These are the walk-off wins for the Detroit Tigers in the postseason


Goose Goslin receives kisses from Mickey Cochrane and Tommy Bridges after his walkoff hit won the 1935 World Series at Navin Field; Magglio Ordonez raises his fist after hitting the pennant-winning homer in 2006; and Don Kelly is congratulated after his sacrifice fly won Game Two of the 2012 American League Championship Series in Detroit.

Is there anything to match the drama of a walk-off win in baseball?

By necessity, of course, only the home team can win in a walk-off. The result is an instantaneous, joyous celebration on the field, and an emotional explosion among the fans.

Who first coined the phrase “walk-off win?” By most accounts, it was Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, after Kirk Gibson hit his famous home run off him in Game One of the 1988 World Series. It is a walk-off, Eckersley told reporters afterward, because the only thing the losers can do is walk off the field.

A walk-off in the post-season is even more special. The stakes are higher, and the thrill greater.

How many walk-offs have the Detroit Tigers had in their long post-season history?

The first came on October 4, 1934, the second game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. After rallying to tie the game at two in the bottom of the ninth, Detroit eventually won it in the 12th. Facing Bill Walker with two on and one out, Goose Goslin singled to center to score Charlie Gehringer with the winning tally. Schoolboy Rowe pitched a complete game for the Tigers, giving up only seven hits, fanning seven, and walking none. Played in a brisk two hours and forty-nine minutes, the win evened the series at one game apiece (Detroit eventually lost in seven).

Goslin did it again the next year, this time in Game Six of the Series. The date was October 7, 1935. The Tigers led the Series three games to two. The Chicago Cubs’ Larry French and Detroit’s Tommy Bridges were locked in a pitchers’ duel, a 3-3 tie heading into the bottom of the ninth. Mickey Cochrane singled with one down, and advanced to second on a ground out to first. That brought up Goslin. He lined a single to right, Cochrane raced around third and scored without a slide, and the Tigers were world champions for the first time ever.

Tiger fans would have to wait almost another four decades for the next post-season walk-off hit. It was October 11, 1972, Game Four of the American League Championship Series. Back in those days, it was a five-game set, as opposed to the seven played today. The upstart Oakland A’s had taken the first two at the Coliseum, but Joe Coleman pitched a shutout at Tiger Stadium in Game Three. Game Four was another classic duel, this time between Catfish Hunter and Mickey Lolich. By the top of the tenth, both starters were gone, and the game was tied at one. However, Oakland scored a pair to put the Tigers on the brink of elimination; three more outs, and the A’s would advance to the World Series for the first time since relocating to California.

The Tigers, however, staged a comeback for the ages. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody down. Bill Freehan hit a grounder to third that looked like an easy double play, but second baseman Gene Tenace could not handle the throw from Sal Bando. Tenace, normally a catcher, had started the game behind the plate, but had shifted to second back in the seventh inning. It was only the fourth time he had played the position in his career.

Next up was Norm Cash, who drew a walk to score the tying run. Finally, Jim Northrup drove a Dave Hamilton pitch deep to right. The ball sailed way over Matty Alou’s head (who was playing shallow), and bounced off the wall. By the rules, it was only a single, but Gates Brown easily scored the winning run, which was all that counted. Oakland, unfortunately, won the Series the next day.

It was not until 2006 that Detroit did it again, this time in Game Four of the ALCS at Comerica Park. The Tigers, you may remember, had won the first three games against Oakland. One more win and they would be American League champions. Game Four was tied at three heading into the bottom of the ninth, and the A’s had their relief ace Huston Street on the mound. Marcus Thames and Curtis Granderson were retired easily. Craig Monroe singled, as did Placido Polanco, with Monroe holding at second. That brought up Magglio Ordonez, whose titanic blast into left sent Detroit into delirium, and its first World Series in 22 years.

Finally, the most unlikely of Tigers became a walk-off hero in Game Two of the 2012 American League Division Series (against Oakland again). With the game tied at four in the bottom of the ninth, Don Kelly came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, to face Grant Balfour. A .186 hitter during the regular season with only seven RBIs, Kelly lofted a lazy fly ball to right field, just deep enough to score Omar Infante from third. It was the highlight of Kelly’s eight-year career as a fringe major leaguer.

Let us hope we don’t have to wait too many years for the next Tiger post-season walk-off win.