January 04, 2014

Baseball, hot dogs, & apple pie

Baseball, hot dogs, & apple pie

I've loved going to Tigers games since the '70s when we would take in one or two games a year. Sometimes, both games were on the same day! Believe it or not, little Ricky didn't actually enjoy double headers. 

Many Hall of Famers have played games in Detroit. I would argue that even some of the former Tigers who are not yet in the Hall belong there. Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Lou Whitaker should all be considered for enshrinement. 

Tram and Whitaker were young, young players when I started enjoying the Tigers. You could argue that they were merely good field no hit ball players for the first few years of their careers. Something happened in 1983, though. Suddenly, the Tigers were jelling as a team and the keystone combo were a major part of that. Each of them hit nearly .320 with a bit of speed and power that season. Things were looking up for the first time.

That summer was my Grandparents 50th Wedding Anniversary and my Mom, Uncle John, and Aunt Nancy put together a party for them. One of the coolest guests was the sports editor for the Detroit News. The party was in August and the season was winding down. Mr. Falls was willing to listen to an 11–year–old kid ask all kinds of questions about the Tigers. When I asked him who would have the higher average, he told me Whitaker but asked what I thought.

"I think they're going to end up tied," I said. I don't remember if I had any rhyme or reason, but that's what I believed. I guess it sounded like it would be a good story.

The fact of the matter 

  • Whitaker had the higher average, .320. 
  • Trammell hit.319
  • We were almost both right! 
Joe Falls and I were both right about the '83 Tigers leading hitters. 

The Tigers put it (almost) together in '83

The Tigers were so close to making the playoffs in 1983. The pitching, led by Morris, was top notch. The hitting was solid. It made things look great for 1984. The Tigers had some adjustments to make before the season would arrive, but the nucleus was in place. And the manager, Sparky Anderson, had one year left on his five year plan.

The Tigers signed a new infielder, Darrell Evans. He would end up playing some first base, third base, and designated hitter for the Tigers during the next several seasons. His bat was needed in the line–up. The Tigers had one spot that possibly needed upgrading, short relief. As Spring Training cranked up and wound down, the team still had not addressed that situation.

The 1984 season

You know that the Tigers got off to that historic 35–5 start in '84. The season was magical. At one point, I had every Detroit News from that season. I attended the clinch game for the American League Championship Series and a World Series game. Mr. Falls helped my Grandpa Morgan acquire those tickets, which were right behind home plate in the upper deck. Quite an awesome experience for a 12–year–old kid. The Tigers won the World Series in 1984. And that short reliever they traded for right before the start of the season, Willie Hernandez – he won the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. It was a historic season for him, the Tigers, and all of the fandom. 

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