Memories of Detroit’s Magical Summer of 1984

Maybe it was because the Detroit Tigers were in first place the entire season.  Maybe it was because I was 13 years old.  Or maybe it was a combination of both.  But the summer of 1984 was the most dynamic and exhilarating period of time my life has ever known.

Carl Lewis 1984Everything about the year was amazing.  First of all, the 1984 Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles.  Every day, it seemed, U.S. track star Carl Lewis would perform another miracle.  He could run faster, jump farther, and leap higher than anyone else on Earth as he amassed four gold metals.

The United States Olympic baseball team made a stop at Tiger Stadium that summer to square off against Team Japan.  The game was played before a Tigers home game sometime during the summer. 

The Team USA bus parked right across the street from the souvenir trailer I was manning at the time.  I ran across the street to get autographs as the team exited the bus.  Of course, I didn’t recognize anyone.  It wasn’t until years later when I came across the ball that I noticed the autographs of Cory Snyder, Mark McGwire, Will Clark, and Barry Larkin.  If only I knew!

1984 was also the year of Michael Jackson.  You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing his voice.  Thriller was in full bloom that year as The Jacksons came to the Pontiacmichael-jackson_ronald-reagan Silverdome during their Victory Tour.  The crowd was an eclectic mix of possessed fans decked out in Jackson Tour T-shirts and Detroit Tigers baseball caps — mostly the ones being sold at McDonald’s all summer for $1.97.  Admit it.  You had one or the other — or both — in your closet at the time.

There was also a presidential election going on in 1984 as Ronald Reagan sought reelection against Walter Mondale.  Reagan was a larger-than-life political figure full of optimism and inspiration.  He was a tough, lovable, charismatic figure who gave incredible speeches.  Reagan was a fitting character to have in power during such a magical time.

And the Tigers.  Oh my, the Tigers!  1984 was the baseball season to end all baseball seasons.  The Tigers were never out of first place the entire year.  They started out with an amazing 35-5 record and demonstrated early that they were the best team in baseball. 

sparky_andersonThey had a national following that year.  Jack Morris threw a no-hitter the first week of the season on NBC.  Sparky Anderson was featured in nationally-aired Ford Motor Company commercials (Have You Driven a Ford Lately?) and appeared on Good Morning America and other national programs.

Detroit native Tom Selleck was donning a Tigers cap on his popular TV show, Magnum P.I.  That summer, Selleck took batting practice at Tiger Stadium along with his heroes  – and Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker made cameo appearances on his show.

In the post season, the Tigers swept right past their American League West rivals from Kansas City and beat the hell out of a beleaguered team from San Diego that really didn’t seem to know what hit ‘em.

So for me — and millions of Detroiters — 1984 was the year of the Detroit Tigers, Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and the Summer Olympics.Tom Selleck Detroit Tigers 

Many elements of that year have left us now.  Reagan died years ago; the summer Olympics are a non-event; Tiger Stadium sits in ruins; and Michael Jackson won’t be moonwalking anymore.  But for one magical summer, all four seemed to come together in a perfect storm unlike any other we had seen before.

Twenty-five years later, the summer of 1984 seems just as special to me.  And I’m not 13 anymore.

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