Lance Parrish was a multidimensional star during his 10 seasons in a Tigers uniform. Before leaving Detroit via free agency at the end of the 1986 season, the muscular catcher was a perennial All-Star because of his accurate arm, savvy signal-calling, and powerful bat.
On July 27, 1984, the 49,607 fans who packed Tiger Stadium to watch the first-place Tigers kick off a weekend set with Boston thoroughly enjoyed an unexpected aspect of Parrish’s versatility.
The happy gathering on this Friday night barely had time to start the first of several versions of “the wave” when the Tigers jumped on Bosox starter Bruce Hurst for a run in the opening inning. Parrish was on third and Larry Herndon on first when Hurst suddenly caught Herndon leaning toward second.
With Herndon trapped in a rundown, Parrish inched down the third-base line. “I didn’t know what to do at that point, to tell you the truth,” Parrish later admitted. Before he knew it, he was two-thirds of the way down the line with a clear path to the plate. He took off. The 220-pound Parrish finished his dash with a neat hook slide around catcher Rich Gedman, beating the throw from first baseman Bill Buckner.
Parrish was credited with his second stolen base of the season. It was his first-ever steal of home and “probably my last,” he said.
Parrish later contributed to the Tigers’ 9-1 victory in a more conventional manner, belting a two-run homer in support of winning pitcher Dan Petry. It was one of his 33 round-trippers that year, breaking his own American League single-season record for catchers.
Parrish’s unlikely theft was a harbinger of many great things to come in 1984. Sparky Anderson’s team of destiny would go on to win a club record 104 games before trampling Kansas City and San Diego in the postseason for Detroit’s last world’s championship. As the Detroit Free Press correctly noted: “You know it’s their year when Lance Parrish steals home.”