The Detroit Tigers have a history that goes back to the 19th century. They have won four World Series since 1903 and are talented enough to win a fifth anytime now. With such a long history, the team has experienced many highs and lows. The following are some of the events worth commemorating in 2014.
Five years ago: The Tigers did the impossible in 2009. The team blew a three game lead with four to play and lost the division lead to the Minnesota Twins. The two teams tied after 162 games with identical 86-76 records forcing a playoff game for the division. In Game 163, the Tigers blew a 3-0 lead, had to rally in the 8th to tie, lost a 5-4 lead in the 10th, and then fell 6-5. Brandon Inge was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, but the umpire missed the call. This might have cost Detroit the game. However, they were out of pitchers by the 12th inning. Fernando Rodney was forced to pitch three full innings before surrendering the division.
Ten years ago: The Tigers lost 119 games in 2003 and were considered a poor destination for free agents. Then, Ivan Rodriguez signed a deal with the Tigers. The all-star catcher gave the Tigers instant credibility. Detroit baseball turned around in two short years and the Tigers have won two pennants since the signing.
Fifteen years ago: The Tigers experienced a lost decade and a half beginning in 1989. Ten years after that 100-loss debacle, Detroit continued to struggle. With little else to generate excitement, the 1999 season became a celebration of Tiger Stadium, which closed at season's end. In the last game at the corner, Robert Fick hit a dramatic grand slam home run, Todd Jones ended the game striking out Carlos Beltran, and Tiger greats from every era poured onto the field for a multi-generational celebration. Comerica Park opened the next year, but Detroit did not contend again until 2006.
Twenty years ago: The 1994 Detroit Tigers dropped to 53-62 when the baseball season ended prematurely. The players went on strike on August 12 and did not return to work until the following April. The players lost the work dispute and fans respect. Most could not understand the battle between "billionaires and millionaires." Attendance dropped 20% in 1995. As a result, owners decided to look the other way when some began using illegal performance enhancing drugs.
25 years ago: The Detroit Tigers were one of the best franchises in baseball throughout the 1980s. They won two division titles and the 1984 World Series in the decade. The 1988 squad just missed the postseason and retooled for 1989. However, the team grew old quicker than management realized and the Tigers collapsed. On top of this, manager Sparky Anderson took some time off to recover from exhaustion. Rumors continue to persist that the breakdown occurred because Anderson realized Pete Rose pumped him for information to gain an edge in his illegal gambling. In the end, the Tigers lost 103 games in one of the most miserable seasons in team history.
30 years ago: The 1984 Detroit Tigers propelled to a 35-5 start en route to 104 wins and the AL East crown. The Tigers mauled the American League, swept the Royals in the World Series, and then pummeled the Padres in the World Series. Kirk Gibson capped the season with a dramatic three-run home run off Goose Gossage in Game 5. Alan Trammell won the World Series MVP, Willie Hernandez became the American League Cy Young and MVP award winner, and Jack Morris no-hit the White Sox in April.
40 years ago: Al Kaline made his debut in 1953. Twenty-one years later, he collected his 3,000th hit and retired shortly thereafter. Mr.. Tiger also hit 399 home runs. If he had played in 1975, Kaline could have become the first American League player with 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. However, he was unaware of his statistics and did not realize the potential for history. It was really a different era.
50 years ago: The 1964 season was remarkable for being unremarkable. Detroit finished fourth at 85-77 in the first season after the Jim Bunning trade. The Tigers finished 15 games behind the New York Yankees, so Bunning's absence might not have made a difference. The right-hander went 19-8 with a Perfect Game for the Phillies. Meanwhile, Dave Wickersham and Mickey Lolich combined for 37 wins while the rest of the starting staff accumulated 19. Bill Freehan led the offense hitting .300 with 18 home runs and 80 RBI.
70 years ago: Before Justin Verlander, Hal Newhouser won the Triple Crown and American League MVP in 1945. Prince Hal also won the MVP in 1944 when he paced the league with 29 victories and 187 strikeouts. Newhouser teamed with Dizzy Trout to win 56 games. Trout lead the league in ERA (2.12), complete games (33), shutouts (7), and innings (352.1). The Tigers won 88 games and missed the pennant by a single game.
75 years ago: Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees. His streak ended in Detroit in 1939. The Iron Horse suffered from the disease which later bared his name. The Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1939 without their captain. Gehrig died two years later.
80 years ago: Tiger management brought Mickey Cochrane over from the Athletics to teach the team how to win. Cochrane won two World Series and a MVP as a player with Philadelphia. Cochrane's presence was immediately felt, Detroit won 101 games and the AL pennant, but lost the World Series to the Cardinals in seven games.
100 years ago: Sam Crawford hit .314 with 26 triples and 104 RBI in 1914. His outfield partner, Ty Cobb, batted .368 in 98 games. Cobb's absence and mediocre pitching damaged the Tigers chances and the team finished in fourth. On the mound, Harry Coveleski went 22-12 and Hooks Dauss chipped in 19 victories. However, the rest of the staff was middling at best. In the eight team American League, the Tigers ranked seventh in ERA and runs allowed.
115 years ago: Sam Crawford was expected to be Detroit's big bat when he came over from the Reds in 1903. He batted .335 in his first season, but slumped to .254 in 1904. The Tigers slumped along with their star outfielder, lost 90 games, and finished seventh. Had they managed to win the pennant, there was no World Series to play. John McGraw decided to skip the Fall Classic because he did not respect the junior circuit. However, public pressure forced him to give in the following season and the Giants played the A's in the 1905 World Series.