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On April 16, the day of the Boston Marathon, Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson staged a mini-marathon of his own. "I walked five miles at 14 minutes a mile," says Anderson, a fine figure of a man at 50. "You gotta stay in shape. It's a war out there. A 162-game war. You gotta throw bombs, more bombs, lethal gas—everything you got." Well, Anderson's troops have been dishing it out, all right. They began the season with nine straight victories and, as of Sunday, led the American League East by 4� games with a 12-1 record.
At the forefront in the Tigers' breakout are righthanded pitchers Jack Morris and Dan Petry and their astute coach, Roger Craig. Thanks to three off-days and three rainouts, Morris and Petry started seven of Detroit's first 10 games. Between April 23 and the end of May, the Tigers will have had five off-days and played 34 straight games against clubs that finished below .500 last season. So Morris and Petry may start 26 of the Tigers' first 47 games, and Detroit could well extend its lead.
At week's end, Morris boasted a 3-0 record, a 1.13 ERA and the season's first no-hitter—a 4-0 defeat of Chicago on April 7. Petry had a 2-1 record and a 2.63 ERA. Last week both pitched so-so games, but neither was particularly consoling to the opposition. Against Kansas City on Wednesday night, Morris allowed nine hits but scattered them over nine innings, didn't walk anyone, and the Tigers won 4-3 in the 10th. Only one Royal hit, Jorge Orta's three-run homer off a hanging slider, was costly. "If that was a mediocre performance for Morris, he's in for a darn good season," said Kansas City reliever Dan Quisenberry. Added Royals manager Dick Howser, "I've never seen Morris pitch poorly."
The next afternoon Kansas City beat Petry 5-2. He yielded two runs on some scratch hits and another on two booted grounders by third baseman Howard Johnson, who makes errors in 28 flavors. The Royals got two more runs when Frank White hit a two-run homer off a good pitch. "Morris and Petry are hard to beat," said White afterward, "especially when you don't have many lefthanded batters. They've both got four pitches they can get over. Morris has an excellent fastball, and Petry's arm motion is so fast it's hard to pick up his pitches."
After Morris lost five of his first eight decisions last year, Craig corrected a flaw in his delivery and got him to junk his changeup for a split-fingered fastball. Morris, who wound up with a 20-13 record, won 10 straight games later in the season and lead the league with 232 strikeouts and 293? innings pitched. Says his catcher. Lance Parrish, "If he perfects that slider, he'll be unbeatable."
Also heeding Craig's advice in '83, Petry added a nasty curve and a split-fingered fastball to his superior slider and above-average fastball. "It was a struggle throwing two pitches last year," says Petry. "I had a 3.92 ERA and won only because I got a lot of runs. Roger kept pushing me, and I finally realized I couldn't just rear back and throw. I told myself I'd use the other pitches in spring training no matter what."
Some early editions of the 1984 Official Baseball Guide carried a picture of Petry above a caption describing Morris. It's easy to confuse them. Morris, 28, is 6'3", 200 pounds; Petry, 25, is 6'4", 200. They have the same agent, Dick Moss. Morris is in the second year of a four-year, $3.45 million contract, and Petry is in the first year of a four-year $3.60 million deal (though he won't make a higher annual salary than Morris until the year after Morris' contract expires). Morris wears No. 47, Petry No. 46. Petry was Detroit's fourth draft choice in 1976, Morris the fifth. Both married women they'd known but hadn't seriously dated in high school. And both are durable: Morris has missed one start in the last five years, Petry two in the last three.
There's one important difference—Morris is unquestionably the better pitcher. "He's just an incredible athlete," says Petry. Morris is an excellent fielder (Jack be nimble), is thought to be the Tigers' second-fastest runner, behind rightfielder Kirk Gibson (Jack be quick), was a former All-City basketball player in St. Paul, Minn. and was a ski jumper who beat future U.S. Olympians (Jack jump over the candlestick). Morris' father, Arvid, who has just retired as a 3M Co. systems technician, had decided that Jack and his younger brother, Tom, would grow up to be ballplayers. "They could hardly walk and he was throwing hardballs at them," says Jack's mother, Dona. "I asked him, 'Aren't you going to hurt them?' and he said, 'No, they'll catch it.' "
"He pushed us so hard it was almost unbearable at times," says Jack, "but we got over that."
"I felt baseball offered them a good opportunity," says Arvid, who captained his high school gymnastics and golf teams and is now an avid sport fisherman. "Whether they were short or tall, thin or fat, they had a chance."