Ah, the dawn of a new season. A chance for fans to speculate what lies ahead for their beloved teams. Yet as the 2014 baseball season begins, many Detroit Tigers fans no doubt will be looking back as well as forward - 30 years back, to be exact. When the final out was called for the 1984 season, the Tigers had defeated the San Diego Padres to become World Series champions.
"Bless You Boys" was the team's motto that year, and indeed the Tigers could hardly have enjoyed a more charmed start. After the first 40 games, they were 35-5. Pitcher Jack Morris was arguably the team's biggest star, going 10-1 and pitching a no-hitter during his first 11 games. He stumbled later in the year, however, going 3-6 over a two-month period and ultimately finishing with 19 wins. The team as a whole stumbled after its fantastic start and finished 104-58.
Heading into the American League Championship Series, the Tigers felt they hadn't received proper credit for their success. The opposing Kansas City Royals provided little challenge. The Tigers swept the series in three games to claim their first pennant since 1968. The Royals were held to a .170 batting average and set a record for a three-game championship series by committing seven errors.
For Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, advancing to the Fall Classic was nothing new. He had won four National League pennants and two World Series as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. As manager of the Oakland Athletics, Padres manager Dick Williams had beaten Anderson's Reds in the World Series 12 years earlier. The series began on Oct. 9 at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium. With the Tigers leading by one run in the sixth inning, Morris gave up two singles before striking out the next three batters. San Diego designated hitter Kurt Bevacqua, who had hit .200 with one home run and nine runs batted in during the season, led off the seventh inning and hit the ball into the right field corner. Bevacqua believed he had hit a triple, as did third base coach Ozzie Virgil, who waved him on. But Bevacqua stumbled while rounding second base and was tagged out. The Tigers won 3-2.
Bevacqua redeemed himself in Game Two by hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning that gave the Padres a 5-3 victory. The Tigers dominated early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Starting pitcher Ed Whitson was replaced by Andy Hawkins with two Tigers on and two out in the first inning and allowed only one hit and no runs over the next 5 1/3 innings. Craig Lefferts replaced Hawkins and earned the save by allowing one hit and striking out five Tigers in the final three innings.
Tiger Stadium, the oldest stadium ever to host a World Series, was the setting for Game Three. Detroit's Marty Castillo stepped to the plate with a man on in the second inning and hit his fifth home run of the year. The starting Padre pitcher, Tim Lollar, was yanked after 1 2/3 innings and replaced by Greg Booker, the son-in-law of Jack McKeon, the team's general manager, with the bases loaded. Booker walked Larry Herndon home. After walking the bases loaded in the third inning, he was replaced by Greg Harris, who immediately gave up another run by hitting Kirk Gibson in the foot. The Padres scored a run in the seventh inning, and the Tigers brought in Willie Hernandez to pitch to Terry Kennedy. Kennedy smashed Hernandez's 3-2 pitch deep into center field, but Chet Lemon made a fantastic catch to get the out. The Tigers won 5-2.
Detroit's Alan Trammell hit two-run home runs in both the first and third innings of Game Four. Unsurprisingly, starting pitcher Eric Show didn't make it past the third inning. Meanwhile, Morris gave up only five hits and became the first starter Anderson didn't yank in the 28 Series games he had managed to that point. The 4-2 victory put the Tigers one win away from calling themselves champions.
Game Five saw yet another Padre starter be taken off the mound early. This time it was Mark Thurmond, who was pulled after giving up three runs in the first inning. But the Padres weren't finished yet, and Anderson yanked starter Dan Petry with the score tied 3-3. With the bases loaded in the fifth inning, Anderson sent Rusty Kuntz to bat for the second time in the Series. Kuntz hit a pop fly to right field that Padre Tony Gwynn lost sight of, forcing second baseman Alan Wiggins to back up and make the catch. This left Wiggins unable to make a strong throw, and Gibson scored.
When San Diego's Goose Gossage came to pitch with one out in the seventh inning, Tiger fans began chanting, "Goose-busters!" Lance Parrish hit Gossage's second pitch into the left field stands. Bevacqua cut the lead to one run with a home run in the eighth inning. With two on in the eighth, Gibson stepped to the plate. Anderson flashed him four fingers (a sign he was going to be walked). Gibson responded by flashing 10 fingers (betting his manager $10 Gossage would pitch to him). Williams wanted Gossage to walk Gibson and told him so during a meeting on the mound. Gossage argued that he had been successful against Gibson in the past and should be allowed to pitch, and the manager relented. Williams' instincts were proven correct when Gibson hit a three-run home run. The Padres failed to score in the ninth, giving the Tigers the 8-4 victory and the world championship. Anderson, who had become the first manager to win the World Series in both leagues, promised his championship ring to his grandson, Georgie.