The Tigers Prevailed in the 1987 AL East Race Before Losing The ALCS: In 2012, They Want a Parade!
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer): Follow @chuckbooth3024
In 1987, 3 of the 4 teams that are in the 2012 MLB LCS Round also qualified back then. The Cardinals and Giants won the NL East and West respectively while the Tigers won the AL East. The only difference was that the Yankees are in this version of the ‘Final Four’ now and the 1987 opponent of the Tigers was the eventual World Series Winners the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers were 3 years removed from their World Series Championship team and still held a majority of their core players from that run in 1984.
I was 11. I only point that out because most of us find our true sporting identity around this age. It would also be the last time my 3 brothers, my dad and I would watch every pitch of the post season together ever. That is why I remember the club so well. While I had transformed into a New York Yankees and Don Mattingly fan, I watched the Detroit Tigers all of the time on the WDIV Channel (Channel 4). As someone who lived in BC Canada cable subscriber we only ever received the Tigers, the CUBS (WGN), the Braves (TBS), the Blue Jays (TSN and CBC), the Expos (RDS and French Channel CBC) and the Mariners (KING 5). Those Braves and Mariners were bad in the 80’s and the CUBS you could only watch if you were sick from school because they always played day games. So it was a heavy dose of the Expos, Blue Jays and Tigers.
The rivalry between the Tigers and Blue Jays between 1984-1987 was fierce. The Tigers won the pennant in 1984, the Blue Jays won the pennant in 1985, the Red Sox squeezed in for the 1986 season before the 1987 year began. It was a seesaw division race for much of the year before Toronto started pulling away from Detroit late in the season. On Sept.14/1987 the Blue Jays offense was potent enough to club 10 HRs in 1 game at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, so it was tough to contain these lads. The Tigers still trailed the Blue Jays by 3 1/2 games with 8 games left, including 5 games versus them in head to head games for Detroit.
When the date of Sept.26/1987 rolled in, the Canadian club had just racked in 7 wins in a row including back to back to back wins over the Motown Boys. In game #1 of a 4 Game Series versus Toronto, Jack Morris threw a complete game, yet a 4-run 3rd inning was all the Jays needed to hold off the Tigers. Game #2 of the series featured the Tigers taking a 2-0 lead into the 9th inning behind an awesome pitching performance by Frank Tanana. Willie Hernandez blew the save in the bottom of the 9th by giving the Jays 3 runs and only recording one out. Game #3 of the Series saw the Tigers taking a 9-4 lead and ultimately a 9-7 lead into the bottom of the 9th again, backed by 2 HRs and 6 RBI from Catcher Matt Nokes. Incredibly, the Jays scored 3 runs off of Mike Henneman for their 7th straight win and 3rd overall in the 4 game series.
The Tigers threw ex-Blue Jay Doyle Alexander against Jim Clancy for the 4th game of the series. The Tigers faced going down 4 1/2 games with just 7 games left. Alexander was a trade deadline pick up for the Tigers (John Smoltz went back to Atlanta) and he was 8-0 for the club down the strecth heading into this game. The Jays were clinging to a 1 run lead into the top of the 9th. Kirk Gibson hit a game tying HR off of Tom Henke to force extra innings. Darrell Evans clubbed a solo HR in the 11th inning, only to have the Jays tie it. Gibson came up in the 13th inning to give the Tigers yet another lead of 3-2. This time the club held the save down. The Tigers avoided the 4 game sweep.
What happened to the Blue Jays next was one of the biggest collapses in MLB History. They lost all 6 games remaining on their schedule in addition to that finale. On the last weekend the Jays still held a 1 game lead versus the Tigers. Detroit won the 1st game of a 3 game series 4-3 behind Doyle Alexander to tie up the division. Game #2 featured Jack Morris versus Mike Flanagan. The Game was tied until the bottom of the 12th. Jack Morris had been pulled after throwing 9 Innings and Mike Flanagan ended up pitching 11 Innings (Holy cow). Once again Jim Walewander scored the decisive run.
Heading into game #162, the Jays had a chance to tie the division on the last day and force a playoff division. Toronto was riding a 6 game losing streak and had turned their 3.5 games lead over Detroit into a 1 game deficit. The Tigers had won 3 straight games over the Jays (all one run games and 2 in extra innings.) On that last game, Frank Tanana threw a complete game shutout to preserve the AL East Pennant for Detroit in 1-0 win. The Jays starting Pitcher (Jimmy Key) had only allowed 3 hits and 1 run in 8 innings. The Tigers went onto the ALCS, while the Jays went home.
The ALCS was not nearly as exciting as that 7 games out of their last 10 games vs the Jays Stretch to end the year between the Tigers and Blue Jays. The Twins spanked the Detroit team around in 5 games and went onto beat the Kansas City Royals The St. Louis Cardinals were facing a 3-2 games deficit to the San Francisco Giants before they chucked back to back shutouts by John Tudor and Danny Cox + the bullpen. With a 3-0 lead on the Yankees at the time I wrote this article, the Tigers look to advance to their second World Series Appearance in 6 years. It might even be against the St. Louis Cardinals like it was in 2006.
The Tigers were my preseason ( and Pre-Playoffs) pick to win the World Series. I remember the 1984 team crushing the San Diego Padres. I watched a lot of the 2006 Tigers and have been following this year’s run to the bitter end. There was just something about that 1987 team that was so captivating to watch (even though they weren’t my team they were exciting to watch!) Still, Detroit fans have waited 28 years for another World Series Title win Whether it is against the Cardinals or Giants I am sure the Tigers fans don’t care. So long as it doesn’t end up in disappointment like the 1987 finish. How much different would it have looked for the club trading away John Smoltz—had the Tigers cashed in a World Series!
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Posted on October 19, 2012, in Playoffs, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged 1987 MLB Playoffs, AL East, Atlanta Braves, boston redsox, chicago cubs, Chuck Booth. fastest 30 ballgames, detroit tigers, don mattingly, doyle alexander, exhibition stadium, frank tanana, jack morris, jim Walewander, JImmy Key, john smoltz, kansas city royals, matt nokes, mike flanagan, mike henneman, minnesota twins, montreal expos, new york yankees, san diego padres, san francisco giants, seattle mariners, st louis cardinals, tigers stadium, tom henke, toronto blue jays, twitter @chuckbooth3024, Willie Hernandez. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.