Detroit's rich history adds new chapter
City recalls past pennants with 10th appearance in World Series
In 1908, there were 6,210 fans in Detroit to watch the fifth and final World Series game. While some people remember that as the last time the Cubs won it all, others remember it as the smallest crowd in World Series history.
How much different are things nearly a century later? There are more than 6,210 fans right now ordering American League championship regalia at MLB.com. There are probably more than 6,210 fans right now talking on the phone about Magglio Ordonez's three-run homer that won a pennant on Saturday for the Tigers.
When the 2006 World Series opens next Saturday at Comerica Park, there could be more than 6,210 fans just lined up along the see-through fencing outside the ballpark. There probably will be a big screen somewhere in Detroit next week drawing at least a crowd that big. And make no mistake, any discussion about a Tigers World Series has to include not only their players but also their fans.
This is the city where then-Commissioner Judge Landis had to remove Cardinals left fielder Joe Medwick from Game 7 of the 1934 World Series because Tiger Stadium fans threw soda bottles and fruit at the player after he had jostled Marvin Owen while sliding into third. The following year, Detroit finally won its first World Series, and the victory celebration lasted until dawn of the following day.
This is the city where that dramatic seven-game triumph over the Cardinals in 1968 helped bring people together during a time of historic civil unrest. It is the city where the Tigers last won a World Series title in 1984 and celebrated to such excess that night that security measures were taken to ensure all pro sports celebrations thereafter would be more peaceful and controlled.
Detroit is passionate about its Tigers, and now that they are in the World Series for the first time since those days of "Bless You Boys," the fever there (and in Tigers Nation worldwide) is right up there with any time in the city's past. The local nine just became the first team in Major League history to win six consecutive postseason games by three or more runs -- overcoming that opening loss to the Yankees in the AL Division Series to win the next three games and then a four-game sweep of the AL West champion Oakland A's. What makes it all the more uproarious now is the fact that it was only three years ago that this franchise lost 119 games; suddenly, this might be the newest AL destiny darling.
Now, the World Series home-field advantage goes to Comerica Park, marking the third consecutive year that the AL has had that privilege by virtue of winning that year's All-Star Game. Can the Tigers make it a third consecutive World Series sweep by the AL? If that happens, they would match last year's White Sox postseason record of 11-1, because they are already on their way.
For now, just being here is plenty enough for Tigers fans, who endured that 119-loss season in 2003 and in many cases have never seen a World Series featuring their team in their lifetime. People aren't just talking about the Tigers -- they are talking about Tigers fans again, too. It is a breakout of mammoth proportions, seen in everything from attendance to TV ratings to merchandise sales and the general excitement level around Motown. Detroit is back in the World Series, and there will be an entire week for the hype and the water-cooler discussion to live at blissful levels.
Tigers World Series history
This will mark the 10th World Series in the rich history of the Detroit franchise, one spiced with names like Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Denny McLain, Alan Trammell and, yes, Ordonez.
If they win the World Series, the Tigers would jump up into a four-way tie for sixth place on the all-time list for most World Series championships by a franchise. The Yankees lead with 26, followed by the A's (Philadelphia and Oakland) and Cardinals with nine apiece, and the Dodgers (Brooklyn and Los Angeles) and Red Sox with six apiece. Detroit is hoping to join other cities with five World Series titles, including the Giants (all in New York), Pirates and Reds.
For the Tigers, the early World Series years didn't go so well. But they have won four of their last five. Here is a closer look at their past appearances:
1984: Tigers 4, Padres 1
Detroit won 104 games in 1984 season and was expected to have no difficulty whatsoever in this series. It turned out to be very evenly matched, but like the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Astros, the only thing that mattered was the final result. Trammell had nine hits for a .450 average, Jack Morris pitched two complete games, Kirk Gibson went deep twice in the 8-4 finale and the city celebrated to the hilt. In fact, a bit too much, setting off celebration trauma that eventually led to an overall security improvement in the way cities fete their pro sports titles.
1968: Tigers 4, Cardinals 3
It was the year that McLain won 31 games for Detroit (baseball's last 30-game winner) and Bob Gibson compiled a 1.12 ERA for St. Louis. They were brought together in that World Series, and it began with Gibson's incredible 17-strikeout performance in Game 1. All signs pointed to St. Louis winning the Series after it took a 3-2 series lead back to Busch Stadium, but McLain was the winner in Game 6, then Mickey Lolich won a great pitchers' duel with Gibson in the finale.
1945: Tigers 4, Cubs 3
It was the last World Series of the wartime era, and Greenberg was back from military duty to lead the way for Detroit. He had five extra-base hits and a .305 average in the series. The Tigers were pushed to the limit after Stan Hack's walk-off double (they didn't call them "walk-offs" in those days) won it for Chicago in the 12th, and Detroit scored five in the first inning of the clincher after an off-day.
1940: Reds 4, Tigers 3
It was the year that someone other than the Yankees finally represented the AL, and many students of Tigers history remember it for what happened with Bobo Newsom. He went the distance to win the opener, but tragedy struck a day later when his father died of a heart attack. Newsom somehow came back for an even more brilliant Game 5 shutout, but Reds righty Paul Derringer beat him in a 2-1 pitchers' duel in Game 7.
1935: Tigers 4, Cubs 2
The Tigers win! That was the news in Detroit, where it was two old Fall Classic rivals and a celebration scene in the streets of Detroit that lasted until dawn of the following day. Goose Goslin won it with a two-out single that scored Mickey Cochrane in the bottom of the ninth.
1934: Cardinals 4, Tigers 3
In the sixth inning of Game 7, Medwick of St. Louis jostled Owen while sliding into third. Landis appeased the Tiger Stadium crowd by ordering Medwick -- who was pelted by soda bottles and fruit after taking his left-field position afterward -- out of the game. Part of it was frustration; after a great battle against the Gas House Gang, Detroit lost the finale, 11-0.
1909: Pirates 4, Tigers 3
Cobb hit .231 with five RBIs in his final World Series, and it was too much Honus Wagner: .333, seven RBIs, six steals. A different team won each game in order, and unfortunately for Detroit -- which had home-field advantage -- Pittsburgh won Game 7.
1908: Cubs 4, Tigers 1
As just about every Cubs fan knows, this was the last time that the franchise won a World Series. The Tigers didn't put up much of a battle against Mordecai Brown, and the guys from Chicago won easily. That was apparently a foregone conclusion, as few watched the Game 5 finale in Detroit.
1907: Cubs 4, Tigers 0, 1 Tie
Detroit World Series play got off to an unfortunate start. The Tigers apparently had Game 1 when Del Howard struck out, but Detroit catcher Charlie Schmidt couldn't hold on to the ball and a run scored, tying the game. It was called for darkness after 12 innings, simply resulting in a tie. Cobb, playing in his first of three straight World Series, batted just .200, scored one run and didn't drive in any.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.