Friday, July 23, 2010

Acid Flashback Friday: The Blue Jays Lose the Pennant at Tiger Stadium in 1987

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If you're a Blue Jays fan, you have several reasons to have a little disdain for the Detroit Tigers.

First of all, up until 1998 the Jays and Tigers were division rivals and were only separated by 400 some odd kilometres, making them the only true rivals within the region.

However, most Jays fans probably look back at the Detroit Tigers with a little contempt thanks to three fateful games. For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a trip down memory lane and relive the final series of the 1987 season against the Detroit Tigers.

Going into Tiger Stadium, the Blue Jays had a very narrow one game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The Jays were sending two of their best starting pitchers to the hill in the series, Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy.

The Blue Jays got off to a bad start, losing the series opener in a close one 4-3. Try as they may, their bats just could not solve Doyle Alexander - who after giving up three runs in the top of the second inning, settled down and shut out the Jays the following five innings.

The next day facing off against Jack Morris, Mike Flanagan turned in what could possibly be the gutsiest pitching performance in Blue Jays franchise history that you'll never hear about. Flanagan started Saturday's game and tossed 11 innings and surrendered just a single run.

He was yanked after 11 innings, and Jeff Musselman promptly got the first out of the 12th before giving up back to back singles, then walking the bases loaded.

Mark Eichorn tried to clean up the mess, but they very next batter Alan Trammel (pictured left) drove in the winning run and the Tigers won 3-2 in 12 innings.

With the final game of the season at hand, the Blue Jays needed to win just to force a tiebreaker to get into the playoffs. And they couldn't have asked for a better guy to guide them to victory, Jimmy Key.

It was a pitcher's duel the entire way between Key and Frank Tanana. Jimmy Key gave up just three hits the entire game, but the big one was a solo home run off the bat of Larry Herndon.

In fact, Key gave up just one fly ball the entire game, which was the home run to Herndon - and it only missed the fence by a few inches. The picture at the top of this post is that very home run.

Sadly, the closest the Blue Jays would come to crossing home plate that day was in the top of the fourth when Cecil Fielder singled but with Manny Lee in the batter's box, he was thrown out trying to steal second. Lee then hit a triple, but it was all for not as the next hitter flied out and the threat was erased.

The Blue Jays would lose the final game of the season in a heart breaker 1-0 to the Tigers. Now, I may not have been around for the collapse of 1987, but we are still feeling the effects over 20 years later wondering if the Jays might have won another World Series.

Admittedly, my disdain for the Detroit Tigers is a little misplaced, as it was the Blue Jays who lost their final seven games of the season, and the final three by one run. A stud during the rest of the regular season, George Bell was all but absent in that stretch going 2 for 26.

Yet every time the Blue Jays head back to Motown, I can't help but remember how the Blue Jays lost the pennant at Tiger Stadium during the final series of 1987.

7 comments:

  1. I was only 8 when that happened, but I still remember it. My hero was (and still is) Tony Fernandez, and I remember Bill Madlock taking him out and wrecking his elbow that season. That is a huge reason why the Jays lost that division. And also another reason to hate Detroit.

    Or, how the Tigers broke up Halladay's no hitter with two outs in the ninth in his first start?

    Another reason to hate Detroit...

    Love these Flashback Fridays. Keep 'em up!

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Jeremy. I was only 4 at the time myself, so luckily I didn't have to endure that kind of heartbreak.

    If I remember correctly, Ernie Whitt was also out close to the end of the season with a couple of broken ribs after Paul Molitor collided with him. So even if the Jays did make it to the ALCS, they were pretty banged up and might not have gotten past the Minnesota Twins anyway.

    And yes, I also have a strong disliking for Bobby Higginson from the Tigers.

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  3. "George Bell was all but absent in that stretch going 2 for 26." - Bell didn't see one decent pitch that entire series! The Tigers completely pitched around him... 14 years old at the time, I remember the series like it was yesterday... i couldn't open the sports section of the toronto star for three months after that series! Talk about depressed!

    God Bless A.A. -Mark my words-

    The Jays Will Rise Again!

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  4. Anon, it was a wise move on the part of the Tigers to pitch around Bell. He really didn't have any protection in the lineup either with Fernandez and Whitt out of the lineup with injuries. I don't blame you for not looking at the paper for 3 months - if I could recall that collapse, it would take me a long time to get over it too.

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  5. I was 12 at the time and remember the Jays collapse vividly. Toronto was going into a series against Milwaukee and for some reason could never beat that team, I was hoping the Jays could take just one game, but wasn't surprised they were swept. Then the injuries to Whitt and Fernandez were killers as the offense just disappeared in the final series.

    I will say this though, the 1987 season was part of a 10 year build up that made the eventual Blue Jays championship even sweeter, I wouldn't change a thing.

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  6. Ian, agreed - very wise of them to pitch around Bell. I was bitter then, and still am now though. -lol

    Good article, brings back memories.

    It pains me to no end that our team is looked upon as sadsack by many. hopefully we can get back to where we were, routinely going into Fenway, and Yankee stadium and kicking butt.

    I think we can do it.

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  7. Peter, no doubt that the collapse of '87 and losing to the Royals in the ALCS made them a stronger group of individuals. Like you said, it made the journey to the World Series all the sweeter.

    Anon, luckily I don't think the Blue Jays have that bad of a reputation ... at least, not as bad historically as say the Chicago Cubs.

    If they had never made it back to the playoffs after losing in 7 games to the Royals in the 85 ALCS and losing the pennant in the final series of the 87 season, then some folks might question the integrity of the team.

    But they came back and made the playoffs the next 4 out of 6 years, and brought home 2 World Series championships. All the Royals and the Tigers did was delay the inevitable.

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