World Series domination puts icing on fabulous season for Tigers
The San Diego Padres may have been more seasonably attired in brown and gold, but the Detroit Tigers ultimately proved to be baseball's real Boys of Autumn, winning the World Series four games to one.
Of course, they did the job all year long, running away with their division by 15 games and sweeping Kansas City in the playoffs to set up their fourth world championship, along with those of 1935, '45, and '68.
The triumph was especially sweet for Sparky Anderson, who became the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues, having guided the National League's Cincinnati Reds to two titles in the mid 1970s.
''When I got to Cincinnati there were some future Hall of Famers already waiting for me,'' he says. ''But in Detroit all we had was some kids with a lot of hope.''
Youth gradually turned to maturity, though, and from a 56-win season in 1979 the Tigers moved steadily up the ladder, finally hitting the jackpot with this year's glittering 104-58 campaign.
After their record-setting 35-5 start, people kept expecting the Tigers to back up to the pack in the strong American League East, but it never happened. The club's superior blend of speed, power, defense, and pitching was just too much for everybody.
In its completeness, this team resembles those Anderson managed in Cincinnati , with players like Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell (the Series MVP), and Kirk Gibson playing the roles once handled by the Benches, Roses, and Morgans of the Big Red Machine. The pitching, in fact, appears better, with Jack Morris the ace of a solid starting rotation that is supported by two top relievers in Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez.
How good is this team? ''We'll know in 1985,'' Anderson replied. ''As Vince Lombardi said, 'Any squirrel can find an acorn once.' Now we'll see if we can find it a bunch of times.
With the exception of a come-from-behind 5-3 second game victory, the Padres were not sharp at all in their team's first-ever World Series appearance. The magic that seemed to surround them during the regular season, and especially in the playoffs when they erased a two-game deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs, evaporated. Maybe the problem was that reaching the Series was ''icing on the cake,'' as pitcher Mark Thurmond expressed it.
The Padres, after all, had never before finished higher than fourth place since entering baseball as an expansion club in 1969.
The San Diego Chicken mascot attracted more attention than the team, which once even hired its broadcaster to manage. Under experienced skipper Dick Williams, however, youth and veterans such as Steve Garvey and Graig Nettles were molded into a winning package.
San Diego's most glaring downfall in the Series was on the mound, where the starting pitchers combined to last just 10 1/3 innings and compile a whopping 13 .94 earned-run average Their dismal performance produced such press row riddles as, ''How do you identify the Padres' starting pitcher in the post-game locker room?'' The answer: He's the one in street clothes ( having long ago showered and dressed).
The middle relievers came to the rescue, holding the fort for long periods, but the offense couldn't come up with the necessary runs.
Ironically, it was little-used journeyman Kurt Bevacqua who became the Padres' offensive star, hitting the winning homer in Game 2 and another one that tightened things up late in Sunday's game.But he couldn't make up for the slumping Nettles and Garvey, nor for the absence of injured slugger Kevin McReynolds.
Also there was the near-invisibility of Rich Gossage. The Goose is the heat-throwing stopper San Diego likes to go to with a lead late in the game, but mostly his lethal right arm gathered cobwebs. Then in one of his rare appearances on Sunday, the Tigers wrapped up the final game with four runs.
In the seventh, Parrish hit a solo home run that prompted chants of ''Goose Busters,'' a play on the hit movie ''Ghostbusters.'' Then in the eighth, Gibson blew things open with his second homer of the day, a three-run missle into the right field upper deck of Tiger Stadium.
If the Goose laid an egg, he had company. Several misplays by teammates hinted that the visiting Californians were dazed and ready for a vacation.
So the Fast Food Series, as it came to be called, ended - the club owned by Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan beating the franchise left to Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's hamburger king Ray Kroc.
Detroit's championship was in the bag, just where any fast-food order belongs.