Editor’s note: The baseball season isn’t starting soon, so to give area fans their fix, we’ve been looking back at the 1984 Detroit Tigers’ title season.
June was the month the 1984 Detroit Tigers were going to prove if their amazing start was for real.
The Tigers entered June with a 37-9 mark, but only 10 of those contests were against fellow American League East squads, so Detroit had plenty of games remaining against the squads they had to beat in order to win the AL East title.
The opening contest of the four-game stand with second-place Toronto included tremendous hype, and the natinoally televised game lived up to its advanced billing, with Dave Bergman making it one of the most memorable games of 1984.
The Tigers trailed 3-0 after six innings. However, the Tigers’ Howard Johnson tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh with a three-run home run. The game went into extra innings. Toronto went scoreless in the top of the 10th so Detroit could win it in its half of the stanza.
The Tigers’ 10th began with a Lance Parrish single. He was bunted to second by Darrell Evans. Rusty Kuntz grounded out for a second out, but then Chet Lemon walked. That put Bergman at the plate against Toronto’s Roy Lee Jackson. What followed was one of the great plate appearances in Detroit Tigers baseball history. Falling behind 1-2 early in the count, Bergman worked the count to 3-2 eventually. Bergman ended up fouling off seven pitches with two strikes before hitting a three-run home run to earn the Tigers the win. Bergman said he pulled groin earlier in the game and had to get it wrapped by Tigers’ trainer Pio DiSalvo.
“If Pio’s not the trainer, I may be out of that game before I could deliver the biggest hit of my career,” Bergman was quoted saying in Eli Zaret’s book about the 1984 season.
Detroit ended up splitting the four games. Toronto won the next two games (8-4 and 6-3) but Detroit evened the series with a 5-3 victory in the fourth game. Rupert Jones hit a three-run home run in only his second game with the Tigers during the 1984 season.
The Tigers then went on the road to play four games against the Baltimore Orioles, three against the Blue Jays and three more against the Milwaukee Brwers. It ended up being a successful road trip. Detroit won three of the four games against Baltimore. In the opener versus Baltimore, Howard Johnson hit a key two-run double in the seventh, sparking a 3-2 Tigers’ win. The Tigers were shutout by Baltimore starting pitcher Mike Flanagan in a 4-0 loss in the second game, but Detroit followed with a doubleheader sweep a day later. In the opener, Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson each drove in four runs to spark a 10-4 win. In the nightcap, Dan Petry pitched a three-hitter and Trammell and Gibson had three hits each in an 8-0 victory.
Detroit headed into Toronto with a seven-game lead and won the openeing contest 5-4. Tied at 3-3, Lou Whitaker hit a two-run home run in the fourth to put the Tigers up fore good. Detroit’s lead was up to eight games. However, the Blue Jays responded by winning each of the final two games. In the next contest, Jack Morris was crushed for six runs in just three innings in a 12-3 loss. Toronto earned the series victory with a 7-3 win in the final game. The seven games with Baltimore and Toronto ended with Detroit leading the Blue Jays by six games.
The Tigers ended the 10-game road trip by sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers over three games. In the opener, Larry Herndon’s infield single in the eighth inning provided the winning run in a 3-2 verdict. In the second game, Juan Berenguer tossed a complete-game five-hitter while Jones and Evans hit home runs in a 6-0 victory. During the final game, Detroit scored five runs in the fifth to earn a 7-4 victory. Tom Brookens provided a two-run triple while Barbaro Garbey actually stole home.
The road trip was over and the Tigers finished it with a 47-16 record, six games ahead of second-place Toronto. The race wasn’t over, but in what was Toronto’s and Baltimore’s first chance to cut the Tigers’ lead, that didn’t really happen. Over a string of 13 days, the Tigers had played their top two opponents 14 times to a 7-7 record, and then concluded a 10-game road trip with three wins against Milwaukee. The Tigers were headed back home with a one-half game lead larger than when June had begun. There was still a long way to go, but life in Tigertown was just fine.