This Was My Team
In 1981, I was 8 years old. I think this was roughly the first year I started paying attention to major league baseball. Growing up in the Detroit area, the Tigers were the team I followed. In the 1980s, they had a solid homegrown team that was pretty successful. Looking back, I should've been more disappointed with this group. They had solid defense up the middle once they traded away Steve Kemp for Chet Lemon. They had not the best shortstop and second basemen in history, but they were both in the conversation, with Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. They had probably the best catcher in the American League in the 1980s in Lance Parrish. They had two solid starters in Jack Morris and Dan Petry. They also had some solid offense coming off the corner positions in players such as Kirk Gibson, Darrell Evans, and Larry Herndon. This collection of players largely came up together and were all the same age. Unfortunately, they only have one World Series title and one division championship to show for it. They had some holes in that they never seemed able to find a third baseman, and the starting pitching was always a little shallow. Outside of 1984, the bullpen was always a crapshoot.
The popular opinion on the internet these days is to blame manager Sparky Anderson. I think that is not true. He was the same manager that brought the Reds back to back titles in 1975-1976, so he knew how to manage a winner. It seemed in the 1980s, the biggest obstacle the Tigers may have faced was that there always seemed to be one team in any given year that put together a big year, and every team did it at least once. In 1982, the Brewers had a solid infield and decent pitching and put together their one season of glory. The '83 Orioles were a veteran team with excellent pitching that may have been relieved not to be playing for Earl Weaver anymore. The '85 Blue Jays were a young team that put it together and became a powerhouse for a season and were solid throughout the later half of the '80s. Later in the 1980s, the Red Sox brought up Roger Clemens and some other decent pitchers to go along with a solid offense. The Yankees were always close, even though they never won a division after 1981. Of course the Indians were the Indians.
The key card to complete the Detroit Tigers team set for 1981 is Kirk Gibson, this is his rookie card year. The former Michigan State wide receiver has rookie cards in both the Fleer and Topps sets.