From the vault: 1968's 'The Year of the Tiger'

"We're all behind our baseball team, go get 'em Tigers! World Series bound and picking up steam, go get 'em Tigers!"

The 1968 Detroit Tigers brought the pennant back home to Detroit where it belongs.

This WWJ-TV (which later became WDIV) documentary narrated by Ernie Harwell and directed by Edward Mayo "Catfish" Smith follows the Tigers '68 season.

'67 season ends in disappointment

On the last day of the season, Oct. 1, 1967, the Tigers lost to the Red Sox, losing the American League pennant to Boston by one game. 

The Tigers would see Boston on Opening Day in Detroit in 1968.

The team took to Lakeland, Florida, for spring training where Bill Freehan felt confident in the team's ability.

"I'm convinced we can do it," Bill Freehan told Harwell. "We've got some real good talent and I think we gained something last year by virtue of the fact that we've got a lot of young guys who went through an experience they'd never been through before. If we can keep our guys from injuries, we're going to win in '68."

 

'68 season shows promise

Opening Day against Boston was a disappointment, but the Tigers won the next 9 games.

The team had an incredible starting line up:

  • C - Bill Freehan
  • 1B - Norm Cash
  • 2B - Dick McAuliffe
  • 3B - Don Wert
  • SS - Ray Oyler
  • LF - Willie Horton
  • CF - Mickey Stanley
  • RF - Jim Northrup
  • P - Denny McLain
  • P - Earl Wilson
  • P - Denny McLain
  • P - Joe Sparma

Other batters included:

  • Al Kaline
  • Tom Matchick
  • Dick Tracewski
  • Jim Price
  • Gates Brown
  • Eddie Mathews
  • Wayne Comer

Tigers take World Series

The Tigers ran away with the American League, finishing 103-59 -- 12 games better than the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers had a winning record against every team in the league, including a 10-8 mark against Baltimore.

Detroit ran out to a 12-4 start and took over first place from the Orioles with a 12-1 dismantling of the Senators on May 10. They never relinquished that lead en route to the league title.

The Tigers clinched the AL pennant on Sept. 17 with a 2-1 win over the Yankees. Joe Sparma got the win with a complete game five-hitter.

The Tigers met the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series and fell behind 1-0 after a Bob Gibson shutout gem. After the Tigers won Game 2, the Cardinals came within a game of the titles with a back-to-back wins.

Detroit got down 3-0 in the first inning of Game 5, but scored five unanswered runs late in the game to stay alive. Game 6 was never in doubt as the Tigers scored 10 runs in the third inning to force a decisive Game 7.

The game was scoreless entering the seventh inning, but the Tigers broke through with four runs late in the game to win 4-1. It was the team's third World Series title at the time. Detroit most recently added a fourth World Series title in 1984, when it defeated the San Diego Padres.

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