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Published: Friday, 1/27/2006

'84 Tigers dominated more intricate game

Long before Hoopstown and Hockeytown, Detroit was known as Tigertown.

The Tigers, believe it or not, have a glorious baseball past.

It's just hard to remember, unless you are in your mid-to-late 30s, or early 40s.

Detroit has captured four World Series championships and produced Hall of Famers such as Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, George Kell and Al Kaline.

Surprisingly, the Tigers' best team ever - the 1984 squad that started 35-5 and beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series - doesn't have one single player in the Hall of Fame.

Not World Series MVP Alan Trammell. Not Jack Morris. Not Lance Parrish. Not Darrell Evans. Not Kirk Gibson. Not Lou Whitaker. Not Chet Lemon. And not Willie Hernandez, the Cy Young Award winner and American League MVP.

That's pretty surprising, considering Detroit's 35-5 start and .875 winning percentage after 40 games.

Manager Sparky Anderson, who led the Cincinnati Reds to two World Series titles before joining the Detroit organization in 1979, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee six years ago.

The Tigers' sizzling start 22 years ago is still the best in baseball history.

The season started in Minnesota on Tuesday, April 3, with Morris winning the opener and ran through May 24 with Morris notching their 35th victory against the California Angels.

In between, he went 9-1 and tossed a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park, and the Tigers set an AL record for most consecutive road wins at 17.

Dan Petry was 7-1 during the astonishing start and Milt Wilcox was 6-0.

The Tigers went 35-5 in a span of 52 days, with a pair of nine-game winning streaks.

It has taken this year's Pistons 85 days to equal their counterpart's start.

Granted, both streaks are truly remarkable, but the Tigers rate a slight edge over the Pistons.

"It was one of the greatest clubs put together in recent time," said Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers' current president and general manager.

Baseball players have more variables and the elements to deal with than their basketball brethren.

It's pitcher against batter, batter against fielder and fielder against base runner. Using a round bat to hit a round ball traveling at 90 mph takes a special skill.

And a baseball manager has one of the toughest jobs in sports.

In the NBA, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, LeBron James and Allen Iverson can single-handedly dominate a game on offense.

In baseball, a pitcher can be darn near perfect, yet still lose due to a single bad pitch or an error.

Jim Leyland's 1997 World Series champion Florida Marlins went 26-5 in spring training, which was pretty good, but it didn't count.

Leyland, the Tigers' new manager, believes it's tougher to go 35-5 in baseball than it is in basketball.

"You have a different pitcher every night," Leyland said. "Sooner or later, somebody is going to get knocked around, or you don't win a game. You don't really get any days off - baseball plays almost every night - and I think the Pistons do get a few nights off between most games.

"Sparky had a comment in the paper the other day about their great start in 1984. He said he got paranoid about it. He said, `Oh, my gosh, we've got a great team, what if we blow it or something.'‚óŹ"

The Tigers had no such worries.

Although they went just 69-53 after their blazing start, the Tigers displayed a dominance rarely seen in baseball.

Anderson's "Bless You Boys" bunch set a franchise record with 104 wins, against just 58 losses, and compiled a .642 winning percentage.

They led their division wire-to-wire and finished with a 15-game edge over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tigers swept the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS and beat the Padres in five games in the World Series.

It was a magical season indeed.



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