23 Jun

tiger tales

Any conversation about the greatest major league teams of all-time has to include the 1984 Detroit Tigers, who started 35-5 en route to 104 wins and went 7-1 in the postseason to claim the World Series title. The “Bless You Boys” team, celebrating its 40th anniversary this season, was managed by Sparky Anderson and led by an array of stars, including a pair of Mississippi natives who were key cogs in the stacked lineup. Jackson native Chet Lemon played center field, led the American League in fielding percentage (.995) and hit .287 with 20 homers, 76 RBIs, 34 doubles, six triples and 77 runs. Sunflower native Larry Herndon, also a good defender, played left field and batted .280 with seven homers, 43 RBIs and 52 runs. Jack Morris was the ace of the staff, but closer Willie Hernandez, acquired from Philadelphia late in spring training, won both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards. The regular lineup featured — in addition to Lemon and Herndon — Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans. Signed as a free agent in the off-season, the 37-year-old Evans said, “I picked Detroit because it’s a hungry city and I’m hungry, too. I want that ring on my finger.” Street & Smith’s preseason magazine picked the Tigers to run second to Baltimore in the AL East. They never spent a day out of first place. The Tigers won their opener 8-1 against Minnesota with Lemon getting a triple and scoring a run and Herndon picking up a hit and an RBI. They started 9-0 and 16-1 and fairly coasted to the division title. They blew through Kansas City 3-0 in the ALCS and beat San Diego 4-1 in the Series. Lemon went 5-for-17 with an RBI and two steals against the Padres. Herndon went 5-for-15, including a go-ahead homer in Game 1, and caught the final out of Game 5 in left field. It was the only ring either of them won in lengthy careers, and Detroit hasn’t won a World Series since then either. P.S. The current Tigers team, picked by some to win the AL Central, got off to a hot start but has faded of late. And there is a Mississippian on the team: Second baseman Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High standout — and the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019 — who got the big contract this year before ever playing an MLB game.

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