Editor’s note: The Major League Baseball season hasn’t yet and may not. To make up for the loss of the season, we’ll be reliving the last Detroit Tigers’ World Championship season, 1984, with occasional stories. We’ll be looking at mid-May in this edition.
The Detroit Tigers were 27-3 after their first 30 games of the 1984 season — 26-4!!! It was a record for the best start in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, and remains it to this date. How good of a start is that? If the Tigers won just half of their games the rest of the season, the team would’ve won 92 games, which would’ve been enough victories to win the American League East. Well, the Tigers didn’t stop at 26-4. They went on to break a few more records before one-fourth of the season was over.
It looked like the Tigers were about to cool down (at least a little) when the California Angels came to Tiger Stadium and won an NBC Game of the Week contest 4-1 against Detroit. Tommy John scattered eight hits, and Reggie Jackson hit his second home run of his career over Tiger Stadium’s right-field roof, leading the Angels to the victory. Jackson’s first rooftop shot came during the 1971 All-Star Game. The Angels had stolen the thunder during the national broadcast, and Detroit was now 26-5. The Tigers started Sunday’s game but it ended up being a rain out.
The Seattle Mariners came to Tiger Stadium during the start of the next week and the wins began to come once again. Tied at 5-5 entering the bottom of the eighth, the bench started the winning raly in the opener. Rusty Kuntz, who was batting .440 after the contest, started a rally with a double. Pinch hitter Dave Bergman hit an RBI-triple, giving the Tigers a 6-5 lead. Lou Whitaker followed with an RBI-single and the Tigers had their 7-5 victory.
The next night, the Tigers jumped to a 6-1 lead and held on for a 6-4 victory The Tigers completed the series sweep of the Mariners with a 10-1 victory in front of 22,001 fans during a school weeknight game. Johnny Grubb hit a solo home run and Lance Parrish and Chet Lemon each had two hits in the onslaught. Earlier that morning manager Sparky Anderson was highlighted on CBS Morning News, once again bringing national attention to the 29-5 Tigers, eight games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.
Detroit remained at home during the weekend, facing the Oakland Athletics in front of more than 105,000 fans during the series. Before that series began, however, Anderson had to leave for his father’s funeral, who had died prior to the start of an operation.
With Dick Tracewski taking over the interim manager reigns, the Tigers won the opener of the series 8-4 in an rain-shortened six-inning game in front of 41,136 fans. Barbaro Garbey hit his first home run of the season while Darrell Evans hit his fourth. On Saturday, the Tigers won a 5-4 contest with Lou Whitaker hitting a home run and Evans knocking in two runs off of three hits. Evans seemingly was starting to get hot. On the mound, Morris continued his amazing start, improving his record to 8-1, starting whispers that maybe he could threaten the 30-win mark that Denny McLain eclipsed for the 1968 World Series champion Tigers.
With Anderson still gone due to the death of his father, the Tigers won another one-run game on Sunday, earning a 4-3 victory during another rainy day. Milt Wilcox pitched six strong innings, moments after hearing his mother was in a car accident prior to the game. She was okay, but the vehicle was totalled, but she still attended the game. Dwight Lowery hit his first home run of his Major League Baseball career.
The Tigers were about to start their west coast road trip with three games against the Angels, holding a 32-5 record, 8 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays. The Tigers were batting better than .300 as a team and leading the league in runs. On the mound, they had a league-best 2.67 earned run average. How could things get better? They would in California.