it's the third appearance for the detroit tiger franchise, but these are all new faces. well, in a tigers' uniform, anyway.
why this team?: the 1984 tigers began the season by going 35-5 in their first 40 games. they wound up winning 104 games and led the american league east from start to finish. the team also featured the league's mvp and cy young award winner, although he is not included in the set. more on that later.
which players are featured?: we have the ace, three-fourths of the infield, two-thirds of the outfield, and the manager. that would be jack morris, alan trammell, howard johnson, lou whitaker, chet lemon, kirk gibson, and sparky anderson.
why these players?: let's break it down.
alan trammell had a big year in 1984. he matched his career highs to that point in doubles, triples, and home runs, and set a new personal best in rbi. he hit .314 over 139 games and finished 9th in the al mvp race. he also was named to the all-star team and won a gold glove. he hit .364 in the alcs against the royals, and a huge .450 in the world series against the padres. in the fall classic, he had 2 homers, 6 rbi and won the mvp award for the series.
chet lemon was in his third season as the tigers' centerfielder in 1984. he hit .287 with 20 home runs and 76 rbi, and was a starter in the all-star game that year. unfortunately, lemon was 0 for 13 in the alcs, but he did rebound to hit .294 with a couple of steals in the world series.
howard johnson began the season as the tigers' third baseman, but was replaced by marty castillo by the time the world series came around. he did get one at bat (as a pinch hitter) in the fall classic, and reached on an error. he was traded to the mets shortly after the series ended.
jack morris went 19-11 for the tigers in 1984. he threw a no-hitter in his second start and was 5-0 at the end of april. at the end of may, morris was 10-1 with 7 complete games in 12 starts. he was 3-0 in the postseason, including 2-0 in the world series with wins in games 1 and 4.
kirk gibson played in right for the 1984 tigers. he appeared in 149 games and hit 27 homers. he drove in 91 runs and scored 92 times himself (the most on the team). gibson hit .417 in the alcs and was named the mvp of that series. he did well in the world series, too, hitting 2 home runs with 7 rbi and posting a .333 average. both of his home runs came in the deciding game 5 - a 2-run home run in the first inning to start the scoring, and a mammoth 3-run shot off of goose gossage in the 8th to put the game away. gibson also scored another run in the game, hustling home on a short sacrifice fly by rusty kuntz.
lou whitaker hit .289 with 14 homers and 56 rbi in 1984. as the tigers' second baseman, whitaker played in 143 games, was the starter for the american league in the all-star game, and also won the gold glove and silver slugger awards. he hit .143 in the alcs, and .278 in the world series.
sparky anderson won his fifth career pennant and third world championship with the tigers in 1984. he was named the american league's manager of the year in his seventh season in detroit, and he would remain their manager for 11 more seasons. so far, sparky is the only manager to appear in the set, and he's shown up twice.
the stadium on the back is...?: tiger stadium. as it should be, although it's tough to tell when the photo was taken.
did upper deck get it right?: no doubt that this team, above all others (even steve garvey's 1984 san diego padres) deserves a spot. still, it would have been good to see the padres represented in the set. garvey, goose gossage, and graig nettles were all big parts of that team and are already on this set's checklist. plus, dick williams would have been a good add (and he could have been featured with some of the early oakland a's teams in the set). oh well.
as for the players, the obvious omission is willie (guillermo) hernandez. he had pitched in a league leading 80 games during the regular season, compiling a 9-3 record with 32 saves. he was also voted the american league mvp and cy young award winner. he should be in the set. lance parrish, their catcher, is another one conspicuous by their absence. parrish led the team in home runs and rbi in 1984 and would have been a better choice than howard johnson for the set, even though hojo shows up again with the 1986 mets.
i don't see too much with the photos that make me think they are not from 1984 or the immediate era, but the tigers don't mess with their uniforms too often. having said that, the whitaker photo is from no earlier than 1985, as that was the year that the team went to a button-up road jersey, as opposed to the pullovers that lemon, hojo, and morris are wearing.
is this team timeless?: i believe so. they were dominant from the start of the season, and gibson's home run off of gossage is fairly unforgettable.