I recently rewatched NBC’s broadcast of Game Four of the 1984 World Series on YouTube and I’m struck by three things: (1) how terrible the Padres’ uniforms were, (2) how much of a little piss ant Bob Costas is, and (3) how great a team the ’84 Tigers were.
Come along with me for an inning-by-inning commentary of the game.
It’s quite obvious that NBC wanted to make this broadcast about the stark contrast between the west coast Padres, a still-young franchise with no winning tradition, and the Tigers, a charter member of the American League who play in one of the most fabled ballparks in the game. An entire segment was devoted to what it was like to watch a game in Tiger Stadium, with camera angles from the center field bleachers, the cavernous and dark lower level bleachers, and the obstructed view seats.
Len Berman hosted the pregame show (whatever happened to him?) with Bob Costas doing an interview with NBC News host Tom Brokaw. Costas looks like 14 (he was actually 32 in ’84) and he’s all-too-eager to show off the Mickey Mantle card that “I’ve been carrying in my wallet since I was 12.” There are many reasons to despise Costas, a camera-hog who never misses an opportunity to use 1,000 words when only twenty will suffice, but the fact that he fancies himself the world’s best and most sophisticated baseball fan is chief among them. First off, what 12-year old has a wallet? Any 12-year old with a wallet deserves to have his head dunked in the nearest toilet. Go outside and play in the yard or look up a girl’s skirt – but lose the wallet, poindexter.
Detroit-area opera singer Robert “Fat Bob” Taylor sang the national anthem and when NBC panned the stadium we get to see Lance Parrish and his Greek God physique and good looks. You know he was once a bodyguard for Lana Turner?
1984 was an election year and we get to see a commercial during the break featuring President Reagan. Which makes me realize that Reagan is what Don Draper would have looked like in old age: still clinging to the past, oil in his hair, impeccably dressed in a 1950s era suit, desperately wishing that “I Love Lucy” was still on television.
Top of the 1st:
Jack Morris is starting for the Tigers on three days rest. It’s his 11th start of the year on three days rest, and (as Vin Scully points out), his no-hitter in April came under such circumstances. Morris is in his prime, probably at the peak of his powers as an ace. An ace in 1984 was far different than an ace in 2015. An ace in those days pitched a complete game even if he didn’t have his good stuff, even if he lost the game. An ace pitched on short rest and he took an extra turn when days off allowed the team to skip their fifth starter. Morris threw 265 innings that year including the postseason, part of a seven-year stretch when he topped 250 each season.
It’s an easy 1-2-3 inning for Jack, with two grounders going to Lou Whitaker. It’s easy to forget how great an athlete Lou was. On the grounder off the bat of Steve Garvey to end the top of the first, Whitaker ranges 15 feet to his right and makes an across the body toss as he drifts toward the bag to easily record the out. He was smooth.
Commercial break: There’s a late middle aged man holding a “state of the art” Epson printer. He drops it repeatedly on the counter to demonstrate how tough it is. Why does my printer have to withstand physical punishment? Am I working in an office in a trailer being pulled by a semi-truck down a bumpy road in San Fernando valley during an earthquake? How much does that dot-matrix printer cost in 1984? Probably $700.
Bottom of the 1st:
As they did frequently throughout the ’84 season, the Tigers jumped out to a quick lead. Whitaker reaches on an error by Alan Wiggins (who never should have really been a second baseman) and then Alan Trammell launched a home run into the lower deck in left field which quickly became a sea of arms and cheers. Joe Garagiola remarks “They come to work early, don’t they?” Later in the inning we see Kirk Gibson cussing at himself after he hit a flyball to center field. There were probably 15 F-bombs in the tirade aimed at himself. 2-0 Tigers
Commercial break: Now we see an ad for the Commodore 64 computer, one of the best-selling personal computers in history. I don’t know what the people of 1984 were “computing” about, but they look so happy in these commercials.
Top of the 2nd:
The inning is led off by Kurt Bevacqua, whose home run in Game Two was the only highlight in the Series for the Padres. My best friend Dale and me were 16 that fall and we loved Bevacqua’s name. It sounded dirty or silly or something. We were also irritated when his home run sunk the Tigs in Game Two. As a result we started to use “Bevacqua” as a substitute for any cuss words and phrases after that. It went like this:
ME: Dale, do you see what Stacie was wearing in gym class today?
DALE: Mother Bevacqua she looked great!
DALE: I can’t believe this, what are we going to do?
ME: What the Bevacqua is going on?!?
Squatty catcher Terry Kennedy hits a solo homer off Morris into the lower deck in right field and the Padres pull to within 2-1.
Commercial break: A Ford spot is notable for two things. First, it features the tag line “Have you driven a Ford lately?” Which seems like a curious bit of marketing seeing as a perfectly acceptable answer could have been “Hell no!” And second, we see Patrick Duffy, Bjorn Borg, and Sparky Anderson driving cars in the commercial. When — ever — have those three men ever been associated with each other? And remember when Patrick Duffy was a sex symbol? I don’t want to.
Bottom of the 2nd:
We see Ruppert Jones at the plate this inning. It’s a reminder of how how loaded the team was: Jones spent the first two months of the season playing in Toledo. He missed the 35-5 start, he didn’t take his first swings as a Tiger until early June. Jones was a very good hitter and he probably could have hit 25 homers if he’d played regularly in Tiger Stadium. He was a fine ballplayer, he once stole 33 bases and hit 21 homers for the Mariners.
Eric Show strikes out Jones and Chet Lemon and has a 1-2-3 inning to keep it a one-run game.
Commercial break: Did you know that “Crimes of Passion” was the “most talked about movie of the year” in 1984? I didn’t either, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. “Ghostbusters”, baby.
Top of the 3rd:
With Bobby Brown at the plate, the NBC guys show the Padres dugout in search of the injured Kevin McReynolds (whom Brown is filling in for). But instead we see Champ Summers, the former Tiger. Summers is a man, a real man with a square jaw, broad shoulders, and a mustache that makes ladies swoon and men shake with fear. Seeing him in that awful Padres uniform makes you want to puke, which is —- by the way — what the Padres uniforms look like.
We see Tony Gwynn face Morris and he places a soft liner into right field for a base hit. It’s classic Gwynn before we even knew how great he was going to be. It’s hard to believe he’s not with us any more.
Vin Scully explains to us that Detorit pitching coach Roger Craig has a nasty bruise on his chin because while back in California (where he lives) he fell off his horse. I love Vin Scully.
Commercial break: Oh boy, here’s a commercial that shows horses galloping across the plains and is inter-cut with footage of a man cozying up to his lady. Then we flash back to the plains and a giant phallic-shaped bottle of Stetson Cologne rises slowly from behind the mountains. “STETSON COLOGNE…STETSON FITS” Yes, that’s really the ad.
Bottom of the 3rd:
Scully was 56 years old when he performed play-by-play for the 1984 Series. That was 31 years ago and he’s still doing the same thing. Nowadays most people stay at the same job for about two years and then they “reinvent” themselves. Scully’s first invention was perfect.
Dave Bergamn leads off the inning and he looks lean and athletic. He’s in the first season as a Tiger but he would never play a game in another uniform. Bergie became a Detroiter and he’s missed.
Whitaker singled and advanced to second on an error and then Trammell blasted a breaking ball off the facing of the second deck in left field for another two-run homer. This time Whitaker stood on home plate and clapped for his teammate as Tram trotted in with his second homer. What a great duo. It’s insane that Whitaker isn’t even on the Hall of Fame ballot any more and that Trammell hasn’t been voted in either. As Trammell gets back to the dugout we see smiles and high-fives from Chet Lemon, Johnny Grubb, and the team goofball, Marty Castillo. It’s 4-1 and it feels like the Padres will never get Trammell out again. He takes a curtain call in his “aw shucks” way and the ballpark sounds like it’s going to fall over.
We’re treated to Kirk Gibson on first base and see a long sequence where he breaks on a failed hit-and-run and then doesn’t go but takes a big lead, and then finally steals with Darrell Evans at the plate. Gibson was the most aggressive baserunner I have ever seen in a Detroit uniform. Scully and Garagiola spend a large amount of time talking about Gibby’s baserunning skill. Four years later Scully would get to see Gibson in a Dodger uniform as he won an MVP award in LA after bolting Detroit as a free agent. Interesting to see Gibson and Steve Garvey, both Michigan State grads, at first base during the sequence. Garvey of course had an LA connection as did another athlete who was in East Lansing when Gibson was: Magic Johnson.
Top of the 4th:
Morris is cruising and he gets the Padres 1-2-3 capped by a harmless foul popup to Bergman.
Bottom of the 4th:
Dave Dravecky is now pitching for the Padres. Let me take the time now to recite the stats of the San Diego starting pitchers in this series: 10 1/3 innings, 25 hits, four strikeouts, four walks, 17 runs allowed, 16 earned runs surrendered for a 13.58 ERA. The four starters were Show, Tim Lollar, Mark Thurmond, and Ed Whitson, who was famously captured in the dugout after being knocked out of Game Two in the first inning throwing his gum to the ground. The Tigers were relentless in the early innings in the postseason — they scored 13 runs in the first inning in their eight postseason games.
Chet Lemon has two arms but wears four armbands and has a wrap around the elbow of his right arm. He hasn’t gotten on base yet but he has grass stains and dirt on his uniform pants. He never did anything without some flair. Chet leads off with a six-pitch walk. He takes a big lead against the left-handed Dravecky and steals a base on the first pitch, sliding in head first at second (of course). But during the very next AB we see why Lemon was once called “a first-class airhead” by one of his teammates. He takes off toward third on a botched play (he thought there was a hit-and-run on) and is thrown out easily, not even bothering to slide. Detroit still has a 4-1 lead.
Top of the 5th:
Scully tells us that so far the fastest fastball from Morris has been clocked at 89 miles per hour. Morris was not considered a soft tosser in his day (he led the AL in K’s the previous season), but that sort of heat would barely raise an eyebrow in today’s game. Morris was best known for his split-finger fastball which was honed under the tutelage of Craig. The splitter wasn’t about velocity, it was about command and tightness of the spin. The tighter the spin the more it looked like a straight fastball and then BOOM! it dropped off the table in the last two feet and dropped under the bat. Morris struggles a little bit with his command here in the middle innings and you can tell by his body language that he’s cranky about it. Yet he still guts it out and keeps the Padres at bay.
Bottom of the 5th:
NBC is barely back from the commercial break (more about Epson) when Sweet Lou lines a double down the left field line. Ho hum. Trammell comes up and the place is crazy as 50,000-plus give him a standing ovation. Before the second pitch Tram waves for time and interrupts Dravecky’s delivery. He steps out of the box and you get the idea that he needed to calm himself down based on his facial expression. The fans are chanting “TRAMMELL TRAMMELL TRAMMELL” in unison. I would give a years pay to go back and be in that ballpark for that moment.
Garagiola, who in my opinion was a very underrated broadcaster who was inappropriately typecast as an empty-haded ex-ballplayer (probably because he often told stories of his childhood friendship with Yogi Berra, who was known as somewhat of a simpleton), makes a great point as Trammell is at the plate seeking a third straight homer. He points out that it was a year earlier that Trammell made a major change to his batting stance that dramatically improved his ability to drive the ball. Prodded by hitting coach Gates Brown, Trammell closed his lead left shoulder and pointed it toward right field in late May of 1983. He went on a tear and hit .319 that season and transformed himself into a great offensive player.
Trammell only singles this time but Lou doesn’t go home even though third base coach Alex Grammas is waving him in. A replay reveals that Whitaker slipped a little but as he rounded third and halted his momentum. He scampers back to third, setting up a first-and-third with nobody out for Gibson. But Gibby strikes out on a waist-high 3-2 fastball and sulks back the dugout. Lance Parrish follows with a bouncer to third base that also broke his bat and sent the barrel flying at third baseman Graig Nettles. For a minute Nettles doesn’t know whether to field the ball or duck the bat and Whitaker takes the opportunity to bolt for home, but Nettles easily throws to Kennedy who places a swipe tag across Lou’s jaw. It’s an awkward play and you’re just glad Whitaker didn’t suffer a broken face on the play. Dravecky retired Darrell Evans to complete his escape from danger.
Top of the 6th:
Wiggins led off the inning and I’m reminded of his tragic story. He was a fine athlete who had a lot of troubles which led to drug addiction. Sadly, just seven years later he would die from AIDS. He weighed just 70 pounds at the time of his death. Wiggins hits a grounder to the far right of Bergman who tosses to Morris covering to retire the speedy Padre. Morris was a fine defensive player who should have won a Gold Glove but never did. The Detroit righty retired all three hitters making it 10 straight that he’s set down. Big Jack is in a groove.
Bottom of the 6th:
The coverage opens with a photo of a fan holding a sign that says “Morris is a Tiger” with a photo of Morris the Cat (from the 9 Lives advertising campaign). Garagiola laughs at the sign like it’s the funniest damn thing he’s ever seen. Ok, maybe Joe was a little dim.
Barbaro Garbey pinch-hits and is barely in the batters’ box before he skies a flyball to Gwynn’s glove in right. I wish I’d had a chance to see more of Garbey at the plate, he was a real swinger and he had a great season for the Tigers. During the 35-5 start Garbey was basically like Ty Cobb at the plate, hitting nearly .400 while Tiger fans tried to figure out who the hell he was.
We get to see Larry Herndon at the plate this inning and that reminds me that my high school history teacher used to like to drone on about the Tigers on occasion. She was about five feet two inches tall and she especially liked Herndon because “he looked great in his uniform pants.” Ewwwww.
Herndon slaps a single but Lemon grounds into a double play to end the inning. The ballpark seems to be getting louder and louder. Still 4-1, good guys.
Top of the 7th:
It’s a blink-of-the-eye inning: Morris gets Nettles, Kennedy, and Mother Bevacqua in order, the last on a strikeout looking.
Commercial break: A commercial titled “The Essence of Hitting” stars George Brett for Gillette Atra razors. It looks a lot like George’s brother Ken is the pitcher in the commercial, but I can’t be sure (even after watching it 12 times). Then Brett lathers his face with shaving cream and swipes it away with a Gillette razor. It doesn’t sound like Brett’s voice either, but who knows. He was a great hitter and in the early 1980s he was one of the 4-5 most recognizable athletes in professional team sports.
Bottom of the 7th:
Another lefty comes out of the Padre bullpen, this time Craig Lefferts, who throws the baseball from the three-quarter and sidearm slots. Lefferts was born in Germany and is known as a bit of an oddball. The Padres had a very strange collection of pitchers in 1984: there was Lefferts, fellow reliever Greg Harris, who would later pitch with both arms in a game, the fiery Goose Gossage, and three pitchers (Dravecky, Thurmond, and Show) who were members of the ultra-right wing group the John Birch Society. With lone wolf Wiggins, aloof shortstop Garry Templeton, diplomatic egomaniac Garvey, clubhouse lawyer Nettles, and the arch conservative wing of the pitching staff, the Padres had an interesting clubhouse.
Whitaker and Trammell are retired for the first time and the Tigers go down in order.
Commercial break: We get a “Just Say No to Drugs” PSA from MLB starring George Foster who tells us drugs won’t “make us faster, stronger, or have more control.” Oh, just wait about five years, George.
Top of the 8th:
Tim Flannery pinch-hits and strokes a single to center field to halt Morris’ string of 13 consecutive batters retired. When Templeton swings at the first pitch and pops out to Lemon, NBC shows us Flannery going back to frust muttering and confused that his teammate would hack at the first offering when the team needs baserunners. Pitching from the stretch for the first time since the third, Morris hunkers down and gets the next three hitters, the final out being Champ Summers who pinch-hits but looks completely overmatched against his former teammate and strikes out.
Bottom of the 8th:
Goosage Gossage enters the game for Dick Williams and in a bit of foreshadowing he faces Gibson to open the bottom of the 8th. Back in 1979, Gibson faced Gossage in his first big league at-bat and struck out. This time Gibby flies a harmless popup to short center field on an 0-2 pitch. But the next night in Game Five, the Detroit outfielder would get his revenge in an epic way.
Tommy Brookens gets a quick at-bat, one of only three he had in the Series. Sparky only played Brookens as a late-inning defensive replacement and Tommy didn’t get a hit in the Fall Classic, unfortunately. Against Gossage he grounds out to short and the stage is set for the ninth with Detroit still holding a 4-1 edge.
Top of the 9th:
As we start the ninth inning NBC shows us the pitch stats on Morris: 87 pitches, 64 for strikes and 23 balls. Very economical. By the way, that’s one of the reasons “old-time” pitchers were able to throw so many more innings, because they needed fewer pitches. The strike zone was bigger and batters swung the bat more. They also weren’t trying to throw a perfect pitch at maximum velocity as often as modern pitchers do (which seems like every pitch). The first out is a bouncer to Sweet Lou and then Garvey hits a ball halfway up the left field fence for a double. Nettles hits a grounder to Whitaker, which the second baseman easily converts into the second out, Garvey moving to third. Morris quickly goes to 1-and-2 on Kennedy and as the crowd noise gets deafening in anticipation of the final out, he overthrows a split-finger fastball that skips through Parrish’s legs and allows Garvey to score San Diego’s second run. The Detroit crowd immediately starts a chant of “WHO CARES” and Morris is back on the hill looking for the 27th out. He gets it when Kennedy lines to Gibson in right who snares the ball and raises his left hand in triumph. One more win to go for a World Series title.
The co-MVPs of the game are Morris and Trammell and each are interviewed by Berman on the field. We see big smiles from both as we can tell they know it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the title is theirs. In about 24 hours it will be a reality. What a season.