Honored by Tigers, Lemon reflects on 1984 season

Honored by Tigers, Lemon reflects on 1984 season

DETROIT -- Chet Lemon was patrolling center field at old Tiger Stadium 32 years ago, making dazzling plays as the Tigers won the 1984 World Series. Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, he was honored with the Willie Horton African-American Legacy Award before the Tigers' 5-2 win over the rival White Sox.

Named after the former Tigers left fielder who was a member of the 1968 World Series team, the award was given to Lemon on the last day of the Tigers' annual Negro Leagues Weekend.

Lemon hit .262 with 142 home runs over nine seasons with the Tigers, and he had a .984 career fielding percentage.

Lemon spoke with reporters during the game, reminiscing about his glory days with the Tigers. He was a member of the 1984 team that opened the season 35-5. With the Chicago Cubs starting the 2016 season 39-15, Lemon acknowledged their impressive start, but thinks it is hard to compare the two seasons.

Lemon on receiving award

"I think in baseball, there is so much parity, it will be very hard to [beat the record]. You just have to be very dominant," Lemon said. "And a lot of good things went our way that year. We were all very good players, but I think the biggest thing with us is that we were young veterans."

Lemon said having a team of experienced, yet young players helped make that team successful, and he still cherishes the days he spent in Detroit during the '80s.

"To me, it was a very rewarding season," Lemon said. "What we went through and what we experienced that year was nothing guaranteed. The 1984 season, you can't compare many seasons with that one."

Lemon runs an AAU youth baseball program called the Chet Lemon Juice. Over the last 25 years, the program has produced the likes of Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke and Billy Butler. Lemon said he is very proud of what he has accomplished with the Juice.

"I've been doing what I enjoy doing most, and that's working with our youth," he said. "We've probably had about 50 first-round Draft choices come out of our program, which has been pretty exciting."

During his playing days, Lemon was known for his speed in center field and his knack for sliding headfirst into first base. During the pregame award ceremony, a glass-framed jersey was blown off its stand behind home plate by the wind. Lemon said after all these years, he's still diving headfirst.

"Holy cow, I can't stay clean, no matter what," he said with a laugh.

Kyle Beery is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.