Despite Streaky Play, July Ends OK
Week W-L Overall W-L Lead
Jul 1- Jul 8 2-6 57-27 7
Jul 9-15 3-1 60-28 7
Jul 16-22 6-1 66-29 9
Jul 23-31 5-4 71-33 12
One of the most annoying simplifications of the Detroit Tigers’ 1984 season I’ve heard over the years is that they started out 35-5 and played .500 ball the rest of the way and coasted to the pennant. Well, do the math. Their record was 104-58. 104-35 is and will always be 69. They went 69-53 for the rest of the year. That’s a 56.6 clip, the pace of a 91-win season. Since the Blue Jays won 89, the Tigers would’ve won the division playing the way they did after their 35-5 start. So I don’t want to hear it.
However. There was one troubling stretch during which the Tigers did play exactly .500 ball. That was May 25-July 8. 22-22. After playing dead-even against Toronto and Baltimore, then a couple of clicks higher for the rest of June, the Tigers started the month getting hammered 9-0 by the Twins then being swept by the White Sox. They were playing .500 ball for a leg lasting more than a month going into the All-Star Break. The break couldn’t have come at a better time.
So, let’s look at a strange 16-12 month, one in which the complexion of the Tigers play departed from everything that had come before on the ’84 season, yet one in which they extended their lead by 5 games.
- Trammell’s Injury
Near the beginning of the month, Tram hurt his shoulder on a relay throw. On July 2, with Doug Baker called up from Evansville to play short, Trammell played DH. From then ‘til the All-Star break, he played DH and short off-and-on, presumably aggravating the injury. After the break, on the 12th, he went on the d.l. and wouldn’t play again til Aug 1.
Tram was hitting .307 at the time, with 22 doubles and 57 runs scored. Fifty-seven, in one half of baseball. So they’d miss his offense. But on Jul 2, with Trammell DH-ing, Sparky wrote, “Doug Baker played well at short, but it’s a lot different without Trammell out there.”
Along with Gibson, Trammell seemed to be a glue guy, someone whose presence meant things not measured in the stats, beside the fact that his stats were great. To be fair, though, Detroit managed to run off a 5-game winning streak and another of 6 with him out. But this was against Minnesota, Chicago, Texas, and Cleveland. Streaky play is going to come with streaky scheduling.
2.The Morris Effect
July wasn’t a great month for Morris, who was coming off a rough end of June. He’d been pitching through elbow pain and was miserable. In July, he was up and down in his performances, often being pulled after 5 or 6 innings. While this isn’t a terribly uncommon occurrence in baseball, Morris had been beyond dependable in April and May, racking up a 10-1 record and needing little relief help. Lopez and Hernandez had not only been stellar through June, but particularly through May, they’d pitched the vast majority of relief innings for the team. Get it to 8 and bring one of them in. And Morris and Petry did that all the time.
When you lose those long outings from Jack, it has an important effect: more relievers in a particular game, meaning innings to Bair and Monge, relief appearances by Berenguer, and longer and more frequent work for Lopez and Hernandez.
But there was something else. Sparky sat Morris down on the day of a scheduled start, the 8th, to ready him for his All-Star game appearance, which took into account his ailing arm. On that day, Doug Bair started and made it only 2 2/3. That meant long relief treks for both Berenguer and Lopez. Morris started 5 games that month (as did each Petry and Wilcox). The particular contours of who went when resulted in Dave Rozema starting 6 times. Now, Rozema went 3-3 on the month (at one point during it, his overall record was 7-1) with a respectable 3.97 ERA. But he wasn’t an 8-and-9 inning thoroughbred. He consistently went 6 innings–unless he got rocked early that night. The high number of Rozema starts meant, again, more innings for the likes of Monge and Bair and Lopez. And when you use Bair in a starting capacity (though it was right before the AS Break) that doesn’t help bullpen fatigue any.
The team’s ERA on the month was a perfectly solid 3.35, lower than that of June. What’s to complain about? Well, yeah, the team went 16-12 (to the 18-12 of June)—not a bad month. But the ERA was influenced by some great individual starts that offset some some terrible outings. The times when the staff got shelled put a nearly-impossible burden on the offense.
For example, Wilcox shut out Boston on the 29th, but let up 6 in 5 2/3 against Chicago in an 8-2 loss. Berenguer threw 6 1/3 innings of 1-run ball in a win against Cleveland, but let up 6 in 5 in the month-opening blowout against Minnesota. There were good performances and bad ones from the staff on the month, and a lot of the games were lopsided either for the win or the loss.
3.The Bats were Not Booming
Detroit’s offense was everything a fan could hope for in April and May. Often, base hits came in twos and threes. Guys moved their teammates over a base. Dudes hit sac flies. Sometimes, in late innings of close games, hits seemed to come at will. That’s hard to sustain, and the team came to Earth in an uneven July. The team hit .240 on the month (it would go on to be their lowest monthly b.a. of the season) with 123 runs, the monthly low on the year except for the abbreviated month of April. They got shut out twice and held to 1 run twice. Because the bullpen was overworked, the relatively-light hitting put a bit of a strain on things in a month that was, again, just fine overall.
4.Morris Was Miserable
The highest highs, the lowest lows. What is it about wild success that so reliably leads to a crash? Morris soared through April and May, with talk of a 30-win year, then fell hard. He started pitching through pain on June 12th, his performance fell off, he became incensed about the media, and, in July, began a boycott on talking to them altogether.
On the field, Morris showed a lot of frustration in early July. He would throw his glove against the dugout wall or lie down on the grass instead of backing up third. On the 18th, after being pulled from a 10-6 loss to Chicago, Jack left the stadium without a word to anyone.
Anderson told him to come in early for a meeting the next day. The meeting was between Morris and Roger Craig, with Sparky having a closed-door session with the rest of the team.
Roger Craig, you may know as a tall North Carolinian often photographed in Western gear looking a bit like John Wayne. He told Jack, “you’re an unhappy person. We got to find a way to make you happy.” Morris left the meeting only to find—perfect—reporters waiting for him. Hey, Jack, did he rip you a new one? Or just psychoanalyze you?
Morris curtly said “no interviews today,” and turned “today” into several weeks. It was made into a pretty big deal. The only quasi-scandal of the season, it’s narrated in every account of 1984. I look at it differently from others, though. I’ve experienced—on a long-term basis—dark and debilitating moods. I’ve had plenty of verbal outbursts. I’m “not a happy person.” So I know that being told that whomever “we” is “got to” make you happy puts a lot of pressure on someone. They—or at least I—feel a sense of dread that nothing will work.
During the time of silence, the Detroit media essentially jeered Morris the whole time (though to be fair, he explicitly criticized their reporting). Craig told the Sporting News Jack was being a baby. Was that what he meant by making him happy? Trashing him to the national media? Great strategy.
What the policy of “the beatings will continue until morale improves” often misses is how hard it is for the depressed person to be the person you want them to. No one wants to throw tantrums or be bested by emotions: it is not an intellectual enterprise, so it can’t be berated out of a person.
Had I walked out of a meeting having been told I wasn’t happy and that I better get that way, the very last thing I’d do is talk to a press I was already pissed off at, and if I did, it wouldn’t end well for anyone. So I’m in Jack’s corner here.
Is it such a crime to take some time away from the media? Eventually, Morris broke his boycott, and the time to himself seemed to do him some good. If his pitching slump in late June and July was caused by emotional issues, he was presumably feeling all right by September (when his ERA was back down to 3.89)—and we all know about his stunning postseason.
5.Petry Was a Rock
The reason Dan Petry has scarcely come up thus far is that I’ve been talking about inconsistency. Petry was the exception in July 1984. And for most of the year. He was steady all season, and had a great July. On the 20th, he went up against Texas’ Charlie Hough on a night when his teammates’ bats were cold and pitched a 4-hit shutout through 8 2/3. On the 27th, he held Boston’s band of perennial All-Stars to 1 run on 6 hits, becoming the first 14-game winner of the season in the majors.
On the 17th, the Southern Californian, who Tom Gage described that month as “unpretentious, anachronistically wholesome, and totally devoted to root beer floats,” took the mound in a tense situation. The opponent was the White Sox, and the night before, the two teams had gotten into a nasty snarl of bean balls. Glenn Abbott, back up after a spell in Evansville, plunked future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk in the top of the 6th. In the next half of the inning big boy LaMarr Hoyt threw tight to Chet Lemon and got a warning from the ump. In the 8th, Britt Burns hit Lance Parrish, who started to head to the mound. Fisk overstepped his bounds, grabbing Parrish and literally trying to point his body toward first base. Bad idea. It set off a bench-clearing brawl, and Parrish and Chicago manager Tony LaRussa would exchange some very pointed verbal jabs in the press in ensuing days.
The Tigers won 7-1, and the next night, Petry got into a nice pitching duel with Greg Nelson. He’d made it known he wanted the game badly because of the previous night’s madness. He threw four 1-2-3 innings through 7 2/3, walking just 1 and earning a big 3-2 for a team in the midst of a streak.
In April, Dan and his wife suffered the tragedy of the loss of a child they were expecting. It’s unfathomable. When his next scheduled start came up, at home against Cleveland, Petry was able to more than just focus: he took a no-hitter into the ninth. Veteran Indians outfielder George Vukovich spoiled it with a double. At the end of the inning, the crowd gave Petry a big ovation and he tipped his hat.
I relate to Morris’s vulnerability and marvel at Petry’s calm resolve.
The latter, the team needed badly through July.
July didn’t offer great and crucial matchups as June had, or a lot of dramatics like April and May, but there were some big games and big moments. On the 13th, the team was at Minnesota, entering the night with a 7-game lead. Jack Morris started against John Butcher. Dave Engle (who’d later have a cup of latte with the Tiges in ’86) singled home Kent Hrbek in the bottom of the 8th to tie it at 3.
In the bottom of the 9th, a Hernandez wild pitch got Brunansky to 2nd. They walked Teufel to set up a force, and when Gaetti grounded to Willie, he gunned it to 3rd to get said lead runner. That left Teufel at 2nd. Budding star Kirby Puckett singled to right, and Teufel was heading home for a walk-off win. But Gibson threw a bullet to Parrish, who fielded it gracefully and tagged Teufel as he tried to catch the point of the plate. Extra innings.
In the 11th, Lou hit one the other way into mid-depth left. Leftfielder Darrell Brown tried to short-hop it and it got by him, all the way to the wall. Whitaker scurried to third ready to make the turn (on the tape you can almost hear “errrrrrrrrch” sound effects) and made it home for an in-the-park homer, which would stand up for the winning run.
The next night, in the top of the 12th, Gibson plowed into Engle at home on a Lemon single, sending him sprawling, and was ruled safe on a controversial call, putting Detroit up 5-4. Bergman got the Tiges an added run with a sac fly, and it was a good thing, because Hernandez let up a solo shot to Teufel in the bottom of the inning and Detroit held on 6-5. Hernandez’s 6th win of the year wouldn’t have happened if not for Bergman’s RBI, a good example of the selfless play that went into individual glories on the year.
On the 29th, Wilcox threw 8 innings of 4-hit, shutout ball against the Red Sox in a 2-0 win, with Hernandez getting his 21st save of the year. Sparky wrote that it was probably the best pitching performance of the year, which is saying a lot in light of Morris’ no-hitter and Petry’s near no-hitter. He also said something really interesting, that he was relieved by the win because he felt that Boston was the only team that could make a run on his club. “I don’t think Toronto or Baltimore can make a run at it at this point,” he said.
The Story Across the Major Leagues
However sure Sparky may have been-that particular day—of his team’s pennant win, the other divisions were a bit of a haze at month’s end. The Twins led the AL West—by a game-and-a-half over the Angels. They’d gone 17-10 on the month, having recently swept their rivals, California.
Kansas City played an 8-game stretch against Baltimore and Toronto, going an impressive 7-1. But they finished the month almost exactly where they’d started it, 5 games back.
In the NL East, the Mets enjoyed a 13 of 15 streak, fueled by the hot hitting of veteran George Foster. They ended the month at 59-42, half a game up on the 60-44 Cubbies.
The Padres were putting distance between themselves and the Braves, up 8 ½. Off the field, news broke that three Pads, Eric Show, Mark Thurmond, and Dave Dravecky, were members of the John Birch Society, an anti-communist right-wing group that had opposed Civil Rights legislation in the 60’s and has been popularly thought of as racist, a charge it denies.
The 55th annual All-Star Game was played in Candlestick Park. The voting, with many ballots filled out at Tiger Stadium, where attendance was booming, was kind to the Tigers. Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker, and Chet Lemon were all voted starters by fans. Substitutes were Willie Hernandez and Jack Morris. Alan Trammell made the AL squad but couldn’t play due to his shoulder injury.
Chet Lemon and Lou Whitaker each singled, though Lemon got picked off by NL starter Charlie Lea of the Expos. Famously, young Dwight Gooden struck out the AL side in the 5th: Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon, and Alvin Davis.
Gary Carter homered and won the MVP Award in the 3-1 National League win.
Meanwhile, in the Southern League, the AA Knoxville Blue Jays were getting power hitting from a young man named Cecil Fielder. Hold on to that name.
Tigers in Context: Around the World in 1984
While the Tigers were playing to a 16-12 record in July, the world was turning.
At Wimbledon, Martina Navratilova triumphed over Chris Evert, while John McEnroe bested Jimmy Connors.
The Philadelphia Stars whacked the Arizona Wranglers to wrangle the 2nd USFL title.
Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale named New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro his running mate, making her the first female Vice Presidential candidate.
On the 1st, the Motion Picture Association of American instituted the PG-13 rating.
In San Isidro, CA, a man said he was “hunting for humans” and killed 21 while wounding 19 at a McDonald’s.
Vanessa Williams was asked to give up her Miss Universe crown due to nude photos of her having been published by Penthouse.
The Summer Olympics held Opening Ceremonies at the L.A. Coliseum on the 28th. The event included a Parade of Nations, during which composer John Williams debuted his song “Olympic Fanfare and Theme.” Rafer Johnson, a 1960 gold medalist decathlon, carried the torch into the stadium after it had traveled across the nation in a large relay and lit the cauldron.
Americans could choose from films such as “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Purple Rain.”
In music, Gen Xers could bang their heads to RATT’s “Round and Round” or Van Halen’s “Panama,” or strike curious poses with Prince’s #1 hit “When Doves Cry” or Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face.” Duran, Duran, Rod Stewart, and the Thompson Twins were on the radio, and the movie theme “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker, Jr. was a big hit.
MTV viewers got their first glimpse of Dee Snider and Twisted Sister in the video for the new single “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
There were plenty of diversions, and some folks across the country were tired of those Detroit Tigers and all the attention poured on them. But Michiganders and others in Tigers Nation were holding out the faith and believing that Hernandez, Petry, Whitaker, Tram, Gibby and the rest would keep going strong and bring a pennant to the Motor City.
 Sparky Anderson. Bless You Boys: Diary of the Detroit Tigers 1984 Season. Chicago: Contemporary Books. 1984.
 Dave Rozema. Pitching Splits. Baseball-reference.com. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.fcgi?id=rozemda01&year=1984&t=p
 Milt Wilcox. 1984 Pitching Game Log. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=wilcomi01&t=p&year=1984
 Juan Berenguer. 1984 Pitching Game Log. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=berenju01&t=p&year=1984
 Eli Zaret. 84: Last of the Great Tigers. Crofton Creek, 2004.
 Tom Gage. “Sour Morris Buttons Lip.” The Sporting News. Aug. 6, 1984.
 Tom Gage. “Quietly, Tigers’ Petry Makes His Mark.” The Sporting News. Jul. 23, 1984.
 Eli Zaret. 84: Last of the Great Tigers. Crofton Creek, 2004.
 Sparky Anderson. Bless You Boys: Diary of the Detroit Tigers 1984 Season. Chicago: Contemporary Books. 1984.
 Jack Lang. “Foster is Finally Earning His Salary.” The Sporting News. Jul. 30, 1984
 Phil Collier. “Dissension Report Spiked By Tempy.” The Sporting News. Jul. 23, 1984.
 Clinic By Portugal. The Sporting News. Jul. 30, 1984.