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Tigers celebrate 30th anniversary of '84 champions

Former players reflect on team's bond with city, franchise's last World Series title

Tigers celebrate 30th anniversary of '84 champions

DETROIT -- 1984 was the year of the Tiger, but it ended with horses in the Detroit bullpen.

Members of the 1984 World Series-winning Tigers returned for a 30th anniversary celebration Monday night at Comerica Park, remembering a team that seemed destined to win several world titles.

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The core of that edition of the Tigers ended up winning just once, which remains the last title won by the organization. But that doesn't make the memories any less sweet for the players who returned to Detroit to be honored.

No memory was recalled Monday with as keen a sense of nostalgia as the final outs of Game 5 against the Padres.

As remembered by Dave Rozema, who started 16 games for Detroit that season, the security guards and police horses showed up in the bullpen around the time when Kirk Gibson's eighth-inning, three-run homer left the yard. With the Tigers ahead by four runs, and only three outs away from a championship, the celebration was imminent.

"I think we're going to win this thing," Rozema remembered the security guards telling the Detroit pitching staff. "You better get to the dugout."

The first-person pronoun used by Tiger Stadium security is just one example of the strong connection the city of Detroit still feels toward its last baseball winner. Tigers fans crowded the Comerica Park gates as early as four hours before first pitch Monday night. The first 20,000 fans received a 1984 replica jersey.

Before the game, members of the '84 team sat in front of the pitcher's mound as a video tribute played on the scoreboard.

"The people of Michigan, Detroit, Windsor [Ontario), all the surrounding areas," said pitcher Dan Petry, "they just love the Detroit Tigers.

"When you have a winner like that, I don't think they'll ever forget that."

Several players, including Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, said they try and visit Michigan and Trumbull Avenues, the site of the World Series-clinching victory, whenever they return to Detroit.

All that remains of Tiger Stadium now is the playing surface, which has been preserved by a volunteer grounds crew since the stadium's demolition in 2009.

Whitaker, the five-time All-Star second baseman, said he returns to the Corktown neighborhood once a year to have a beer and a burger in what was once the shadow of the old ballpark.

Trammell, who spent three seasons as manager of the Tigers in the middle of the last decade, poignantly echoed his old double-play mate.

"The memories are still there," said Trammell, who along with Whitaker has turned more double plays than any shortstop-second baseman combination in big league history. "They can't take those away."

Both Whitaker and Trammell spoke with humility when asked about their Hall of Fame outlooks. The two share a special bond, having debuted on the same day in 1977 for the Tigers.

"If we were ever so lucky," Trammell said. "If we happened to get selected and we went in together, that would be the dream. That would be the way I would script it."

But Monday night was about the past, not the future.

The 1984 Tigers opened the season with a 35-5 record, a start that pitcher Doug Bair doesn't ever see being matched.

"We virtually locked up the division title in the first month and a half," Bair said. "You can't duplicate that. It just happens."

Looking back on the wave of jubilation that swept up the city of Detroit in the days following the championship, Rozema said he wishes he had been wearing a camera mounted on his head so he would be able to relive the celebration.

Instead, Rozema clings to the memories that remain as vivid as the day they happened -- like police horses trampling over the home bullpen at Tiger Stadium.

Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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