I’ve been complaining about how MLB Network and ESPN and everyone keeps showing “classic” baseball games. My beef: when you say “coming up next, The David Freese Game from the 2011 World Series!” you know what’s gonna happen. Maybe Cardinals fans can watch that 1,000 times, but for everyone else, eh. What we need are games we don’t specifically remember. Games which, at least on some level, allow us to suspend disbelief and enjoy them as if they were live or as close to live as possible. Games which let us be at least somewhat surprised.
So that’s what I decided to do. Kinda.
I say “kinda” because I had a hankering to watch an old Tigers game from back when I was a kid and used to watch them on WDIV Channel 4 in Detroit. There aren’t a lot of those games floating around, but there are a few. Not shockingly, the ones I could find the most of were from 1984, when the Tigers won the World Series. The “problem” with that is that, given how good that team was, you know that the Tigers are pretty likely to win it, especially if it comes early in the season when they got off to their famous 35-5 start.
That’s OK for our purposes here, though, because the only game in that stretch for which I or most any of us might have any specific memory is Jack Morris’ no-hitter in the fourth game of the season against the White Sox. I’ll skip that one and, instead, go with the 1984 home opener: April 10th against the Texas Rangers. I can guess that the Tigers won it, but I know I didn’t watch it or listen to it because I was on spring break from the fifth grade and in Florida at the time. I consciously chose NOT to look at the box score of this game beforehand on Baseball-Reference.com. I’m going in about as blind as I can go.
How can you watch it if you want to? Let’s just say that Google and YouTube are your friend and leave it at that, because I am pretty sure that whoever posted this video did not have the express written consent of Major League Baseball.
At the outset, I’m gonna say that I almost didn’t want to do this game when I noticed the date. As I wrote recently over at my personal site, April 10, 1984 was the day that my great uncle Harry, the man who is probably most responsible for making me a baseball fan, died (and it’s why I remembered where I was when this game was played). He lived in Detroit, was a big Tigers fan and, if he hadn’t dropped dead of a heart attack in his backyard late that morning, would’ve been in his usual seat right behind home plate at Tiger Stadium that afternoon.
As I started watching the video, though, I actually felt pretty OK about it all. The doctors said that Harry never knew what hit him. I’ve always chosen to believe that, because of that, he left this world with good thoughts — it’s Opening Day! — in his head. Ten miles away from the ballpark a chapter was closing, but here at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, a new chapter was opening.
Either way, on some cosmic level I’ve always thought of the Tigers’ 1984 World Series run as some sort of unconscious tribute to my uncle Harry. As such, there’s no reason not to watch this game now, many decades later, with warm eyes and a fondness in my heart.
The broadcast starts with an ad for a local Detroit show called “The Saturday Night Music Machine,” which was like a local version of “American Idol,” except it debuted almost 20 years earlier. It was pretty spiffy:
It was hosted by a guy named Curtis Gadson, who worked for the station. He also happened to write what became the theme song for the eventual World Series champs: “Bless You Boys (This Is The Year).”
The phrase “Bless You Boys” was a catchphrase adopted for the Tigers by a Detroit sportscaster named Al Ackerman after they started the year off at 35-5. “Bless You Boys” was plastered on everything in the Detroit area and points north that year and for many years after. My brother and I had “Bless You Boys” t-shirts and plastic placemats at home. Sparky Anderson’s book about the 1984 season was titled “Bless You Boys: Diary of the Detroit Tigers’ 1984 Season.” Despite it being 36 years-old, the slogan still gets used a surprising amount by both the Tigers and local media talking about the Tigers. The most prominent Tigers blog out there — which my wife used to work for — is called “Bless You Boys” as well.
WDIV wants you to know that “Days of our Lives” and “As the World Turns” will not be seen due to the game. If that upsets you, you can get the entire year of episodes of “Days of our Lives” for $108 at this kinda sketchy lookin’ website.
A pre-produced video of the exterior, and then the interior of Tiger Stadium. I’m already crying. Also, the animated Tiger — think the MGM thing, but a Tiger — that anyone who watched Tiger games at the time will recall. At the open of broadcasts the very aggressive Tiger would grab a bat in his mouth:
Sometimes, it would take the logo of the opposing team in its mouth and rip it to shreds. I can’t find a clip of that. I could find the one they’d play at the end of the broadcast after a loss, though:
I swear to God I’ll get to the game soon. I’m just sort of drowning in nostalgia at the moment. It’ll pass.
The Tigers pregame show, “Tigers ’84” — which, duh, changed names every year — starts things off. The host, Eli Zaret, who is way better-known for covering the Pistons, begins by name-checking the Garland Jeffreys song “Wild in the Streets” to describe the atmosphere in downtown Detroit on the day of the home opener. Zaret refers to Michigan Avenue as “the largest outdoor bar in the world out there.” Based on my recollections of going to Tiger Stadium when I was a kid I can say that checks out. I can still smell the stale Stroh’s. All of that said, I really wish Zaret had mentioned the Circle Jerks’ version of “Wild in the Streets,” which came out in 1982. No one asked me, though. Mostly because I was ten years-old the day this game was played and hadn’t yet discovered the Circle Jerks.
Zaret mentions the Tigers’ “hot start.” Boy was it. The Tigers, famously, began the season 35-5 and would win the AL East by 15 games. When this game was played they were 5-0. Jack Morris had, however, no-hit the White Sox in the season’s fourth game, so there was already something special in the air.
Zaret then brings out Morris, who is either genuinely surprised about all the media attention he’s gotten in the three days since the no-hitter or is faking the surprise in service of some passive aggression over not getting more attention for the “over 90 games [he’s] won in the big leagues,” as he notes.
I’ve long been on record as not caring much for Morris as a person. I met him at a card show a month or two after this game and he said some stuff that even I, a mere kid, recognized as insulting about his then-teammate, Glenn Abbott. Everyone knows, or should know, about his sexual harassment of a reporter named Jennifer Frey in 1990. I think he’s a first class jackass, so I’m going to assume he’s venting some here about not getting the respect he felt he deserved before no-hitting the White Sox.
With Morris out of the way, Zaret throws it up to George Kell and Al Kaline — may he rest in peace — in the booth. These two were my introduction to baseball on TV but, as I’ve mentioned before, I probably listened to about 5-10 times as many Tigers games on the radio back then than I watched on TV. Every game was on the radio and that wasn’t the case with TV before the 1990s. Also, I had a radio in my bedroom, but no TV, and when my mom wanted to watch “Gimme a Break” or “T.J. Hooker,” well, I didn’t have dibs. It was fine though, because Tigers radio featured Ernie Harwell, who was an absolute legend and — though I have an obvious soft spot for Al Kaline — Harwell was a gabillion times better than Kell and Kaline at calling a game.
I was lucky enough to meet Kaline a few times in my life. I interviewed him in 2015 when he was 80 years-old and he struck me as a particularly sharp 80 years-old. He was getting around the stadium with a quickness and, based on his very informed answers about the state of the club at the moment and the dynamics of the clubhouse, he was more than just filling an ambassador role with the club. The first time I met him was when I got his autograph at some bank opening, probably a couple of years before this 1984 game. I thought of him as an old man at the time, probably because I was so small and any adult seemed old. As it was, he was 49 when this game was broadcast. That’s just three years older than I am now. Your mind plays tricks on you, always.
A commercial for Little Caesar’s Pizza. The owner of Little Caesar’s — Mike Illitch — did not yet own the Tigers. He wouldn’t buy them until 1992. In 1984 they were owned by Domino’s Pizza owner Tom Monaghan. I choose to view this commercial as the beginning of a long seduction by the rival pizza man. As for the commercial itself, a bunch of little kids are eating Little Caesar’s and the voiceover calls them “The Pizza! Pizza! Generation,” name-checking the franchise’s much-publicized two-for-one deal at the time. All those kids are now aging Gen-Xers. I guess “Pizza! Pizza! Generation” did not take.
Al Ackerman, the “Bless You Boys” guy, interviews Sparky Anderson. Anderson mentions that he’s writing that book I mentioned above, that would eventually be called “Bless You Boys.” I guess I hadn’t realized that he had the book deal before the team caught fire, but he apparently did. Good foresight by Anderson to start writing this before the best Tigers season in history.
Sparky says Jack Morris is not just a good pitcher but, “he’s a good person.” He talks about how Morris is an upstanding guy around “children, the minister, old people, the press” everyone like that. Welp, OK, maybe Sparky didn’t see everything as clearly ahead of time.
Talking about Morris’ no-hitter, Sparky mentions that it’s no fun to be on the other side of one. He recalls that when he managed the Reds — “that club in Cincinnatuh” he says — that they were no-hit twice in the space of two or three weeks. Sparky mentions that Ken Holtzman of the Cubs no-hit ’em on June 3, 1971. Sparky couldn’t remember the name of the guy who tossed the second no-no, but he remembered that the pitcher who did it also hit two homers in the game. That was Rick Wise of the Philadelphia Phillies on June 23. The Reds, despite being the defending NL champs, would only finish 79-83 in 1971 — Sparky’s only losing season as the manager of that club in Cincinnatuh — so I guess I can understand why he had pushed some of that season out of his mind.
We’re finally up to the pregame introductions. They’re doing it in order of uniform number, which is not a thing I’ve ever seen before. Whitaker is first — he gets his customary “Louuuu!!” Alan Trammell’s ovation was somewhat subdued. Lance Parrish, Larry Herndon, and Chet Lemon got bigger ones. Dave Rozema’s is about as big as Trammell’s. Kirk Gibson gets a big, big cheer, but Jack Morris’ is the biggest cheer by far. Long and drawn out, to the point where the PA guy has to pause. I get it, though, as it was a couple of days after the no-hitter and was the first time the hometown fans had a chance to cheer for him. Weird about Trammell, though. Do these people not realize that Trammell was my favorite player at the time? Gosh.
The National Anthem is sung by a guy named Robert Taylor. He does it in then-standard light opera style, with a brass band accompanying him. This was in the pre-Whitney Houston Anthem era, so it did not take seven minutes and no one mentioned what record label Taylor recorded for. For all we know he was a music teacher in Livonia or something.
The ceremonial first pitch will be delivered by Detroit mayor Coleman Young and he will throw it to Michigan governor James Blanchard. I’m struggling to imagine two politicians of two different parties — and who really did not get along — agreeing to do this today. Mayor Young is late coming out to the field, making Blanchard cool his heels, In light of that and everything else ‘m guessing that Blanchard never agreed to do it again.
The delay forces Eli Zaret to riff, so he riffs about how the Rangers’ starter, Dave Stewart — “a reliever, really, who the Rangers have turned into a starter” — was acquired by Texas the previous August from the Dodgers for Rick Honeycutt and that Honeycutt “disappointed for the Dodgers.” Which he did. Stewart and Honeycutt would team up in Oakland in 1987, of course, where neither would disappoint. Honeycutt would return to Los Angeles and serve as the Dodgers pitching coach for 14 seasons. He just stepped down in October.
Mayor Young is still not here. Maybe he feels insulted because he was the second choice: Zaret says that Tom Selleck — “that famous Tigers fan” — was in talks to throw the first pitch but it fell through. That was likely concocted when Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker appeared on the “Magnum P.I.” episode, “A Sense of Debt,” which aired the previous December:
— Vintage Detroit Collection (@VintageDet) June 4, 2018
Young finally arrives. He is heartily booed when introduced (so too is Blanchard). It’s probably worth noting here that Tigers fans have long been overwhelmingly suburban white folks coming into the predominantly black city that, apart from the sports, they largely feared and/or despised. That the dynamic was even more pronounced in 1984 than it is now. It’s also worth noting that at some point in 1984 — I’m not sure if it was before or after this game — Mayor Young famously noted how horrible the racial tension was between white suburban Detroit residents and black Detroit residents, saying “racism is at an all-time high.” As someone whose relatives were all from Detroit, with all but a couple of them having fled to the suburbs after the 1967 riots, and almost all of them racist to their core, he was 100% right about that.
The Rangers lineup:
- Billy Sample had been a fine and occasionally pretty good hitter in his career, but he never did fulfill the crazy expectations people had for him after he absolutely tore through the minors, putting up a line of .352/.471/.573 for the Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League in 1978, winning the Minor League Player of the Year Award;
- Buddy Bell was just beginning the downslope of his career but had an outstanding 1984, winning a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger and posting an .840 OPS. He’d be traded to the Reds the following year;
- George Wright was a not-very-good hitter who probably got way too many plate appearances for early-80s Rangers teams;
- Larry Parrish, like Bell, was beginning the downslope of a fine career, but still had a nice 1984 season, driving in 100 runs. Tigers fans used to call him “the other Parrish.” It was very odd when he became the Tigers manager in the late 90s. Here’s an essay about the two Parrishes.
- Gary Ward had a decent season too. It’s weird that this team lost 92 games. He’d end his career with the Tigers;
- Pete O'Brien had a 117 OPS+ that year. He seems like a way more “modern” player to me than the rest of these guys. He was done after 1993, though, so I’m not particularly sure why that is. I guess it’s later than a lot of them;
- Baseball-Reference says that Ned Yost was 29 in 1984. I find it hard to believe that he was ever younger than 50, but maybe I’m wrong about that;
- Wayne Tolleson got 378 plate appearances in 1984 yet put up a 46 OPS+. For his entire career he’d have a 66 OPS+ yet would get 2,614 plate appearances over ten years. It’s amazing what baseball teams tolerated from middle infielders, offensively speaking, back then. Guys like Trammell, Whitaker, Ripken, and Yount were freaks, relatively speaking.
- I mean, Curt Wilkerson: 522 plate appearances, 55 OPS+. OK, maybe I’m now seeing why the Rangers lost 92 games.
Three future managers — Bell, Yost, and Parrish — and a future broadcaster in Sample in this lineup. I wonder if their current manager, Doug Radar, felt like he was being second-guessed a lot.
The Tigers on defense:
Pretty standard setup for the Tigers all year. Johnson would be something of a utility guy in 1984 and would give way defensively to Tom Brookens a lot. Bergman Would give up first for Darrell Evans once or twice a week when Evans wasn’t DH’ing. Mostly, though, these were the guys all the time.
Dan Petry, by the way, had a much better season than Jack Morris did in 1984, finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young voting to Morris’ 7th. He was better than Morris in 1983 and 1982 as well. He pitched a lot of innings over that time and led the AL in games started in 1983. Morris would last way longer than him and achieve much more fame than him, obviously, but for a good chuck of the early-to-mid 80s, Peaches was the better pitcher and I bet if you tell that to Morris now it makes him mad. Tigers fans knew it, though.
I and everyone else who talks about 1970s and 1980s baseball talks about how fast pitchers worked compared to now, but the first at bat of the game, Billy Sample vs. Petry, is kind of slow. Sample steps out a lot. If the uniforms weren’t so tight you’d think that it was 2020!
Bell singles on the first pitch, bringing up Wright, who Kaline calls “maybe the best all-around player on this Rangers ballclub” which was not correct in any way at all, but Kaline just died so I won’t go too hard on him.
Wright gets Bell to second on a fielder’s choice and then Larry Parrish singles up the middle, just out of the reach of a diving Alan Trammell, to make it 1-0 Rangers in the top of the first. Petry’s control is kind of a mess. Lance Parrish sets up one place, Petry throws it another. Just cold I’d guess.
Petry gets out of the inning by striking out Ward. Petry, to the extent he knows where it’s going, is trying to work inside and outside, not up and down, and he’s being rewarded for it with generous calls on the inside and outside part of the plate. It’s not talked about that much, but the biggest change in baseball over the past 10-15 years or so is that, thanks to electronic evaluations of umpires, the inside and outside strike is long gone and the low strike is way more likely to be called. It changes the approach of both pitchers and hitters and has a tremendous impact on power numbers and strikeout totals.
Two short commercials between the top and bottom of the first (a Miller Lite spot with Boog Powell and a retired umpire who mixes up the Lite bottle and the ketchup because, hee hee, umps can’t see, and some insurance company with pantomime artists Shields and Yarnell, which makes this the most 1984 commercial ever). If you want to know why games are longer now, know that that break is half the time current commercial breaks are in games.
Dave Stewart takes the mound. He’s so much bigger and is built so much more powerfully than anyone else on the field, at least aside from the Parrishes. It’s almost comical. His intimidating stare is not quite what it would become, but he was a damn sight to see in 1984, I imagine.
Kell: “Stewart is a hard thrower. His fastball has been clocked at 95 miles per hour.” In today’s game that’d make him a finesse pitcher.
Stewart walks leadoff hitter Lou Whitaker on five pitches. He’s sort of lost too. He almost throws it away on an attempted pickoff throw to first. A few pitches later Ned Yost gets crossed up on a Stewart pitch — he looked like he was expecting a fastball and it was a slider — bobbles the ball and loses it, Whitaker takes off and swipes second, though Kell never says how it was officially scored. Guess I’ll look later. Then he walks Trammell. Not starting out well here, Stewart.
Now he faces Darrell Evans. Evans was almost 37 years-old and he was making his first home start for the Tigers after signing as a free agent the previous December. He had had a monster 1983 season with the Giants, hitting 30 home runs with a .378 OBP and a .516 slugging percentage, and as such was a highly sought-after free agent. He inked a three-year deal with the Tigers for $2.25 million.
And on the second pitch Evans launches a Dave Stewart fastball — a straight-as-a-damn-arrow fastball — verrry deep into the upper deck in right field. 1984 would, actually, be a down year for Evans, tragically interrupted by the death of his father, but he was still a key contributor in the World Series run and, yeah, that was a nice introduction to his new hometown fans. It’s 3-1 Tigers.
Lance Parrish fouls out to Ned Yost to bring up Kirk Gibson, who singles and has thoughts of taking second base but retreats to first. It’s odd, with so much of our collective memory of Gibson being him hobbling as a Dodger, to see him flying down the line, cutting on a dime, and scampering back to first. He really was a Big 10 wide receiver who could’ve played in the NFL and I suppose we all forget that. Larry Herndon walks to put two men on, Dave Bergman flies out to left, and then Chet Lemon walks to load the bases. Stewart is intimidating no one on this day. And he’s working slower than molasses. Really, this does feel like a modern game.
Howard Johnson comes to bat and walks on five pitches to force in Gibson for the Tigers’ fourth run of the inning.
And that’s all for Stewart. Doug Radar comes and gets him. The 1989 World Series MVP can’t make it out of the first inning in his second start of 1984, having issued five walks. In comes Dave Schmidt, who gets Whitaker to ground out to, mercifully, end the inning after 42 minutes. It’s 4-1 Detroit.
The 1984 Tigers are pretty good, folks. Who knew?
Petry comes out in the top of the second working fast. I guess the lead and all that rest has invigorated him. He strikes out Pete O’Brein, gets Yost to fly out and then punches out Tolleson. Maybe the weak part of the Rangers lineup invigorated him too.
It’s the second inning in early April. It would get into the low 60s later, but at it was still pretty chilly here — guys on the field had trench coats on during the pregame — but dudes are shirtless at Tiger Stadium already. It was still the 1970s in some places in 1984.
Trammell and Evans groundout to start the bottom of the second and then Parrish strikes out on a changeup. Kell says “Schmidt pulled the string on ’em.” People don’t say “pulled the string” enough when talking about offspeed pitches anymore.
Kell talks about how the Rangers let Bucky Dent walk to make room for Wilkerson. Kell: “I don’t think Dent has caught on with anyone yet.” Kaline: “I haven’t read anything about it in the paper.” Dent would get 10 plate appearances with the Royals in 1984 and that was the end of it.
Wilkerson strikes out, Sample flies out and Buddy Bell comes up. Kaline talks about how it’s a shame that a player as good as Bell has always played for such bad teams. Kaline, at least until the late 60s, knew what that was like, though nowhere as near as well as Bell did. Bell would have an 18-year Hall of Very Good career but would never play in the postseason. The closest he’d ever get was when he played on some Pete Rose-managed Reds teams that finished in second place. He’d never reach the postseason in nine years of managing either (he’d skipper the Tigers, the Rockies and the Royals). Bell goes down swinging. Petry is cruising.
Reliever Sparky Lyle and starter Pat Dobson appear in a Lite Beer commercial in which Dobson keeps interrupting Lyle’s lines, and at the end, Lyle says “Will you let me finish?!” And Dobson says “Why? You never let ME finish!” 1973-74 Yankees humor.
The bottom of the third starts and the broadcast accidentally shows the “coming up” graphic they used for the second, showing Trammell, Evans and Parrish. The Tigers, thankfully, know who is actually batting, and Kirk Gibson comes to the plate. Gibby strikes out, making it five batters retired in a row by Schmidt. It would not be six, as Larry Herndon doubles a 1-2 pitch deep into left-center field that, if it wasn’t for Billy Sample getting the hell over in a hurry, might’ve been a triple. Dave Bergman then steps in and singles to right, plating Herndon. It’s 5-1 Tigers.
Herndon might’ve been pegged at home if Gary Ward had thrown home, but he was indecisive on whether to do that or go to second. Kaline — who played over 2,000 games in right field in his Hall of Fame career, winning ten Gold Gloves — talks about Ward’s decision making. Kell says something mildly contradictory about what, maybe, Ward was thinking. Kaline, who was not known for his humor in the booth, offers a dry but pretty hilarious, “right field is hard to play, George.” Kell, an infielder who played one game in right field in his 15-year career, realizes he’s been told, and laughs, “I know it is.”
Herndon and Bergman were both former Giants. Evans was a former Giant. The Tigers had a thing for former Giants back then. Bergman gets caught stealing when Chet Lemon misses a hit-and-run sign — check out Ned Yost’s hose! — and then Lemon grounds out to end the inning.
As the fourth gets underway Kell makes what was clearly a requested announcement: “Mr. John Fetzer (the Tigers recently former owner), Mr. Tom Monaghan (current owner) and Mr. Jim Campbell (the Tigers’ general manager) would like to congratulate the Detroit Red Wings on a successful and interesting season” (“interesting?”). Kell ads that the Wings, who went 31-42-7 and made the playoffs for the first time in six years, are “definitely on the way up.” Kaline says that they’ve got some good young players. The one he most likely had in mind was an 18 year-old kid named Steve Yzerman, who scored 87 points in the 83-84 season. I wonder whatever happened to him? I wonder if the Wings actually got better? Ah, too busy to check.
The Rangers start a little something in the fourth, drawing two two-out walks off of Petry. Tigers pitching coach Roger Craig — who would become the San Francisco Giants manager the next year — comes out of the dugout to calm Petry down. It works, as Petry strikes out Ned Yost to retire the side.
Kell starts the bottom of the fourth talking about a recent Sporting News article — written by Peter Gammons — about Alan Trammell, the frame of which seems to be “Trammell: the under-appreciated superstar.” Which, yes, was a pretty common thing for him in those days. It even, according to Kell, says that the Trammell is ahead of Robin Yount in a million categories like homers, slugging, runs, you name it.
“Wait, that makes no sense to me,” I think to myself. Yount was a monster at the time. He was basically considered the best shortstop in baseball — even better than Ripken, who had just won an MVP but who was still early in his career — and, by every objective measure was the best. Trammell, though a definite Hall of Famer, coming off his best year to date, still had his best years and most of his Cooperstown resume-building ahead of him heading into the 1984 season.
So, I rewind and listen to Kell explain it again to see what in the hell he’s getting at. Ah, there it is: it’s premised on “through their first six full seasons. Trammell had just finished his sixth full season in 1983. Yount’s sixth full season was 1979. Given that Yount started as a full-time big leaguer when he was 18, given that he rather famously started slow, almost walking away from the game to become a pro golfer at one point, and given that he broke out in a major way in his seventh season in 1980, at which point he had been vastly superior to Trammell by basically every measure, methinks that Gammons or Kell — who spoke of Yount’s stats as though they were current, not just through 1980 — was being a bit misleading.
When people ask how the baseball analytics movement got going and what it was that animated them, you can look to weird statistical manipulation and story-building like that and say “that’s why.”
Howard Johnson, Whitaker, and Trammell go down in order to end the fourth.
Top of the fifth and Tolleson is out on one pitch. Cutis Wilkerson then comes up and Kell calls him “the little shortstop.” Kaline calls him “the little guy.” Wilkerson is also out on one pitch: a line drive to Johnson at third. That brings up Billy Sample. Kell and Kaline both say that Sample will, in light of the first two outs coming on two pitches, take a couple of pitches. Kell then tells a story about how his old manager with the Tigers, Steve O’Neill, once chastised a young Kell for first-pitch swinging. O’Neill, by the way, was born in 1891, was teammates with Cy Young and a very young Shoeless Joe Jackson, and has been dead for 58 years. Kell is telling this story the way an announcer might tell a story about, say, Tony La Russa maybe. No point here, other than time is really messed up once you start thinking about how far its arrow flies.
Sample takes a couple of pitches — he was a college guy, product of James Madison University, to he always kept his head in the game — but then pops up to second. Petry hasn’t given up bupkis since the first.
Evans, Parrish and Gibson come on to face Schmidt, who has done a pretty darn good job since Dave Stewart crapped out. Schmidt, by the way, pitched until 1992. He’s been a coach and/or coordinator for the Orioles for 22 or 23 years now. In the fifth he retires Evans, Parrish and Gibson in order to end the fifth. He doesn’t throw many fastballs but he has lots of movement on everything he throws. Way more than a lot of pitchers had at the time.
The post-inning bumper music was “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by The Police. The previous inning was Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.” Given how often those songs are still played today they’re the most modern part of this entire broadcast. The second-most modern part was how slow-paced the first inning was. The commercials — which seem like they’re being beamed in from 200 years ago — are the least-modern aspect of it. The crude in-game graphics and the fast pace of everything after the first inning follow closely. It’s like once this game became 5-1 everyone wanted to get out of the ballpark as fast as they could in order to get dinner at Sammy Sofferin’s Wonder Bar and Indian Room.
The Rangers go down 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth they bring out a new pitcher: Tom Henke, who Al Kaline calls “a big fella” who has “been roughed up quite a bit.” Henke had tossed eight games in both 1982 and 1983, but 1984 was his true rookie season (which makes me wonder how he got Rookie of the Year votes in 1985?). It was a dreadful rookie season — he’d pinch off a 6.35 ERA in 25 games — but he’d assert himself as one of the best relievers in the game in 1985 and would remain one of the best for the next decade. Henke retires the first two batters in the sixth, hits Chet Lemon with a pitch, throws a wild pitch to let Lemon take second, walks Howard Johnson, but then gets Lou Whitaker to fly out to escape the sixth.
As the inning proceeded, Al reads the out of town scores and notes that the Astros are playing the Phillies. Nolan Ryan is on the hill for Houston. Al says “it’d sure be something if Carlton Fisk, er, I mean Steve Carlton was pitching for the Phillies.” Kell says “it’s John Denny on the mound for Philly. Denny won the National League Cy Young Award last season.” I am going to choose to believe that this was Kell getting Kaline back for that crack about how hard it was to play right field a few innings earlier.
George gives the promo for the upcoming Tigers games on TV:
Which means that there were only three scheduled Tigers games on TV in the space of almost two weeks. In the actual event the April 15 game in Boston was rained out, so there were only two games on TV in that span. And people ask me why I was more of a radio fan than a TV fan back in the day. My god, you’d be lucky in those days to get 50 games a year on TV. This is also why the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC or Monday Night Baseball on ABC — which, yes, was a thing — was such a big deal. Now, by the time ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball rolls around you’ve basically got baseball fatigue. You can see dozens of games a week now. At least if you have cable or pay for a streaming package. These were free.
Tom Brookens comes in as a defensive substitution to start the seventh. He’d have a 12-year big league career, premised almost entirely on being a barely above average defender at third base and a poor hitter, almost totally because Sparky Anderson loved him. Fans loved him too. I never really got it. He did have a hell of a mustache, but then again, so did everyone else back then.
Petry is back out for the seventh. He labored in the first and has been in and out of a little trouble but I don’t think his pitch count is super high even by modern standards. He is two-thirds of the way through the order on his third time through the lineup, though, so I’m guessing all the analysts out there are on their fainting couches. Worth noting, though — as Kaline notes, in a good bit of analysis — that Petry is landing on his heel and not bending his front knee, causing him to throw the ball uphill and leave things up in the zone. It’s probably because he’s tired. No way he’s still in this game in the modern era. He probably doesn’t come out for the sixth in today’s game.
Petry gives up a single, retires a batter and then faces Ned Yost, who hits a dribbler to second. Whitaker has to maneuver around the baserunner, field the ball and flip it to Bergman at first. He had the advantage of the catcher running, but that is nowhere close to a sure out given all he had to do. Whitaker was just a spectacular defensive second baseman and the fact that he’s not in the Hall of Fame is a goddamn atrocity.
Petry gets out of the inning after allowing that single and a walk. He hasn’t allowed a run since the first.
Trammell leads off the bottom of the seventh with a single over the shortstop’s head, but is caught stealing — Ned Yost makes an absolutely perfect throw. What a hose! — a couple of pitches later with Darrell Evans at the plate. Kaline calls Tom Henke “Tom Henkel.” Look, he wasn’t an established big leaguer yet. We’ve all been there.
Evens grounds out and Lance Parrish strikes out for the second time in the game and we’re on to the eighth.
Petry comes out for the eighth to face the top of the Rangers’ lineup. His fourth time though the order. That sound you hear is a group of modern front office employees building a time machine to go back to 1984 to have Sparky Anderson arrested for Crimes Against Analytics. Petry doesn’t give a crap. He sets down Sample, Bell and Wright in order. Petry looks way better in the eighth than he did in the seventh. Roger Craig or someone must’ve told him about that front leg thing Kaline mentioned. Or he took some greenies or something. It was the 80s and players were taking way worse things than that all the time then.
Jim Bibby comes in to face the Tigers in the bottom of the eighth. Bibby, who was signed by the Mets in 1965 but spent a long time in the minors before breaking into the bigs with the Cardinals in 1972, was 39 years-old. He was a big part of the Pirates’ 1979 World Series-winning team, but this would be his final season in the majors. In fact, he wouldn’t even make it until June, with his last game coming on May 26 against the White Sox. Here he walks Larry Herndon who steals second. The steal was easier because Ned “Hose” Yost had been replaced by Marv Foley to start the inning. Yost woulda got ’em. Bibby navigates around that though, striking out Dave Bergman and getting Chet Lemon to ground out.
Unless the Rangers rally, that’s the last we’ll see of the Tigers batters in this game. And if they’re going to rally they’re going to have to do it against Dan Petry, who is heading out to the mound for the ninth inning. He’ll try for the complete game.
As the top of the ninth gets underway, there’s a camera pan around Tiger Stadium. Kaline to Kell: “The old ballpark looks great.” Kell to Kaline: “The old ballpark looks better than I’ve ever seen it.”
At the time they’re saying this, Tiger Stadium was only only 14 years older than Dodger Stadium is now. Yet, they’d call Tiger Stadium home for only 15 more years after this one.
If I could have one baseball-only related wish it’d be for the Tigers to have had the foresight to give Tiger Stadium the loving, thorough renovation like those given to Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and to have it still be their home park today. I don’t get too emotional about anything, but I get choked up thinking about how wonderful it was to watch a baseball game there and how important it was to me as a kid. It’s a damn shame it’s gone.
The top of the ninth begins. Larry Parrish grounds out to lead things off, but then Gary Ward singles. Sparky Anderson has Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez warming in the pen. Will Captain Hook lift Petry? Kaline thinks that, if another batter reaches, Petry’s afternoon is over.
Petry gives up a hard hit liner to Pete O’Brien to right that looks like it’s going to fall for a — Nope! Kirk Gibson, who still has his wheels in 1984, races over, fights some harsh afternoon sun, and makes the catch! That catch keeps Petry in the game. The next batter, Marv Foley, then sends a rocket down the first base line but Dave Bergman squeezes it. Both of those should’ve been hits. Both of those were evidence that Petry was way out of gas. But it doesn’t matter: that’s the ballgame. Time of game: two hours, thirty-two minutes.
Dan Petry gets the complete game and the win, allowing only one run on four hits, walking one and striking out seven. The offensive hero was Darrell Evans, who hit a three-run homer on his first swing in his new home ballpark. Dave Stewart takes the loss for Texas, going only two-thirds of an inning, giving up four runs on two hits and walking five. I have a hunch that he’ll have better days.
I have a good feeling about this 1984 Tigers team, you guys. I think they’re gonna have a halfway decent season.
Thanks for reading along, folks. I know it was long, but it was so much fun to write and I hope it was even a tenth as fun to read. These are dark times we’re living in, so any chance we can take to escape, if even for a few minutes, is a chance we have to take.
I think the next one will be a bad old TBS Braves game.