The Tigers Prevailed in the 1987 AL East Race Before Losing The ALCS: In 2012, They Want a Parade!

Friday, October.19/2012


Most of the 1984 Tigers were still on the roster in 1987 when the Tigers wrestled the pennant away from the Toronto Blue Jays. Those 7 games the two teams played in their final 10 games were better than anything I watched in the playoffs that year including the World Series!

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer):

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. 

George Bell was the 1987 AL MVP with 47 HRs and 134 RBI, yet not even he could control the Blue Jays losing their last 7 games and dropping the Pennant to Detroit. The slugger barely held off Alan Trammell for the AL MVP too.

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.

Doyle Alexander cost the Tigers John Smoltz in a trade, however he went 9-0 down the stretch and was a huge reason why they won the Pennant in 1987.

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. 

In game 161 of the 1987 season, with the Toronto Blue Jays having lost 5 straight games and trailing the Tigers by 1 game, Mike Flanagan threw 11 innings at Tigers Stadium, but took a no-decision in the club’s 3-2 Loss in the 13 Innings. Flanagan was 35 at the time and lasted 2 Innings more than Jack Morris.

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.

Frank Tanana threw a shutout on the last game of the season in 1987, out-dueling Jimmy Key to secure the AL East Pennant. Tanana won his last 2 starts (while tossing 17 scoreless innings versus the Jays in consecutive weekends.)

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!

It has been 15 Years since Jim Leyland won the World Series and 28 Years for the Detroit Fans. The team is poised to start seeking the Trophy out next week.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ***

 ***Thank you to our Lead Baseball Writer- Chuck Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here  or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the . In 2015, I watched 224 MLB Games, spanning all 30 MLB Parks in 183 Days. Read about that World Record Journey at

Posted on October 19, 2012, in Playoffs, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Ahhh! What a great article Chuck! Never fail to entertain and enlighten. So great to have a flashback to 1980’s post-season baseball. Especially as a Blue Jays fan!

    Love the photo of Prince Fielder celebrating…god, I know he may not have the greatest relationship with his father, but he looks like the spitting image. Heck, when the Tigers beat the Blue Jays in 1987, I’m sure little Prince wasn’t far away…what would he have been, 1? 2-years-old?

    Those days the American League East was such a different animal. I wonder how the past 10 or so years would have played out differently had we not re-aligned the leagues…interest subject to poke at!

    The 87 Blue Jays and 87 Tigers were absolute power houses! It’s lots of fun to just look back and reminisce.

    The Blue Jays had Dave Stieb and Jimmy Key in their rotation, plus the likes of powerhouse Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, Fred “the Crimedog” McGriff, Ernie Whitt, Tony Fernandez, Kellie Gruber, Willie Upshaw and Garth Iorg…

    And the Tigers…Jack Morris, Darrell Evans, Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Bill Madlock, Lou Whitaker…

    Wow, just a lot of fun having “flashbacks” thinking about these teams. Such a great article Chuck…thanks for throwing me back into the 80’s…Your writing is like re-listening to the game on radio sometimes…

  2. They always say you find your sports identity from 9-13 years old. Mine was more like 5 years old. It is up to us writers to teach these memories to the next generation of fans so they can appreciate the baseball that was played back then. I will definitely be in contact with you Alex when I write the 5 Part Blue Jays Franchise Series, While I am not their biggest fan, I have followed the team by default for nearly 30 years as a Canadian Citizen. I know the franchise well and I can’t wait to write on the Hitters, the Pitchers and the Glory Years.

  3. Oh, the Glory Days in Toronto…cut short by the 1994 strike. We may have ended up seeing a Blue Jays vs. Expos World Series in 1994. had their been no strike! Well, now that is almost 20 years ago.

    I developed my sports identity at a similarly young age as well. I was actually a Tigers fan for about a year (when the Tigers were still in the AL East), partly because of my love for Cecil Fielder. I soon became a Blue Jays fan…although, I could never understand completely why.

    Growing up outside NYC, I think it had part to do with my preference to not blend in with all the Yankees fans (my dad is a Red Sox fan), the Blue Jays were really good, I liked the color Blue (and their logo), and my favorite player was Joe Carter. So I became a die hard Blue Jays fan.

    It is absolutely imperative that future generations of baseball fans learn about the history of the game…it brings an even greater appreciation to already existing fans for the great game when they realize parts of it’s origins. Baseball history really does shadow North American history (modern history).

    I remember watching the Ken Burns documentary, “Baseball”, on VHS with my father every night for a week straight…for a little boy obsessed with baseball, this is the greatest thing (next to going to Cooperstown itself). I actually plan on re-watching here in the next couple of months…my children will also be required to view it as almost a religious right of passage.

    I recently saw an interview with George Brett about how he took J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie (who many have compared to George Brett in his style of play). I remember being taken aback by the fact that George Brett mentioned he was impressed that these young players ‘knew who he was’. Now, I was not surprised at all, because J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie are not simply talented athletes who play baseball…they’re ballplayers all the way and love the game and follow it. But it is frightening to think that there is not only a group of fans who are unfamiliar with baseball history, but even some guys who may be playing in the Big Leagues.

    I think we should have a “Baseball History Awareness Month”. As a citizen of the United States, right now, I am one of the many who are fed up with current affairs which involve politics, etc. There is a great speech from James Earl Jones’ character in Field of Dreams where he mentions how baseball has paralleled American history through all the up’s and down’s (para-phrased). There have, in fact, been times where baseball was truly the pastime and the sole provider of hope that have gotten many a working man through his days. Whether it was listening on the radio during work to a daytime game (before stadiums had lights), or simply making it through the day so you can get home and listen at dinner, baseball has been more than just game. I love going back to the late 19th century and learning about all the differences in the game back then…the equipment (gloves were non-existent), and the historical context of playing during the Civil War in the U.S.

    Anyways, I’m getting far ahead of myself and carrying on a little bit.

    In a nutshell, I really enjoyed your article!

    And I will be honored to jump in on your coverage of the Blue Jays in anyway you would like.

  4. Alex, i am running Awareness to great players on Twitter every week. This week it is Dave Kingman for a retired player and Kyle Lohse for a current player. In the course of years to come, I will continue to do this to raise levels of knowledge to fellow fans. it is an exciting time to be a baseball fan. I hate it when I hear media people say that Baseball has lost a generation of fans by not showing Day games on TV in the playoffs. Yes that is a concern, however I see kids at the ball park all of the time. No other sports has a higher percentage of kids at their sporting events live.

    NFL Football is only a bigger followed sport because of Sports Gambling Period!! You add that to Fantasy Football and you only have to invest 20 games a year max. You are right when you say it helps us all live through work and the times. It part of our life for 180 days of the year and in some cases 240. As a baseball writer, i am now involved 365 days a year. It is awesome.

    Jonathan and I have an ongoing joke all of the time on Twitter saying to (deport me to the USA) as we are mad about all of the extras American’s receive for the MLB Packages. Keep the history running. Glad to have you aboard the Reports team Alex!

    • Ahahaha! I have always been the opposite…trying to see a Blue Jays game on TV as a kid was nearly impossible…unless they were playing Boston or New York. You’re absolutely right…you see SO many kids at ballgames these days…

      The reason football is “bigger” is exactly as your mentioned…gambling. Without starting a riot between footballers and baseballer’s (and those who overlap), I think it goes without saying that baseball is a culture whereas football is a fix. Baseball fans care about baseball YEAR round…with the exception that the month of December may be the only “slow” time during the year in terms of transactions, and we follow 162+ games a year. In the case of football, you may have some guys who place their bets on Friday evening, adjust their fantasy rosters on Saturday night, and get drunk and watch football on Sunday. It’s not the same…and it’s not about the game. I watch baseball for true appreciation of the game (and I’ve gotten used to this since my team hasn’t been a contender in 20 years)…a lot of footballer’s watch it for the spread or the fantasy points.

      Anyways, didn’t mean to create a hostile environment between football and baseball fans…I do watch both, but the latter, mostly because I like beer and chicken wings.

      I absolutely love your idea of running Great Players of Late and Current on twitter. That’s an awesome thing you’re doing.

      Your on-going joke with Jonathan is funny, because I’ve always been on the direct opposite end of it…people have often referred to me as the Canadian Ambassador since my fondness for the Blue Jays is mostly inexplicable.

      My father and I always mourned at the end of the World Series…because we would have to wait until late February to fly to Florida and see any professional baseball. I think I learned how to read by following off-season transactions…good father in deed! Casey At The Bat and briefings on the Winter Meetings were my childhood bed time stories!

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