As the ball took off into the night, 25 blessed boys, their manager and an entire city hitched a ride. They landed way up there, high in the seats of the upper deck in rightfield, only a few rows from the top of baseball history.
The Detroit Tigers defrocked, with an eald Englisc D, the San Diego Padres 8-4 Sunday in ancient Tiger Stadium to win the 81st World Series, four games to one. The dramatic blow was struck by Kirk Gibson, whose second homer of the game, a three-run shot off Goose Gossage in the eighth inning, was a thing of beauty. The Tigers didn't need that to win their 111th game of 1984, but they needed it to convince people just how good they were.
Detroit thus became the only team other than—organ music, please—the 1927 Yankees to go wire to wire in the regular season and win the World Series. And Sparky Anderson became the first manager to win world championships in both leagues.
"This was a great year, but not necessarily a great team," said Anderson, after the champagne had tapped out. "Next year we'll see how great they are. And we'll see how good a manager I am."
Willie Hernandez, who had saved the division-clinching game and the final victory of the American League Championship Series sweep of Kansas City, got the final out of Detroit's fourth world championship, and when Larry Herndon made a running catch of Tony Gwynn's short fly ball to left with two out in the ninth, all heaven broke loose. Rain began to fall at precisely that moment, 7:41 p.m., as delirious fans—some of whom later turned nasty—stormed past the cluster of Tigers to stake their turf.
Earlier it was thought the stakes in this so-called Fast-Food Series, McDonald's vs. Domino's, would be the primacy of hamburgers over pizza pies. Or to put it another way, San Diego, a club with a few McNuggets, vs. Detroit, a team with everything but anchovies. If you preferred, there was the regional angle—Sun Belt against Fan Belt. In any case, the burning question of this Series was which crowd did the better wave? As it turned out, San Diego went to its right better, but Detroit won—hands up—on versatility.
One of the more interesting matchups was between managers: Anderson, the pipe puffer who blows plenty of smoke about his Tigers, despite his modest appraisal Sunday, and Dick Williams, the alternately charming and irascible skipper of the Padres. Anderson and Williams, teammates on the 1955 Fort Worth Cats, were opposing managers in the '72 Series, when Williams's A's beat Anderson's Reds. Anderson said he was outmanaged. Williams said not so.
The first game, in San Diego on Oct. 9, was played under a full moon rising in right center. The Padre fans' Cub-buster regalia of the previous week's National League playoffs was replaced with Cat-buster stuff and cute little T shirts that said WINNY-DA-POOH AND TIGERS TOO! Also, the crowd was as noisy as it had been for the games against Chicago. "It was so loud it was like silence," said Tiger starter Jack Morris.
Detroit scored a run in the top of the first in typical fashion: Lou Whitaker doubled off starter Mark Thurmond and Alan Trammell singled, IN PADS WE TRUST said one outfield sign, and just to show that trust wasn't misplaced, the Padres came back with two runs in the first on two-out singles by Steve Garvey and Graig Nettles and a double into the right-field corner by Terry Kennedy that sent the Tiger relievers scampering.
Thurmond, though, was throwing an awful lot of pitches, and in the fifth, Detroit's Lance Parrish doubled with two down. Then, on a 3-1 count, Herndon drove Thurmond's 110th pitch, a fastball, into the seats in rightfield: 3-2, end of scoring.