The Tigers dominated the American League with a 35-5 start and 104 victories in 1984. They cruised to the playoffs favored to win their first pennant in 16 years. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals struggled to 84 wins and the AL West title. The American League Championship Series highlighted the differences between the two squads as Detroit swept the Royals in three straight.
The Tigers flexed their muscles and set the tone for the series in Game 1. Larry Herndon, Lance Parrish, and Alan Trammell all homered in a 14-hit attack. Trammell paced the offense with three hits and three RBI. Four other players had two hits. Jack Morris went seven for the victory.
The Royals did not wilt in the face of a superior foe. They battled the Tigers into extra innings in Game 2. Detroit raced to an early 3-0 lead against Royals future ace Bret Saberhagen. Dan Petry held the lead through seven and surrendered the game to the bullpen. Willie Hernandez, who blew only one save that season, surrendered a game-tying double to Hal McRae in the eighth. Aurelio Lopez dueled Dan Quisenberry the rest of the game. Detroit broke through against “the Quiz” in the 11th inning on a John Grubb two-run double. Lopez allowed two singles in the bottom of the frame, but held on for a 2-0 Tigers’ series lead.
Sparky Anderson gave the ball to Milt Wilcox to close out the Royals. On the other hand, Royals starter Charlie Liebrandt hoped to stave off elimination in the best-of-five series. Liebrandt went the distance allowing just three hits and one run. Wilcox did not complete the contest, but pitched eight innings, surrendered two hits, and no runs. The Tigers scored in the second after a Marty Castillo grounder scored Chet Lemon. That was the game and the series. Hernandez made the score hold up, saved the game, and the pennant.
The Detroit sweep saved ABC’s programming director. Had the series gone the distance, Game 5 would have been a 1 p.m. start as opposed to in prime time. Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale scheduled a debate that coincided with the deciding contest. A month later, Reagan won the election in the same dominant fashion the Tigers won the World Series.
While Reagan became king of Washington, Kirk Gibson assumed the mantle of Tiger king. Gibson won the 1984 ALCS MVP by hitting .417 with a home run, 2 RBI and 1.250 OPS. Alan Trammell could have won the award with his .364 average, home run, 3 RBI, and 1.318 OPS. Milt Wilcox would have been the other possibility with his Game 3 performance.
The Tigers won their first pennant since 1968 with a three game sweep of the Royals. The team swept through the American League in the regular season and then Kansas City in the ALCS. Kansas City kept two games close, but the Tigers talent overwhelmed them. The Tigers went on to crush San Diego in the World Series while the Royals won the Fall Classic the next season.