The San Diego Padres won the National League West division by twelve games over both the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros, then defeated the Chicago Cubs, three games to two, in the National League Championship Series. The Detroit Tigers won the American League East division by fifteen games over the Toronto Blue Jays, then swept the Kansas City Royals, three games to none, in the American League Championship Series.
The 1984 World Series was a rematch between managers Sparky Anderson (Detroit) and Dick Williams (San Diego). The two had previously faced off in the 1972 World Series, with Anderson managing the Cincinnati Reds and Williams helming the victorious Oakland Athletics. The 1984 Series was Anderson's fifth overall as a manager—in addition to the 1972 Fall Classic, he had also managed the Reds during the 1970 World Series (which they lost to the Baltimore Orioles) and served as skipper during Cincinnati's back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976. Anderson's counterpart, Williams, was managing in his fourth World Series; he had headed the Boston Red Sox during the 1967 "Impossible Dream" season, when they won their first pennant in 21 years in a tight race over the Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago White Sox. After his Athletics won the 1972 World Series, Williams again led them to victory in the 1973 Series over the New York Mets.
Prior to 1984, only three managers (Joe McCarthy, Al Dark and Yogi Berra) had won pennants in both leagues. Nobody had ever won World Series as a manager in both leagues, thus ensuring that the winning manager of the 1984 Series would be the first to do so.
The 1984 World Series was also a battle of sorts between the multimillion-dollar American fast food chains. Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan owned the Tigers while McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, who died several months before the 1984 World Series, owned the Padres. It would feature the first World Series game at Jack Murphy Stadium (Game 1) and the final World Series game at Tiger Stadium (Game 5).
By May 24, 1984, the Detroit Tigers had just won their ninth straight game with Jack Morris on the mound winning his ninth game of the season. The Tigers record stood at 35–5, a major league record. In the next three games they would get swept by the Seattle Mariners and settle down to play .500 ball over the next 40 games. But in the end, they would wind up with a franchise record 104 wins and become only the third team in MLB history to lead the league wire-to-wire.
These Tigers were strong up the middle featuring all-stars at each middle position with catcher Lance Parrish setting a career high in home runs with 33, the record-setting tandem of Lou Whitaker at second base and Alan Trammell at shortstop (they played together from 1977–95) and solid center-fielder Chet Lemon. In addition to Morris, the pitching staff was anchored by starters Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox, with eventual Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player winner, Willie Hernández (9–3, 1.92 ERA, 32 saves), closing.
The Detroit Tigers signed ageless wonder free-agent Darrell Evans (their first free-agent signing since Tito Fuentes in 1977) prior to the season, and acquired first baseman Dave Bergman in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies that also brought them the aforementioned Hernández. Bergman would settle in as the Tigers' everyday first baseman providing steady glove-work. And of course there was "Mr. Clutch", right-fielder Kirk Gibson, who had a break-out year with 27 home runs, 29 stolen bases, 91 RBIs, and a .282 batting average.
After winning two World Championships with the 1975–76 Cincinnati Reds, manager Sparky Anderson was primed to win his first in the American League in his fifth full season with the Detroit Tigers. Anderson had proved to be somewhat prophetic, as he had made a bold statement in mid-1979 when he joined the Tigers that his team would be a pennant winner within five years.
Williams was in his third season with the San Diego Padres after leading them to identical 81–81 (.500) records in 1982 and 1983. 1984 would mark only the second time in Padre history that the team would finish over .500, the other being an 84–78 record in 1978. With the Padres' NL pennant in 1984, Williams became the second manager to take three teams to the World Series (he had previously taken the 1967 Red Sox and the 1972 and 1973 Athletics to the Fall Classic).
The Padres set a franchise record for victories with 92 in 1984, being led by two veterans, first baseman Steve Garvey and third baseman Graig Nettles. Statistically, this team was not overwhelming, with Nettles and Kevin McReynolds leading the team with just twenty home runs. (The team eventually would lose McReynolds in Game 4 of the NLCS due to a broken wrist.) No player came close to 100 RBIs (Garvey, 86) or had over 30 doubles in the regular season, although Tony Gwynn won the first of his eight National League batting titles by hitting for a .351 average with 213 hits.
The pitching staff was average—a staff of twentysomethings and a 33-year-old closer, Goose Gossage (10–6, 25 SVs), who was signed as a free agent from the New York Yankees. Eric Show led the staff with fifteen wins with Ed Whitson and lefty Mark Thurmond having identical 14–8 records. But the sterling bullpen, headed by Gossage and Craig "Lefty" Lefferts, held the staff together enough to take this team to the "Big Show" although they would falter and get ripped by the Tiger bats losing the Series in five games.
To get to the Series, the Padres had to overcome a two-games-to-none deficit against the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, rallying to win the final three games. The 1984 Padres adopted Ray Parker, Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" as their theme song (à la the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates using Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" as their theme song). During their playoff series against the Chicago Cubs, the Padre fans turned Ghostbusters into Cubbusters.
AL Detroit Tigers (4) vs. NL San Diego Padres (1)
Game 1 started shakily for Tiger starter Jack Morris (a 19-game winner during the season), as he surrendered two-out singles in the bottom of the first inning to Steve Garvey and Graig Nettles, followed by a two-run double to Terry Kennedy. Padre starter Mark Thurmond took a 2–1 lead into the fifth, but then surrendered a crucial two-out, two-run homer to Larry Herndon. Nettles and Kennedy both singled to open the San Diego sixth, but Morris snuffed out their momentum by striking out the rest of the side. Kurt Bevacqua started what looked to be a comeback with a leadoff double in the seventh, but was thrown out at third while attempting to stretch the hit into a triple. Despite the close call, Morris remained focused and set down the last nine remaining Padre batters for a complete game, 3–2 victory.
The Tigers jumped out to a 3–0 first inning lead, but San Diego chipped away with single runs in the first and fourth. Kurt Bevacqua then evened the series at 1–1 with a three-run home run in the fifth-inning off Dan Petry. To date, this remains the only World Series victory in Padres history. Andy Hawkins, the winning pitcher, relieved starter Ed Whitson in the first inning.
Game 2 at Jack Murphy Stadium marked the last MLB playoff game to date where the DH was used in a National League ballpark. Since then, any World Series game in an American League park uses the DH (previously, the DH was used in alternating World Series), while pitchers bat in the NL parks. The next time the DH rule was used in a National League park was during a regular season series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies during the 2010 season.
Besides Bevacqua's home run, this game is also remembered for what happened two batters later. Aurelio López relieved Petry and walked the next batter, Carmelo Martínez. On the first pitch to the next batter, Garry Templeton, catcher Lance Parrish called for a pitchout, but Lopez threw a fastball over the plate that struck umpire Larry Barnett in the midsection.
By the time the 1984 World Series rolled around, Tiger Stadium (built 1912) became the oldest ballpark to ever host a World Series. That record was soon eclipsed by Boston's Fenway Park (also opened in 1912), which hosted the Fall Classic in 1986, 2004, 2007, and 2013.
Tim Lollar failed to make it out of the second inning as Detroit erupted for four runs, including a Marty Castillo two-run homer, en route to a 5–2 victory for Milt Wilcox. Willie Hernández pitched 2 1⁄3 innings of one-hit relief for the save. The victory gave the Tigers a two games-to-one series lead.
Alan Trammell drilled a pair of two-run homers in the first and third innings to account for all of Detroit's offense as the Tigers beat Eric Show to take a three games-to-one lead in the Series. Jack Morris got his second Series victory in another complete-game effort.
For the fourth consecutive game, the Padres' starting pitcher did not make it past the third inning, as the Tigers jumped on Mark Thurmond for three runs in the first inning. The Padres rallied to tie the score in the fourth, but the Tigers pulled ahead again with single runs in the fifth and seventh innings. After the Padres closed it to a one-run game in the eighth with a rare run off closer Willie Hernández, Kirk Gibson came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth for the Tigers with runners on second and third and one out. Gibson had homered earlier in the game, and Padres manager Dick Williams strolled to the mound to talk to Goose Gossage, seemingly with the purpose of ordering him to walk Gibson intentionally. Just before the at-bat, Gibson made a US$10 bet (flashing ten fingers) with his manager Sparky Anderson that Gossage (who had dominated Gibson in the past) would pitch to him. Gossage talked Williams into letting him pitch to Gibson, and Gibson responded with a three-run blast into the upper deck to clinch the Series for the Tigers. Gibson wound up driving in five runs and scoring three, including the run that gave Detroit the lead for good when he raced home on a pop-up sacrifice fly by little-used reserve Rusty Kuntz.
In the ninth, Willie Hernández closed out the series for the Tigers by getting Tony Gwynn to fly to Larry Herndon in left field for the final out.
While Alan Trammell won the Sport Magazine variation of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, Jack Morris won the Babe Ruth variation.
After being fired by the Cincinnati Reds in 1978, Sparky Anderson was hired by the Tigers in June 1979. Anderson became the first manager to win a World Championship in both the American and National Leagues.
Game 5 had a starting time of 4:45 p.m. ET, following a 1:30 p.m. start for Game 4. These were the last outdoor World Series games to start earlier than prime time in the eastern United States (Game 6 in 1987, the last daytime World Series contest, was indoors at the Metrodome in Minneapolis). In addition, no World Series has ended as early as October 14 since 1984; in fact, with the exception of Game 1 of the 1989 World Series (played on October 14, 1989), no World Series has begun earlier than October 15 since 1984. Format changes—the best-of-five League Championship Series becoming best-of-seven affairs in 1985, followed by the addition of wild-card teams, the best-of-five League Division Series in 1994 and Wild Card games in 2012—have made that impossible, even when baseball's regular seasons have ended on the last Sunday in September.
1984 World Series (4–1): Detroit Tigers (A.L.) over San Diego Padres (N.L.)
Three players set World Series hitting records during the 1984 World Series.
Less than twenty years after winning the 1984 World Series Most Valuable Player Award, Alan Trammell would become manager of the Detroit Tigers.
The Detroit Tigers would not return to the World Series until 2006, six years after Comerica Park opened. However Trammell was fired before the season began and was replaced by Jim Leyland, who won a World Series ring managing the Florida Marlins in 1997.
This was the first of two World Series appearances for Padres outfielder and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. He would later lead the Padres back to the World Series in 1998, but his team was swept by the New York Yankees. 1984 teammate and backup catcher Bruce Bochy served as manager of the 1998 Padres.
(As of 2016) This is the Tigers most recent World Series championship.