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Where were you in 1972?
2006-10-07 22:36
by Bob Timmermann

Hoping not to steal Catfish's Stew thunder, but the ALCS matchup this year of Detroit and Oakland is a repeat of 1972.

Oakland had won the AL West for the second straight season, 5 1/2 games better than second place Chicago. The Tigers won the AL East by 1/2 game over Boston. Because of a players strike, the first two weeks of the season were cancelled and the games were never made up. So Detroit won the AL East because it got to play one more game than Boston.

In these olden times, the LCS were best of five affairs. The first two games would be played at Oakland and the last three in Detroit. And all the games would be day games as well. And the pitchers would be batting too. Billy Martin was managing Detroit and Dick Williams was at the helm of Oakland.

Game 1 in Oakland drew a crowd of just 29,356. It was a matchup between Mickey Lolich and Catfish Hunter. The Tigers got a run in the second on a home run by Norm Cash. The A's tied it in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly from Joe Rudi to score Bert Campaneris. Then there were a bunch of zeroes and in to extra innings. The Tigers got runners on first and third with nobody out in the ninth, but Rollie Fingers worked out of the jam, getting Gates Brown to pop out and Jim Northrup (who had failed to execute a squeeze play) to hit into a double play.

In the eleventh inning, Al Kaline homered to put the Tigers up 2-1. Lolich came out for the eleventh (men were men back in 1972) and gave up singles to Sal Bando (Blue Moon Odom pinch ran) and Mike Epstein singled Odom over to second. Chuck Seelbach came in to relieve. Gene Tenace tried to bunt the runners over, but Tigers third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez got to it quickly and threw to shortstop Eddie Brinkman at third for a force. Gonzalo Marquez then came off the bench to pinch hit for second baseman Dal Maxvill (Williams hated his second basemen in 1972 and almost always pinch hit for them). Marquez singled to right to score pinch runner Mike Hegan. Kaline tried to throw out Tenace at third and his throw skipped past Rodriguez and Seelbach wasn't backing up the base and Tenace came around to score the winning run. Oakland won 3-2 and took a 1-0 lead. It was the first playoff game ever won by an AL West team. The Twins and A's had gone 0-9 in the first three LCS.

Game 2 saw Odom match up against Woody Fryman. The A's struck first when Campaneris led off the first with a single and then stole second and third. Rudi cashed him in with a single. In the fifth, pinch hitter George Hendrick singled to start a four run rally for Oakland. Reggie Jackson drove in two runs with a double.

In the seventh, Detroit rookie reliever Lerrin LaGrow hit Campaneris with a pitch at his ankles. Campaneris reacted to this by hurling his bat at LaGrow and the benches emptied. Campaneris was ejected and LaGrow left the game as well. Oakland won 5-0 and had a 2-0 lead heading to Detroit.

However, AL President Joe Cronin suspended Campaneris for the balance of the ALCS. Williams countered by saying that Campaneris's ankle was too sore for him to play and it didn't matter. And besides, Williams asserted, Oakland had a veteran replacement in Maxvill. Maxvill had 9 hits in 36 at bats after joining Oakland in 1972. One was a double. He had struck out 11 times. Martin didn't feel bad because he was going to be without his shortstop, Brinkman, for the rest of the series. In 1972, Brinkman had batted .203 in 156 games. But he slugged .279! Brinkman would also finish 9th in the AL MVP voting in 1972.

Back to Game 3. It was up to Joe Coleman to save the Detroit season. He was up against Ken Holtzman. Coleman came through with a 14 strikeout performance that led to a 3-0 win for the Tigers. First baseman Ike Brown doubled in two runs and Bill Freehan homered for Detroit.

Game 4 was a Hunter-Lolich rematch. Detroit led first after a Dick McAuliffe, who had moved over from second to replace Brinkman, homered in the third inning. Epstein homered in the seventh to tie the game for Oakland. And like Game 1, there would be extra innings.

Seelbach started the 10th for Detroit. With one out, Marquez punched out his second pinch hit for the series, batting for reliever Vida Blue. Matty Alou doubled home Marquez and went to third on the throw home. Ted Kubiak singled home Alou to make it 3-1.

With just three outs to go in their season, the Tigers got to work against Bob Locker. McAuliffe and Kaline had consecutive singles. Williams brought in Joe Horlen. Horlen threw a wild pitch to advance the runners and then walked pinch-hitter Gates Brown. Freehan grounded to Bando who threw home for a force, but Tenace couldn't handle it and everyone was safe and it was 3-2. Now Williams called on Dave Hamilton. (If you're wondering about Fingers, he had already been used.) Hamilton walked the first batter he faced, Cash, to force in the tying run and Northrup followed with a single to score the winning run. For the first time in the ALCS, there would be a decisive Game 5.

Game 5 would be like Game 2, a matchup of Odom and Fryman. The Tigers got an unearned run in the first due to a passed ball by Tenace that put McAuliffe on third, who scored on a Freehan ground out.

Oakland tied it up in the second. Jackson walked and stole second and then went to third on a fly out by Bando. Epstein got hit by a pitch and Tenace struck out. Then Williams had Epstein try to steal second and while Freehan threw down to second, Jackson broke for home and scored the tying run. However, Jackson pulled a hamstring on the play and had to leave the game. Hendrick replaced him.

The fourth inning proved to be crucial. Hendrick led off with a grounder to McAuliffe at short. The throw appeared to beat Hendrick, but umpire John Rice ruled that Cash came off the bag. The Tigers were livid. Cash argued that he may have cheated a bit to get off the base to avoid being spiked by Hendrick, but that was just by a fraction of a second. Tigers first base coach Frank Howard argued that such a call was "automatic." Howard was ejected from the game when he continued the argument the next inning when Detroit batted. But all the arguing in the world wasn't going to change the call and Hendrick was safe. Bando sacrificed Hendrick to second. Epstein struck out, but Tenace singled to score Hendrick with a run that would give Oakland a 2-1 lead.

In the sixth, Williams turned to Vida Blue, who had struggled most of the year after a long holdout, and he pitched the final four innings, giving up just three hits with three strikeouts and no walks to save the game and send the Athletics to their first World Series since 1931.

And the A's would win the World Series in seven games over Cincinnati, their first of three straight. The Tigers would not make it to the postseason again until 1984.

2006-10-09 13:32:28
1.   Daniel Zappala
Great recap Bob. I wasn't sentient in 1972 (OK, I was 4), and that sounds like a fantastic series.
2006-10-12 19:22:45
2.   bleacherdave
Why did Campy throw his bat? It seems like an extreme reaction. Is it true that Billy ordered Legrow to hit him to slow him down on the paths?

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