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Best Forgotten Tiger Teams

Whenever Tiger fans around my age look back, 1984 is obviously the year that’s cherished. But only three years later, in 1987, the Tigers would make another great run. Best known for the final week of the season, the Tigers were down to the Toronto Blue Jays by 3 1/2 games going into the final 8 games of the season. By winning 6 of their next 8, including sweeping the Jays in a weekend 3 game series, the Tigers would go on to the ALCS.

Of course they lost. So it’s not 1987, but 1984 that’s looked back upon. I actually remember more of 1987. The final week of the season was intense, and I was glued to the TV that last Sunday of the season, watching the Tigers win 1-0 in a nail biter.

Of course Tiger fans of the previous generation look at the 1968 season with a nice gleam in their eyes. But it was only 7 years earlier, in 1961, when the Tigers made their first real run at winning the pennant since the teams of the mid-40s.

The 1961 Tigers won 101 games that season, which tied the franchise record. Unfortunately they finished second to the Yankees, who behind Roger Maris’ record breaking 61 homeruns, and a great year by Mickey Mantle, won a mind boggling 109 games that year.

Going into a weekend series against each on September 1, the Tigers stood a mere one and half games behind the Yankees in their quest for the pennant. But after that time, the two teams would take pretty much different paths. The Yankees went on to sweep the Tigers, and go on to win a total of 13 in a row from that point on, while the Tigers would lose their next 8.

The 1961 team also had some great individual performances. It’s the only time two Tigers hit more then 40 homers in the same season (Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito), and Norm Cash would go on to win the batting title with a .361 average, the last time a Tiger has won it. Equally impressive about Cash’s season was a led the league in OPS, beating out both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Also, three of their starters (Mossi, Lary, and Bunning) all had ERA’s below 3.25 and pitched in over 240 innings.

And with that, Tigerblog is happy to announce that they’ll be sponsoring the 1961 Tigers page on Baseball-Reference.com. If you’ve never visited the site, make an effort to. Between that site, and Retrosheet, you should be able to find just about everything and anything you’ll ever need.

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