The labor unrest of 1981 behind them, and the experience of a pennant race under their belts---no matter how truncated---the 1982 Tigers gathered in Lakeland in February looking forward to both a 162-game season and another assault on the division flag.
But before that, there were some off-season moves, as GM Jim Campbell continued to massage the roster, looking for that combination that would lift the Tigers over the rest of the pack.
Brought in were veteran 1B/3B Enos Cabell, acquired from the Giants for Champ Summers; OF Larry Herndon, also acquired from San Francisco, for pitchers Dan Schatzeder and Mike Chris; OF Chet Lemon, acquired from the White Sox for Steve Kemp; and veteran OF Jerry Turner, signed as a free agent in February from the White Sox.
The team also picked up veteran reliever Elias Sosa from Montreal just before the season started.
In May, to give manager Sparky Anderson another bat, Campbell signed free agent Mike Ivie to play 1B and be the team's designated hitter against lefties.
All the moves seemed to work---at first. The Tigers got off to a roaring start. By May 20 they were 24-12 and leading the division. Herndon, especially, was the best of the Tigers' new acquisitions. On May 16 and 18 combined, Herndon homered in four straight at-bats, and he had never hit more than five home runs in a season prior to coming to Detroit.
Everything was going wonderfully. Then June came.
Inexplicably, the Tigers lost 15 of 17 games from June 11 to June 29, tumbling from first place to fourth, 6.5 games out. Everything went wrong, but especially the offense, which suddenly struggled to score runs.
The Tigers never did truly recover from that swoon. They were done, essentially---an also-ran in a division that they had dominated for a third of the season. They finished 83-79, harmlessly in fourth place.
Lance Parrish established himself as one of the premier catchers in baseball, slugging 32 homers and collecting 87 RBI. Herndon was great, finishing with 23 homers, 88 RBI and a .292 average. Lemon hit 19 homers and batted .266. But Kirk Gibson once again was felled by an injury, his second major one in three seasons, which limited him to just 66 games. Ivie hit 14 homers in 259 at-bats, but batted just .232.
On the mound, Jack Morris won 17 games, but with a 4.02 ERA, the staff's ace might have been second banana Dan Petry, who won 15 games and posted a fine ERA of 3.22.
A strange pitching case was southpaw reliever Kevin Saucier. In 1981, Saucier earned the nickname "Hot Sauce" for his stellar closing abilities and his gyrations on the field after securing yet another Tigers victory. But in late-July of 1982, Saucier shocked the Tigers by retiring immediately, afraid that his control, which was slipping, would end up seriously injuring a batter.
Saucier wasn't yet 26 years old.By GregEno
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- Champ Summers, Chet Lemon, Dan Petry, Dan Schatzeder, Detroit Tigers, Elias Sosa, Enos Cabell, Jack Morris, Jerry Turner, Jim Campbell (GM), Kevin Saucier, Lance Parrish, Larry Herndon, Mike Chris, Mike Ivie, Sparky Anderson, Steve Kemp