The A's won the first two games of the series at home. One of the Series' most memorable moments came in the seventh inning of Game 2. Bert Campaneris came to bat, having had three hits, two runs scored, and two stolen bases in his first three at-bats in the game. Lerrin LaGrow's first pitch hit Campaneris in the ankle. Campaneris staggered for a moment, glared at LaGrow and then flung his bat toward the mound. The bat spiraled at LaGrow five feet off the ground, but LaGrow ducked, and the bat narrowly missed him, landing a few feet behind the mound. The benches cleared, and while there were no punches thrown or other incidents involving players, Tigers manager Billy Martin had to be restrained by umpires and teammates to prevent him from going after Campaneris. Both LaGrow and Campaneris were suspended for the rest of the ALCS.
After Game 2, the Series moved to Detroit, where the Tigers would fight back, winning the next two. Game 4 was one of the more historic playoff games, going 10 innings, with the Tigers pulling out the victory. After it was 1–1 at the end of nine innings, the A's scored two runs in the top of the 10th, and it looked as if the series was over. But amazingly the Tigers scored three in the bottom of the 10th to win it. Two singles, a walk, and an error on a potential double play grounder produced the first run. With the bases loaded, Norm Cash walked, forcing in the tying run. With both the A's infield and outfield playing in, Jim Northrup hit a deep fly ball off Dave Hamilton to drive in the winning run.
In Game 5, Blue Moon Odom of the A's would be facing Woodie Fryman of the Tigers. After two innings, the game was 1–1. But by the fourth, it was clear runs wouldn't come easy, so when George Hendrick scored on a Gene Tenace RBI single, the Tigers knew they were in trouble. By the ninth inning, Odom and Vida Blue had combined to pitch seven scoreless innings. With the A's up 2–1, it all came down to the Tigers ninth when they would still face Vida Blue. Norm Cash would single, but that would be it as Tony Taylor would fly to center for the final out. Odom got the win, Blue got the save, and the A's were a World Series team for the first time in Oakland and won the first of three straight American League pennants.
Meanwhile, it would be 12 years before Detroit would return to the postseason. The Tigers and A's have since met three times in the postseason, with Detroit winning all three meetings in 2006, 2012, and 2013.
Oakland won the series, 3–2.
Saturday, October 7, 1972, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California
Game 1 pitted ace pitchers Catfish Hunter for the A's and Mickey Lolich for the Tigers, and, as expected, both were brilliant. Norm Cash homered to give the Tigers a 1–0 lead in the second inning, and the A's tied it in the third on a Joe Rudi sacrifice fly.
The score remained at 1–1 until the eleventh, although the Tigers threatened in their half of the ninth. Duke Sims led off with a double off Hunter. Vida Blue came on in relief to pitch to left-handed hitting Norm Cash. Cash laid down a sacrifice bunt, but reached first when second baseman Ted Kubiak, covering first, dropped Sal Bando's throw. Sims reached third. Rollie Fingers then came in to face pinch hitter Gates Brown and got him on a foul pop fly. Jim Northrup then bounced into a 4–6–3 double play to end the threat.
Al Kaline gave the Tigers a 2–1 lead in the eleventh with a solo homer off Fingers and looked like a hero at that point. In the bottom of the eleventh, Lolich gave up back-to-back singles to Sal Bando and Mike Epstein. Chuck Seelbach relieved Lolich. Gene Tenace attempted a sacrifice bunt, but third baseman Aurelio Rodríguez pounced on it and forced Blue Moon Odom, running for Bando, at third. Gonzalo Marquez pinch hit for Dal Maxvill and grounded a base hit to right, scoring Mike Hegan, running for Epstein, and tying the game. Tenace attempted to advance to third, and Kaline's throw from right field sailed past Rodriguez, allowing Tenace to score and win the game for the A's.
Sunday, October 8, 1972, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California
Bert Campaneris was a sparkplug from the start. He led off the game for the A's with a single off Woodie Fryman and promptly stole second and third. Joe Rudi then batted him in with a one-out single.
The A's plated four more runs in the fifth when George Hendrick pinch-hit a single and went to second on a Blue Moon Odom sacrifice. Campaneris singled Hendrick to third and Matty Alou singled him in. Chris Zachary relieved Fryman and threw two wild pitches, scoring Campaneris and sending Alou to third. After Rudi walked, Reggie Jackson blasted a two-run double to make it 5–0.
Odom got the win for the A's, who now had a 2–0 lead, but would play without Campaneris for the remainder of the Championship Series, on account of a suspension he was issued due to the bat-throwing incident described in the Overview above.
Tuesday, October 10, 1972, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan
Joe Coleman put the Tigers back into the series by throwing a complete-game, seven-hit shutout, striking out a then ALCS record 14 batters. Coleman was aided by a two-run single in the fourth by Ike Brown and a solo homer by Bill Freehan in the eighth.
Wednesday, October 11, 1972, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan
Game 4 was the most exciting of the series. For eight innings it was a tight pitching duel between Game 1 aces Catfish Hunter and Mickey Lolich. The only runs across were a Dick McAuliffe solo homer for the Tigers in the third and a Mike Epstein solo homer for the A's in the seventh.
In the sixth, A's second baseman Dick Green was hurt on a hard slide by Norm Cash trying to break up a double play. A's manager Dick Williams had to move catcher Gene Tenace to second due to no other healthy players available. Tenace had last played second base in high school, and this inexperience would prove costly later.
The Tigers threatened in both the eighth and ninth innings. In the eighth, McAuliffe walked and was sacrificed to second by Al Kaline. Mickey Stanley reached on an infield hit, sending McAuliffe to third. Rollie Fingers relieved Hunter and Billy Martin had McAuliffe attempt to steal home, but Fingers gunned him down and struck out Bill Freehan for the final out. In the ninth, with two outs, Tony Taylor doubled and Vida Blue intentionally walked Aurelio Rodríguez. Blue then retired pinch-hitter Willie Horton on a fly to center.
In the tenth, the A's took a two-run lead when Gonzalo Marquez continued his pinch-hitting heroics with a one-out single. Matty Alou doubled home Marquez and went to third on the throw home. Ted Kubiak then hit a bloop single to right that Kaline overran, and Kubiak reached third with Alou scoring for a 3–1 lead. After Joe Rudi was retired for the second out, Reggie Jackson lifted another blooper that fell for a hit, but Kubiak strangely stayed at third and tagged, not realizing there were two outs. Sal Bando made the last out of the inning, and Kubiak's running mistake would come back to haunt the A's.
The Tigers rallied in the bottom of the tenth, starting with singles by McAuliffe and Kaline. A's reliever Joe Horlen wild-pitched the runners to second and third and then walked Gates Brown to load the bases with no outs. Bill Freehan then grounded an apparent double play ball to third, but the inexperienced Tenace at second dropped Sal Bando's throw. McAuliffe scored and everybody was safe. Dave Hamilton then relieved Horlen and promptly walked Norm Cash to tie the game, and then gave up a walk-off single to Jim Northrup, a ball hit over right fielder Matty Alou's head (the outfield was drawn in), scoring Brown with the winning run.
Thursday, October 12, 1972, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan
The Tigers struck in their half of the first off Blue Moon Odom when Dick McAuliffe led off with a single. After a one-out walk to Duke Sims, a passed ball by Gene Tenace put the runners on second and third. McAuliffe scored when Bill Freehan grounded out.
In the second, Reggie Jackson led off for the A's with a walk and stole second. Sal Bando's fly to right sent Jackson to third. After a walk to Mike Epstein, Dick Williams ordered a double steal. Jackson collided with Freehan and scored, but, the bad news was, Jackson tore his left hamstring and would be out for the World Series if Oakland won.
The A's got the winning tally in the fourth when George Hendrick, Jackson's replacement, reached on a ground ball to shortstop McAuliffe that was ruled a throwing error when Norm Cash's foot was pulled off first base. Cash and Billy Martin argued that the foot never left the base, but to no avail. Bando sacrificed Hendrick to second, and Gene Tenace, making amends for his earlier passed ball, singled Hendrick home for his only hit and RBI of the series.
Odom got the win and Vida Blue the save in four innings of relief as the A's, minus Jackson, moved on to the 1972 World Series.
As an odd precursor to what would become an explosive relationship years later, Martin visited the A's locker room and consoled Jackson, expressing regret that he would miss the Series. Even without Jackson, the A's went on to beat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series in seven games.
1972 ALCS (3–2): Oakland A's over Detroit Tigers