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.
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.