April 8, 2002: Randy Smith Era ends

Sometimes things seem like they happened just yesterday. This seems like a lifetime ago.

Little did we know then how much lower the Tigers franchise would have to go before returning to competitiveness:

After opening their season with six straight losses, the Detroit Tigers fire manager Phil Garner and general manager Randy Smith. Coach Luis Pujols takes over the reins on an interim basis while team president Dave Dombrowski assumes the GM’s responsibilities.

I was living in Houston at the time and was listening to the Astros game at work. Milo Hamilton and Alan Ashby were reporting on a press conference taking place in Detroit. Hamilton said something like, “That probably is bad news for our pal Phil Garner.”

Yep.

Baseball-Reference.com

On this date in Tigers history: Hello, Devil Rays; Adios, Sheff

I remember both of these so clearly.

This one was fun:

1998 – In their first game ever, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays lose to the Detroit Tigers, 11 – 6. Pitcher Wilson Alvarez takes the loss for Tampa while third baseman Wade Boggs hits the first home run in team history and drives in three runs.

Here’s the box scoreJustin Thompson with the W! I remember Tom Gage’s game story lede being about two teams going in opposite directions. Man, we hoped so. In the end, both teams were bad. The ’98 Tigers finished at 65-97, last in the Central — their first in that division — 24 games out. The Rays wound up last in the A.L. East at 63-99.

This one hurt — and still hurts.

2009 – The Detroit Tigers surprisingly cut slugger Gary Sheffield, who is one home run shy of 500 for his career. Sheffield, a 9-time All-Star, is 25th on the all-time home run list and 27th in RBI (1,633). He only hit .178 in spring training, but went deep in 5 of 45 at-bats. He says he is not shocked, but is surprised. Marcus Thames will replace Sheffield as Detroit’s starting DH.

— From Baseball-Reference.com

Video: 1989 NBC interview with Sparky

This is right after Sparky came back from his leave of absence. Interesting, he makes no bones about the Tigers not developing young players — not since Kirk Gibson. Of course that’s why Sparky was saddled with such mediocre teams for his last seven years in Detroit.

March 10, 1983: George Kell elected to Hall of Fame

From Baseball Reference:

The Special Veterans Committee announces the election of Walter Alston and George Kell to the Hall of Fame. Alston managed the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles to four World Series championships, while always working under one-year contracts. Kell, a standout third baseman primarily for the Detroit Tigers, batted over .300 nine times, was a 10-time All-Star, and topped American League third basemen in fielding percentage seven times during a 15-season career.

Here’s my podcast interview with George Kell from 2007.