The resurgence in Motown was well underway as the franchise began to set the groundwork for their great teams from the mid 80's. With Sparky ANderson at the helm the team had a two time champion who knew how to win. The youngsters he now had needed to learn from the master and that usually takes time. In fact the team started out so poorly in 1980, there was a good chance they might not have made it out of the cellar, which is where they were in late June. Anderson started integrating the young talent into the mix and everything started to click. Adding a young stallion like Kirk Gibson, who on some days seemed better suited to play professional football, really got the team going. Gibby hit 8 homers and batted .263 in just 51 games. His intensity and competitive drive really lit a spark under the collective butts of his team mates. By late July the team was 10 games over .500 and in 2nd place. Tiger fans had hope and talent all in the same place. Granted the Tigers played .500 ball the rest of the way and never seriously contended, but record crowds turned out to see the team night in and night out a the ballpark on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. 6 players, including fan favorite utility man John WOckenfuss had double digit homers. Steve Kemp (.291-21-101) was the true star of the group. Lance Parrish (.286-24-82) made his bid to be the best catcher in the AL. Whitaker and Trammell were well on their way to becoming the best double play combo in the game. The only real trouble spot would be the lack of pop from two of their 3 outfielders. Rick Peters (2HR) and Al Cowens (5HR) were good gloves, but lacked the pop to be everyday major league outfielders on a contender.
The pitching took a step back with Jack Morris (16-15, 4.18) leading the staff. The pen was real good with Aurelio Lopez (13-6, 3.77, 21sv) closing out games. Dave Rozema (144IP and Pat Underwood (112IP) logged a lot of mound time for Captain Hook, who was never bashful when removing a failed starter. Sadly 1976 AL-ROY Mark Fidrych was not able to overcome his injuries and return to form. Fidrych, a mega fan favorite was just 2-2 (5.68) in 9 starts. He would make his final career start on October 1st and wind up on the winning side of an 11-7 score against the last place Jays. Despite the shortness of his career, "The Bird" still remains an icon in Detroit and in New England where he grew up. Sad to see him finished at the ripe old age of 25. If he stayed healthy he would have been ONLY 29 during the Tigers 1984 wire to wire run. Detroit fans probably sit back and count the pennants they could have won with a healthy Bird on their staff.
15 new cards were added to the set.
I love the card of a young Gibby. You can see the intensity on his face. This was a player that was a winner through and through and never about stats. The Dan Gonzalez card was a photo taken from a minor league card. How it got through QC without me changing the logo to the old English “D” is beyond my belief. I can’t believe I didn’t airbrush that puppy out. That’s one for my update list.