‘84 The Last Of The Great Tigers (2003)
Posted: 11 July 2008 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]
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‘84 The Last Of The Great Tigers
Untold Stories From An Amazing Season
by Eli Zaret (2003)

Foreword by Elmore Leonard

This one has to be the best book about a baseball team that I’ve ever read.

Maybe it’s because Eli Zaret’s account of the sensational ‘84 season got me excited all over again.  But there is much more than stats and reading about the Tigers stunning record - taking 35 of their first 40 games, hanging on to first place in their division all season, and then whomping the Padres in a five-game world series.

What makes the book so readable is that it’s loaded with behind-the-scenes stories and incidents that bring it to life.  We learn how a tough management put this team together.  We learn what players felt and said about personal situations, and how Sparky Anderson, with inimitable quotes, managed and motivated them to be winnners.

I’ve been a fan of the Tigers since the beat the Cubs in the 1935 World Series.  I saw player-manager Mickey Cochrane and the “Mechanical Man” Charlie Gehringer, the great DiMaggio during his 56-game hitting streak, and was there when Ted Williams homered in the 1941 All-Star Game.  But my all-time favorite highlight was Kirk Gibson taking that Goose Gossage fastball into the upper deck to clinch the ‘84 World Series.  I saw it from the centerfield bleachers and screamed my head off along with 51, 901 Tiger fans.

Elmore Leonard throwing out a first pitch at Tiger’s Stadium.


Ernie Harwell’s Diamond Gems

“Diamond in the Booth”

New York Times
Published: April 7, 1991

Watch Ernie Harwell talking to players during pregame batting practice. He gets grins from everybody; they all love him. He knows the game inside and out and has all kinds of stories to tell, hundreds of them packed into ERNIE HARWELL’S DIAMOND GEMS (Momentum Books, 210 Collingwood, Suite 106, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48103, $17.95)—stories about some of the greats, about phenoms who lit up briefly and burned out, about managers and umpires. And there are some memorable one-liners. For example, here’s Brooklyn Dodger Manager Charlie Dressen: “Just hold them for a few innings, fellas. I’ll think of something.” Umpire Bill Klem: “It ain’t nothin’ till I call it.” Mickey Mantle: “All I have is natural ability.” Ernie’s another natural, with a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His first major-league broadcast was a Dodgers-Cubs game at Ebbets Field on Aug. 4, 1948, when he filled in for Red Barber. Since then Ernie has broadcast for the New York Giants, the Baltimore Orioles and, since 1960, the Detroit Tigers. What no one can understand is why the Tigers’ management is cutting Ernie loose following the 1991 season. Are they nuts? No one in baseball does a better play-by-play. They expected criticism, but not the blast they got from fans all over the country. One theory holds that the Tigers management wants to jazz up the team’s image and feels that Ernie, at the age of 73, has become old hat. They see the Detroit Pistons raking it in at their suburban Palace, entertaining a full house at every basketball game with rap music and light shows, and they think, yeah, that’s the way to go. What the Tiger bosses must fail to realize is that baseball moves at a much different tempo. Rather than razzle-dazzle, it’s heavy on tradition, nostalgia, stats comparing new stars with the old greats. It has a sense of humor and an image epitomized by Ernie Harwell and his comfortable down-home Georgia delivery. What makes baseball so popular is what “Ernie Harwell’s Diamond Gems” is about: the kind of stuff fans love to read and talk about, presented by a guy you can listen to all night. If we didn’t have a written language, I think Ernie Harwell would be known as one of our great tribal storytellers—if he isn’t already.