The Detroit Tigers were baseball’s dominant team in 1984, making a mockery of the A.L. East pennant race by running away with the division title. Playing most of their early-season games against the weaker A.L. West, the Tigers got off to a torrid 35-5 start under manager Sparky Anderson, before cruising to a 104-58 record and a 15-game margin of victory over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.
Clearly the American League’s strongest team over the course of the regular season, the Tigers finished first in the junior circuit with 829 runs scored, 187 home runs, and a team ERA of 3.49. On offense, Lou Whitaker batted .289 and scored 90 runs. Alan Trammell batted .314 and scored 85 times. Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson supplied much of the power in the middle of the lineup, combining to hit 60 home runs between them. Although Parrish batted just .237, he led the club with 33 home runs and 98 runs batted in. Gibson hit 27 homers, drove in 91 runs, scored 92 others, and batted .282. Centerfielder Chet Lemon chipped in with 20 home runs and a .287 batting average.
Jack Morris and Dan Petry anchored Detroit’s starting rotation. Morris finished 19-11 with a 3.60 ERA, while Petry compiled a record of 18-8 and a 3.24 ERA. Milt Wilcox added another 17 victories. Meanwhile, Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez gave the Tigers a formidable bullpen duo. Lopez finished 10-1 with 14 saves. Hernandez won nine games, saved 32 others, compiled an ERA of 1.92, appeared in a league-leading 80 games, and went the entire season without blowing a single save opportunity. The closer’s virtuoso performance earned him A.L. Cy Young and MVP honors.
Although the Tigers dominated the A.L. East over the course of the regular season, they had neither the division’s best player, nor its top starting pitcher. Mike Boddicker had an outstanding year for the fifth-place Baltimore Orioles, who finished 19 games off the pace. The right-hander led all A.L. hurlers with 20 wins and a 2.79 ERA, and he also placed among the leaders with 16 complete games and 261 innings pitched.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees featured several of the circuit’s top offensive performers. Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, and Tony Armas all had big years for the fourth-place Red Sox, who trailed Detroit by 18 games in the final standings. Rice hit 28 homers and placed second in the league with 122 runs batted in. Boggs batted .325, scored 109 runs, and collected 203 hits. Armas scored 107 runs and led the league with 43 home runs and 123 runs batted in.
The third-place Yankees had the league’s top two batsmen in Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly. The teammates waged a year-long competition for the A.L. batting title, with Mattingly edging out Winfield for league-leadership honors by going 4-for-5 against Detroit on the season’s final day. Winfield ended the campaign with a mark of .340, while Mattingly finished the year at .343. Winfield also hit 19 home runs, drove in 100 runs, and scored 106 others. Mattingly hit 23 homers, drove in 110 runs, scored 91 others, and led the league with 207 hits and 44 doubles.
While the Tigers cruised to the A.L. East title, the Kansas City Royals spent most of the year battling the California Angels and Minnesota Twins for supremacy in the West. The Royals finally prevailed, finishing the season with a record of 84-78, just three games ahead of both the Angels and the Twins.
With injuries forcing George Brett to miss a significant amount of playing time, the Royals placed near the bottom of the league rankings in several offensive categories. They finished 11th in runs scored (673), 12th in home runs (117), and 11th in team on-base percentage (.317). Appearing in a total of only 104 games, Brett batted just .284 and contributed only 13 homers and 69 runs batted in. Willie Wilson led the team with a .301 batting average, 81 runs scored, and 47 stolen bases. Steve Balboni finished first on the club with 28 home runs and 77 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Bud Black led Kansas City’s starting rotation with 17 wins, a 3.12 ERA, and 257 innings pitched.
Fortunately for the Royals, they had an exceptional closer in Dan Quisenberry, who led the league with 44 saves, posted six victories, and compiled an ERA of 2.64, en route to earning a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP balloting.
Finishing second in the voting was the division’s top hitter, Minnesota Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek, who hit 27 home runs, drove in 107 runs, and batted .311.
Although the Tigers swept the Royals in three straight games in the ALCS, Kansas City put up a surprisingly good fight. After dropping the first contest by a score of 8-1, the Royals took the Tigers to 11 innings in Game Two, before finally losing 5-3. They then lost a heartbreaking 1-0 decision in Game Three. Kirk Gibson earned ALCS MVP honors by batting .417, homering once, and driving in two runs.
Gibson continued his outstanding postseason play against San Diego in the World Series, leading the Tigers to a five-game victory over their National League counterparts. Gibson hit two homers and knocked in seven runs against the Padres, while compiling a .333 batting average. However, Series MVP honors went to Alan Trammell, who batted .450, hit two home runs, and drove in six runs.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• April 7 – Detroit’s Jack Morris threw the first no-hitter by a Tiger pitcher in 26 years, defeating the Chicago White Sox by a score of 4-0.
• July 21 - The New York Yankees retired Roger Maris' number 9 and Elston Howard's number 32.
• September 17 – Reggie Jackson hit his 500th career home run.
• October 14 - Kirk Gibson blasted two upper-deck home runs at Tiger Stadium in Game Five of the World Series, to lead the Tigers to an 8-4 victory over the Padres and their first world championship since 1968.
• Detroit’s 35-5 record after 40 games represents the best 40-game start in major league history.
• Detroit’s Jack Morris posted two complete-game victories in the World Series.
• Seattle's Alvin Davis (27 home runs and 116 RBIs) earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Sparky Anderson became the first manager to win a world championship in each league.
• California’s Mike Witt threw a perfect game against Texas on September 30, the final day of the season.
• Peter Ueberroth replaced Bowie Kuhn as commissioner.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew, Don Drysdale, Rick Ferrell, and Pee Wee Reese.
• Hall of Famers Stan Coveleski, Waite Hoyt, Joe Cronin, and George Kelly all passed away.
• Carl Pohlad purchased the Twins from Calvin Griffith.
• Oakland’s Rickey Henderson batted .293, scored 113 runs, and led the American League with 66 stolen bases.
• Toronto's Dave Stieb finished 16-8, with a 2.83 ERA and a league-leading 267 innings pitched.
- 1984 ALCS, 1984 World Series, Alan Trammell, Alvin Davis, American League, Aurelio Lopez, Bud Black, Carl Pohlad, Chet Lemon, Dan Petry, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Stieb, Dave Winfield, Detroit Tigers, Don Mattingly, Eddie Murray, George Brett, Jack Morris, Jim Rice, Kansas City Royals, Kent Hrbek, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker, Mike Boddicker, Mike Witt, Milt Wilcox, Peter Ueberroth, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Sparky Anderson, Steve Balboni, Tony Armas, Wade Boggs, Willie Hernandez, Willie Wilson