the Tigers and Twins square off for the biggest series of the year with the division title hanging in the balance, we continue our look back on the last great race in Tigers history: 1987 and the seven games against the Toronto Blue Jays in the season’s final 10 days. Today: Game 3.


American League East Standings: September 26, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Toronto 95-59 .617 –
Detroit 92-61 .601 2.5

BallTherapy.jpgIf the Tigers suffered any ill effects from the previous two games, they certainly didn’t show it in the third game of the series.

Detroit pummeled Toronto’s ace Dave Steib, tagging the right-hander for six runs on four hits in just 2.1 innings. Matt Nokes drove in six runs in his first two at bats: a first-inning two-run homer and a grand slam in the third.

The Blue Jays were having nearly as much fun with Detroit starter Walt Terrell. In his 2.1 innings, the Blue Jays came up with four runs on seven hits. The Tigers attacked five additional Toronto hurlers for a 9-4 lead in the fifth inning. Toronto wouldn’t go away quietly, tacking on three more runs. Heading into the bottom half of the ninth Detroit clung to a 9-7 lead.

Continue reading October Surprise Part 4: Bullpen Collapses in Game 3

Looking Back on Doyle Alexander’s 1987 Shutout at Fenway Park

Doyle.jpgDan Dickerson was quick to point out that Justin Verlander’s shutout on Thursday was the first by a Tigers pitcher at Fenway Park since Doyle Alexander blanked the Red Sox in 1987. (Thanks to a tip from Fungo contributor Doug Hill, we went scrambling for the details.)

The Tigers were a half-game out of first place on Sept. 23, 1987, for the finale of a three-game series against Boston. Alexander, who blanked the Red Sox a week earlier, 3-0 at Tiger Stadium, faced off with lefty Bruce Hurst and was untouchable. He allowed singles to the first two batters he faced – Ellis Burks and Marty Barrett – and a two-out walk to Spike Owen in the second and that was it.

Alexander got two runs in the second and one each in the fifth and sixth. Tom Brookens drove in a pair and Alan Trammell knocked home one in the win. (The fourth run was scored on an error.) The Tigers moved on to Toronto for a grueling four-game series for ages against the Blue Jays.

You’ve got to love Baseball-Reference.com; I know I sure do.

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

The Monday Report: 2 Weeks to Go

MondayReport.jpg>> The winds were howling here in Phoenix on Sunday — 45 m.p.h. gusts, dust galore, burning contact lenses — and I was thankful that I wasn’t sitting at a Cactus League game (something I don’t often say). But then I saw this story and had deep regret. Fifteen homers?!

>> So Freddy Dolsi got sent out of big-league camp yesterday. As we watched last season crater, I kept thinking that Dolsi’s experience would benefit him in the long run. Sending him to Triple-A to start this season makes sense. Get him into some pressurized situations in the IL and he could be a nice addition when the bullpen needs reinforcements.

>> Former Tigers farmhand James Skelton continues to get ink in the Phoenix paper about his attempts to make the Diamondbacks as a Rule 5 selection. Arizona is trying to make Skelton — a “card trick connoisseur” according to the piece — a utility player, or so it appears.

>> Every year I pickup The Sporting News‘ baseball preview issue and every year I realize I learned nothing new or different than what I gleaned from off-season reading on the Web. This year, however, I’m singing a different tune. It’s not half bad. In an effort to cram the pages to look like a CNBC feed, TSN added a blurb about each team’s best-ever third baseman. Here’s who they selected for the Tigers:

  1. George Kell
  2. Aurelio Rodriguez
  3. Don Wert

Other than Kell, that sure is some slim pickin’s. (Tom Brookens can’t get an Honorable Mention?) And just imagine if the Tigers had held onto Howard Johnson. Methinks he’s be number one. And to think Chris Brown didn’t make this list.

>> This should be a more offensive — offensive, that is — week in Lakeland for the Tigers. For the first time since who know when they’ll have the complete lineup. I doubt we’ll see anymore no-hitters (or shutouts) this Spring.

Bizarro Trifecta: Grandy’s Birthday, Charles Hudson and Jose Capellan

BaseballCandlesXSmall.jpg

  • Happy 28th Birthday, Curtis Granderson. The sooner you get back to Lakeland, the better.

  • Today is also the birthday of Charles Hudson. His only distinction in Tigers lore is that he’s the guy for whom Detroit traded Tom Brookens 19 years and 51 weeks ago today. Hudson appeared in 18 games during the slog that was 1989 and posted a 1-5 record with a plump 6.35 ERA.

  • Jose Capellan? For real?

  • Finally, in our most recent Daily Fungo Pulse Check, we asked Who should get the Opening Day start in Toronto for the Tigers? The choices were Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. Talk about a landslide: Verlander 31 of 35 votes (89%) to Bondo’s 11%.

    For those of you wondering if I’d lost my mind by even considering Bonderman an Opening Day option, keep in mind I posted the survey before his setbacks, trip to the doctor in Detroit, etc.

Speaking of Fungo Pulse Checks, weigh in on the latest one, won’t you?

The 20-year career: it's the new 10!

You want some spirited debate (of the non-Iowa Caucus variety, that is)? Try the Internet. More specifically, browse the comments of any Rob Neyer piece on ESPN.com — especially when he’s writing about the Hall of Fame.

Today Rob raised a terrific Tigers-related question in his column titled: Trammell being unfairly judged? (Insider only).

Actually, he first points to an article on BaseballProspectus.com in which Joe Sheehan shares his mock ballot. Guess who ain’t on it? Tram.

Once again, Trammell’s candidacy is the most difficult one to evaluate. He was one of the best players in baseball at his peak, and was part of the bridge from shortstops as singles hitters to the better players we see out there today. On the other hand, he had a fairly short peak and a short career. I’m wary of the defensive numbers on him, as his home park was notorious for its high infield grass. With so much of Trammell’s statistical case built on very good defensive stats at his peak, the twinge of doubt I feel about their validity makes me nervous. My bigger objection, though, is to the way his career ended. Trammell was done as a full-time player at 32, which is awfully early for a 20th-century position player being pushed for Cooperstown. Like Rice, Trammell would have been a Hall of Famer with a more typical decline phase. Instead, he had 10.2 WARP, total, after 32. I’m leaving him off, again.

Whoa. The grass at Tiger Stadium is being held against Trammell? Who the —? What the —?

It appears Mr. Neyer isn’t sure what to make of it either.

[W]hile it’s true that a typical decline phase would make Trammell’s career stats look a lot better, I don’t think Trammell’s (apparently) atypical decline is a reason to leave him out of the Hall of Fame

(snip)

I am not saying that Trammell’s 2,365 career hits constitute, by themselves, a great case for the Hall of Fame. I’m saying we shouldn’t hold Trammell’s decline phase against him, because his career accomplishments are right in line with plenty of Hall of Fame shortstops.

Two, while I’m intrigued by the notion that Trammell’s solid defensive credentials — he won four Gold Gloves, and Bill James has him as a Grade B-minus shortstop over his entire career — are partly the result of the high grass in the Tiger Stadium infield, I’d sure like to see somebody do some actual work on this one. Yes, sinkerballer Walt Terrell’s home/road splits were massive when he pitched for the Tigers, particularly from 1985 through ’87.

Ah, Walt Terrell. Oh, and Sheehan isn’t voting for Jack Morris either.

As I said at the outset. If you’re an ESPN Insider, check out the comments on Rob’s post. Some people need to lighten up.

P.S. Happy 59th Birthday to short-time Tiger pitcher Ike Brookens, cousin of long-timer Tom.