The Tigers put together their second consecutive winning season, and all they had to show for it was another 5th place finish in the strong NL East. After starting the season off 27-26 Detroit fired manager Les Moss. Then on June 14, 1979 the franchise made a move that would eventually lead the team to back to championship status. On that day Sparky Anderson was hired. Sparky would pilot the team to a 56-50 record the rest of the way. Detroit finally had themselves a manager with a championship pedigree and a burning desire to prove that his 2 World Championships and 4 pennants in Cincinnati were no fluke. To his credit Anderson picked the right situation to return to the bench. Young stars like Lance Parrish (.276-19-65) and Steve Kemp (.318-26-105) were already in place. What would soon become the best keystone combo of the 80's (Lou Whitaker & Alan Trammell) were just 21 and 22 respectively. A young former college football player from Michigan State named Kirk Gibson got a cup of coffee at the end of the season. While the future looked bright, present stars like Ron LeFlore (.300-78 SB) were there to keep the team competitive. The bench was exceptionally strong with 5 guys hitting over .260. Champ Summers, in just 90 games, hit .313 with 20 homers. Jack Morris (17-7, 3.28) emerged into a true ace. Former Reds who played for Sparky, Milt Wilcox (12-10, 4.35) and Jack Billingham (10-7, 3.30) backed up Morris as youngsters Dan Petry (6-5, 3.95) and Dave Rozema (4-4, 3.51) were earning their (Tiger) stripes. Aurelio Lopez (Senor Smoke) arrived on December 4, 1978 along with Jerry Morales in exchange for a minor leaguer and Bob Sykes. Detroit basically robbed the Cardinals and in exchange got a man who would save 21 games and finish 7th in the Cy Young voting.
Editor’s Notes: Tony and Jim R did a great job furnishing me with photos for this team set. I was able to replace a lot of B&W photos with minor league card photos from the Tigers Evansville Triplets, their AAA affiliate. The Sheldon Burnside card required colorization and quite honestly it looks better than the job I did on his card last year. I was tempted to order the Tigers yearbook (I still might), but after seeing the quality of the photos I had to work with I didn’t see the need to.