Wanna know the best-kept secret on the Michigan sports scene this winter? It's the Michigan State Spartans hockey team

SENIOR GOALIE JOHN LETHEMON IS SECOND IN THE COUNTRY IN SAVE PERCENTAGE,

At a time when sports fans in Michigan are searching for anything positive, there has been one pleasant surprise. The Michigan State University hockey team.

There is no need to point out the depths of losing fans of the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons have endured recently. Michigan and Michigan State football have been OK but inconstant, and the Wolverines haven’t even been to a Big Ten Conference championship game yet.

Michigan State basketball? Yea, the Spartans are good, but they have failed to live up to the hype of being the pre-season No. 1. There is still hope, however. Michigan basketball? The honeymoon period with new coach Juwan Howard is over, and the rigors of Big Ten basketball – without Isaiah Livers – have been a rough road.

At the beginning of the season, nobody could have expected much or anything out of Michigan or Michigan State in hockey. The Wolverines were picked to finish sixth and the Spartans seventh in the seven-team Big Ten.

Guess who has spent the past four months going from worst to first? Yup, head coach Danton Cole’s Spartans, who upset No. 9 Penn State 4-2 on Friday night at a packed Munn Ice Arena. The word packed has not been used much with Munn Ice Arena of late, but Spartans fans are jumping on the bandwagon.

So, just how did this happen? The Spartans started 2-4 in nonconference games, and for the most part did not look very good doing it. Just twice in those six games did they score more than two goals in a game, and as the Big Ten season was about to begin, there was no reason to believe the pre-season prognosticators were wrong about the Spartans.

Fast forward to today. Michigan State is alone in first place in the Big Ten with 28 points, followed by Ohio State (26), Penn State (25) and Notre Dame (20).

How did it happen? Great goaltending, senior leadership and getting more comfortable in the system run by third-year head Danton Cole. But really, it all starts – and ends – with senior goalie John Lethemon of Northville. Last year, he had a 3.24 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. This year: How about a 1.88 GAA and a .944 save percentage, which is second in the nation.

There have been season-turning moments as well:

Michigan State opened Big Ten play with a stunner: a 2-0 shutout victory for Lethemon over then No. 6 Penn State on the road. Penn State has been generally considered the most talented team in the Big Ten, so that had to be a huge confidence builder.

Next was a home-and-home with rival Michigan. The first came on a Thursday night at a raucous Yost Ice Arena, Michigan led 3-1 late in the second period, but Patrick Khodorenko scored with less than a minute to go to make it 3-2, and he tied it with an unassisted goal early in the third. The Spartans won it 4-3 on Logan Lambdin’s power-play goal. Two nights later, it was a rematch at Munn, and Lethemon was fantastic in a 3-0 victory for the Spartans, who suddenly were 3-1 in the conference. However, other than bragging rights, two victories of Michigan, picked for sixth place, was little to get excited about in terms of contending for the conference title.

A week later, Notre Dame, ranked No. 3, came into Munn for two games, and on Friday night the Spartans picked up a 1-1 tie and got the extra point in the shootout. Michigan State led 1-0 late in the game before Notre Dame pulled its goalie and scored the game-tying goal. The rematch one night later seemed like it would be Notre Dame’s turn, and the same scenario took place. Notre Dame led 2-1 midway through the third period before Lambdin tied it. With 70 seconds left, senior Sam Saliba gave the Spartans a 3-2 lead, and the Irish pulled their goalie. This time, Notre Dame couldn’t score, and the Spartans celebrated in a circle, did the traditional handshake with the opposition and skated over to the glass in front of the student section. The players banged their sticks on the glass as the students cheered on the Spartans.

And finally, Friday night. The fans packed had packed Munn two weeks earlier against Minnesota, and they were back for this big one against Penn State. The Spartans had a 1-0 lead after the first period, and Penn State came out and outshot Michigan State 17-2 in the second period, but Lethemon was strong and gave up just one goal. The final was 4-2 as Lethemon faced 42 shots and gave up just two goals, and one was a meaningless one in the final minutes after Notre Dame had pulled its goalie. Khodorenko, a senior, had a hat trick to “cap” the evening.

Maybe this team was different. Maybe the prognosticators were wrong. And, at least, seventh place didn’t seem like a logical destination, and that was a good start.

So what’s ahead? First is a rematch with Penn State tonight, two at Minnesota, one with Michigan at Munn Arena and another at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Then it ends in a tough fashion with two at home against Ohio State and two on the road at Notre Dame.

It’s likely the Spartans will be in a position to win the conference if they can do well  the last two weekends, but either way, Michigan State is likely to either finish first and get a bye in the first-round of the conference tournament or host a three-game series in the first round.

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For one game in 1960, shortstop Casey Wise actually was The Mighty Casey, but he eventually struck out with the Tigers

The day after Casey Wise had his career game on April 24, 1960, the Detroit Free Press ran a six-column headline at the top of the front page of the sports page: “Who Is This Mighty Casey Wise?”

It was a fair question, and the Free Press said he was “a curly-haired blond fellow,” but the newspaper failed to point out that he was the son of Hughie Wise, who appeared in two games as a catcher for the Tigers in 1930 with one start.

At the time, Kendall Cole Wise (they called him Casey for his first two initials) was early in his fourth major-league season. He had a career batting average of .182 (46-for-253) with one home run and 12 RBIs when the Tigers acquired him, Mike Roarke and Don Kaiser for Charlie Lau and Don Lee shortly after the end of the 1959 season.

Wise started the 1960 season 2-for-15, but on that Sunday afternoon at Briggs Stadium, he really was The Mighty Casey, and he did not strike out. The Tigers were playing the Chicago White Sox, with Paul Foytack on the mound for Detroit and future Hall-of-Famer Early Wynn pitching for Chicago.

Wise, who had spent one season with the Chicago Cubs and two with the Milwaukee Braves, started the game in place of regular shortstop Frank Bolling, who went home after the death of his newborn son. Wise hit second in the order, and he began a six-run rally in the first inning with a triple. It was just the second triple of his career. He was just getting started, although in the second inning he flied out to left field against reliever Frank Baumann.

Chicago had cut the lead to 6-3 by the bottom of the fourth, and Wise hit a two-run homer to deep left field off Baumann for his second career home run and first for the Tigers. He led off the bottom of the sixth with another home run to deep left field off Jake Striker to build Detroit’s lead to 9-3.

Wise had one more at-bat. In the bottom of the seventh inning, he singled home Foytack and Eddie Yost as the Tigers built a 12-3 lead, and they won 12-4. Wise finished 4-for-5 with three runs scored and five RBIs, and he was a double shy of the cycle with a single, triple and two home runs.

Wise, a switch-hitter, had his triple batting left-handed off the right-handed Wynn, but both of his home runs and his single came as a right-handed hitter against a pair of left-handed pitchers.

“I don’t know when I became a switch-hitter,” he said in the Free Press. ‘I guess I always was. … as long as I can remember I’ve been batting both ways. But if anything, I think I’m a more natural right-handed hitter. I seem to have more power that way.”

Wise seemed to know that what he had accomplished was unlikely to happen again.

“Man, don’t get too excited about me,” Wise said in the Detroit Free Press. “I’ve never had a day like this in my life, and I don’t know if I’ll have another.”

He was right. After that game, he went 0-for-24 before getting a hit and 4-for-48 the rest of the season.

RECAP: In Casey Wise’s standout game of April 24, 1960, he had:

The only four-hit game of his career (he had one other three-hit game)

The only two-homer game of his career (he had three total)

The only five-RBI game of his career (his second-best was two)

The only time he scored three runs in a game

 

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There was a day in 1903 when the Detroit Tigers played a regular-season game at Ramona Park in Grand Rapids

Today, the football field
at East Grand Rapids High School
sits on the site of Ramona Park.

On May 24, 1903, the Detroit Tigers played a regular-season game in Grand Rapids, and their victory moved them into a tie for first place in the American League.

In the early 1900s, Detroit did not allow the sale of alcohol at public places inside the city limits on Sundays. That presented a problem for the Tigers, whose home ballpark was Bennett Park, at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and inside the city limits. Detroit used Burns Park, located in Springwells Township, just outside the city limits, for Sunday games but occasionally moved the games out of town.

The Grand Rapids game was held at Ramona Park, an amusement park that opened in East Grand Rapids in 1897 and featured a figure-eight double track wooden roller coaster. It was located on Lakeside Drive near the boat landing for Reeds Lake.

The game itself was a novelty for Grand Rapids, and ticket prices were high, and everybody wanted to be in on the action. It cost 50 cents just to enter Ramona Park, and it cost another 50 cents for a seat in the grandstands and another dollar for a seat in the stands behind the screen at home plate.

The Detroit Free Press reported that game officials combed through the clothing of the players while they were on the field. The clothes were shaken in a search for loose change, and any money left in the dressing room was taken.

An estimated crowd between 3,500 and 4,000 crowded into the field, which was smaller than the one at Bennett Park. The outfield was elevated on a sloping plane, and a tree was in right field. The batters took target on the tree, knowing that if they hit the branches, they would be awarded a double, but nobody was able to hit the tree.

Detroit’s opponent was the Washington Senators, who entered the game with a 9-18 record and had lost 13 of their past 17 games. The Senators had several veteran major-leaguers but no real stars, except Ed Delahanty, who was in the final season of his 16-year career. Delahanty, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Old Timers Committee, did not play, and it is not known if he made the trip to Grand Rapids.

Perhaps the Washington player most interesting to the Grand Rapids fans was right fielder Ducky Holmes, who started the first game in Tigers major-league history in 1901 and spent two seasons in Detroit. The Senators purchased his contract in February of 1903.

Happy Townsend, a 24-year-old right-hander in his third season, started on the mound for Washington. He would be just 2-11 in 20 games for the Senators in 1903, and the following season he was 5-26 and led the American League in losses.

Holmes batted lead-off for Washington and was followed in the order by left fielder Kip Selbach, center fielder Jimmy Ryan, third baseman Bill Coughlin, first baseman Scoops Carey, shortstop Al Orth, second baseman Joe Martin, catcher Lew Drill and Townsend.

The starting pitcher for Detroit was 25-year-old John Deering, who was making just his second start of the season. The Detroit lineup had Jimmy Barrett leading off and playing in center field, followed by Billy Lush in right field, Sam Crawford in left field, Kid Elberfeld at shortstop, Charlie Carr at first base, Heinie Smith at second base, Joe Yeager at third base, Sport McAllister catcher and Deering on the mound.

The Tigers were 15-12 and one game out of first place. They had won eight of their previous 10 games.

Carr gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. He singled and moved up on an infield ground out and scored on an error. Washington scored three in the top of the third on doubles by Drill, Selbach and Ryan to take a 3-1 lead. The Tigers answered with three in the bottom of the third as Townsend walked Lush and hit Elberfeld before Carr, Smith and Yeager each singled to get the three runs and a 4-3 lead.

It probably looked like it was going to be a slugfest, but it wasn’t. After Washington tied it in the top of the fifth, Carr doubled and scored on a double by Yeager to make it 6-5, and that is how the game ended. Townsend, the Washington pitcher, settled down, while Tigers manager Ed Barrow removed Deering after five innings and replaced him with George Mullin.

Mullin, a 22-year-old right-hander in his second season. allowed only one hit over four shutout innings to preserve the one-run lead. It was only the beginning for Mullin, who went on to a 12-year career with the Tigers that included 209 wins, the first no-hitter in franchise history and five 20-win seasons, including a 29-8 record in 1909.

Carr finished with three hits for the Tigers, and Yeager had two.

The Tigers went on to finish fifth in the American League with a 65-71 record, while the Senators finished last at 43-94. Barrow, the Detroit manager, was unhappy with the bumpy grounds and long grass at the field and said the Tigers would not return to play at Ramona Park. Detroit played two other Sunday games in 1903, both at Armory Park in Toledo, Ohio, on June 28 and August 16. Two years later, they played two games at Neil Park II in Columbus, Ohio, on July 23-24.

Ramona Park had more baseball games, and on July 7, 1909, it became the first stadium to host a professional baseball game under the lights. Portable lighting was used for a game between the minor-league teams of Grand Rapids and Zanesville, Ohio.

Babe Ruth also made an appearance at Ramona Park in 1923 when the Yankees played the Grand Rapids Billbobs in an exhibition game Ruth hit two home runs, and in the stands that day was a 10-year-old boy who would one day become President of the United States. His name was Gerald Ford.

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Matt Kinzer was the only Detroit 'Liger': He was a punter for the Lions and a pitcher for the Tigers

On October 11, 1987, the NFL players were on strike, and the leage was using replacement players. The Lions used a punter named Matt Kinzer for their game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Kinzer, who punted at Purdue, had seven punts for an average of 34.0 yards, and never appeared in another NFL game. But he wasn’t through with professional sports.

Kinzer had been selected in the second round of the June 1984 amateur baseball draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. His only big-league start for St. Louis came on May 23, 1989, against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. He lasted just two innings and allowed six runs on seven hits.

He pitched in eight major-league games with one start for St. Louis before he was dealt to the Tigers at the 1989 winter meetings. Detroit gave three minor-league players (Pat Austin, Marcos Betances and Bill Henderson) for Kinzer and outfielder Jim Lindeman.

Kinzer started the season in the minors and had eight saves and a 2.50 ERA in the May of 1990 when he was promoted to the Tigers to replace Urbano Lugo, who had not pitched for two weeks.

The Chicago White Sox were playing the Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Detroit on May 26, 1990. Kinzer came into the game with one out, a runner on first and the Tigers trailing 6-4. Ivan Calderon smacked a two-out double to score one run and Ron Kittle added a two-run single to make it 9-4. Steve Lyons added a run-scoring single to make it 10-4, and Keller retired Carlos Martinez on a liner to left to end the inning.

It was the end of the inning and the end of Keller’s major-league career. The Tigers released him in the middle of July, and he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles, who released him after just three games in the minor leagues. He finished with a 16.20 ERA and a 3.600 WHIP for the Tigers, and his career numbers show a 13.20 ERA with a 2.333 WHIP. He also was 0-2 with the Cardinals.

After his playing career, Kinzer became an agent, coach for the Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne baseball team and a major-league scout. In 2020, he was one of 15 major-league scouts who was picked to help select the players for Team USA in the Olympics.

He remains the answer to a great trivia question involving Detroit professional sports: Who was the only person to appear in a regular-season game for the Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers?

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Tigers yielded first grand slam in American League history on May 1, 1901, to White Sox batter who could not hear or speak

On May 1, 1901, Detroit Tigers pitcher Ed Siever gave up the first grand slam in American League history. It happened at South Side Park in Chicago, and it was the third road game in Tigers history.

The man who hit the grand slam was William Ellsworth Hoy, and he didn’t hear any of the cheers from the reported 2,400 fans. He couldn’t. He was unable to hear or speak. In fact, he wasn’t known as William or even Bill. He was known as Dummy Hoy, an incredibly insensitive name to put on someone who had been hit with such a devastating situation. However, he actually referred to himself as Dummy and would correct people when they called him something else.

Hoy, who lost his hearing due to an illness in his childhood, hit his grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning as the White Sox pinned a 19-9 thumping on the Tigers, who arrived in Chicago with a 4-0 record after sweeping four home games against the Milwaukee Brewers. Detroit split two games in Chicago before the game on May 1.

Hoy, a graduate of the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus, Ohio, was no gimmick. At the time of his grand slam, he had played in the major leagues since 1888, and he led the National League in walks with 117 in 1891. In his only season with the White Sox in 1901, he led the American League with 86 walks and hit .294 with two home runs, 60 RBIs and 112 runs scored.

Hoy was three weeks shy of his 39th birthday when he hit the grand slam, and he played one more season in the majors. Amazingly, he finished his major-league career with 2,048 hits and a .288 career batting average.

He is credited with the use of hand signals that are still in the game today. When he began playing, umpires shouted out the calls, but when Hoy would bat, he requested that umpires raise their right arm to signal a strike and raise their left hand to signal a ball.

Hoy lived to be 99 years old and died on December 15, 1961, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Siever, meanwhile, spent his first two major-league seasons with the Tigers in 1901-02 and the final three of his time in Detroit in 1906-08. He led the American League with a 1.91 ERA in 1902 despite an 8-11 record, and he was 18-11 in 1907 for the first pennant-winning team in Tigers history.

Siever started Game 3 of the 1907 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at West Side Gronds in Chicago and was the losing pitcher in a 5-1 game. He died in Detroit at age 44 on February 4, 1920.

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Ivan Nova a nice low-risk investment for the Tigers, but the upside is limited for the 33-year-old right-hander

It certainly is not big-time breaking news that the Tigers signed free agent pitcher Ivan Nova on Monday, but it is a low-cost move that could pay off in a small dividend.

First, and most important to the Tigers, he cost $1.5 million for one year plus some unnamed incentives. That’s fine, if he meets the unnamed incentives, that should mean that he would be having a good enough season to be traded for a low-to-mid level prospect in July. If he flops, $1.5 million isn’t a huge loss.

He also might have cost the Tigers young left-hander Matt Hall, who was taken off the 40-man roster to make room for Nova. Hall has been terrible in two stings with the Tigers, but he did have 27 strikeouts in 23 and one-third innings last year. Some team might claim him on waivers and take a shot at a 26-year-old lefty with those strikeout numbers, but I think he’ll go unclaimed and end up in Toledo.

Nova, who had his best years with the Yankees, is a 33-year-old right-hander who has had a roller-coaster career. He is coming off a season in which he allowed a league-high 225 hits, which isn’t good. However, he matched a career-high with 187 innings, and after what happened to the Tigers last year – free agents Matt Moore and Tyson Ross did not combine to make 10 starts – the health factor is not a big risk.

Let’s face it, this team isn’t going anywhere in 2020, but for the first time in a few years, the Tigers seem to be trying to make a bid for respectability. Or at least to not be the butt of jokes. They added Andrew Romine to start as catcher, Jonathan Schoop to start at second base and C.J. Cron to start at first base. That is four actual major-league players who, barring injury, will fill nearly half the daily lineup that last year looked like graduates from the Toledo Mud Hens fantasy league camp.

Nova brings some veteran leadership to the staff and takes some heat off Matthew Boyd, who is the staff ace but has little behind him. The rest of the rotation is very questionable:

Jordan Zimmermann has been awful, and fortunately this is the final year of his ridiculous contract. Hopefully he regains some of his effectiveness and can be traded at the deadlne;

Spencer Turnbull showed flashes of promise last summer, but he faded at the end and really has not been a high-end prospect;

Daniel Norris has not shown he can go deep into games and be effective, and he was used more as an opener than anything else in the second half last year.

The wild card there is Tyler Alexander, a former second-round selection in the 2015 draft and, despite his 4.86 ERA, really showed some potential. Specifically, his strikeout-to-walk rate was an eye-opener. He walked just seven in 53 and two-third innings with 47 walks. That is something to get excited about for a 25-year-old left-hander in his first season in the majors. But he needs to get batters out. They hit .302 against him with an .834 OPS, so if he can keep his strikeout-to-walk rate down and get more batters out, the Tigers might have someone they can count on in the future.

And then there is Michael Fulmer, who hopefully will be back in the summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is no more than a wild card, but he’s a wild card with real upside.

But back to Nova. He probably slots in as the No. 2 starter in the rotation behind Boyd. He pitched in a hitter’s ballpark last year for the White Sox, and Comerica Park is better suited for pitchers. Two years ago, Nova was putting the finishing touches on back-to-back seasons with the Pirates with an ERA of 4.14 and 4.19. While that is not exceptional, it would be a big addition for the Tigers.

The metrics, however, suggest Nova is slowing down, and at age 34 that can’t be a surprise. The spin rate on his curveball was the lowest of his career, and his strikeout rate dipped for the second year in a row. One thing Tigers fans can look forward to a pitcher who limits walks, and that will be a welcome addition.

Tigers fans can expect a pitcher who can go out and give the team a solid outing every now and also can get shelled for five or more runs in the first three or four innings. Between those two, he should be good to get into the sixth inning for more than half of his starts.

I give the Tigers a B- for the signing. It adds some stability and leadership to the staff at virtually no cost and could end up gaining a low-to-mid level prospect in a trade. But the end of July, Fulmer hopefully will be back and Zimmermann will be dealt if he has any trade value. Alexander might have pushed his way into the rotation, and Matt Manning and Casey Mize will be knocking in the door.

The Tigers don’t need a lot from Nova. Four solid months would be worth the investment.

Prediction: Nova goes 6-11 with a 4.44 ERA and is traded in July for a low-level prospect.

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The day Sparky Anderson asked Bill Madlock, who already had three home runs in the game, to bunt – and it worked

It was a Sunday afternoon in late June of 1987. Just one game out of a scheduled 162, and it matched a third-place team against a sixth-place team. There was no reason for it to me a memorable game, but it turned out to be a classic. That’s the way baseball works, and more than 31,000 fans at Tiger Stadium were in for a treat.

The pitching matchup was rookie right-hander Jeff Robinson of the Tigers against rookie left-hander Eric Bell of the Baltimore Orioles. Detroit, which had lost three of its past four games, fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning on a three-run homer by Fred Lynn, who would be traded to Detroit the following year. The Tigers bounced Bell from the game with two runs in the bottom of first inning as veteran Bill Madlock hit a two-run home run.

Madlock, a 36-year-old veteran in his 15th and final season, had signed with the Tigers three weeks earlier after he was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his prime, Madlock was one of the best hitters in baseball. He was a four-time batting champion, winning two with the Chicago Cubs and two with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the first of those two came in the 1970s, and the last two came in the early 1980s. This was 1987, and Madlock had not hit above .280 since 1983.

Actually, Madlock came into the game in an 0-for-21 slump, so the home run had to make him feel a lot better. There was no score until the fourth inning, when the Orioles added three more runs to drive Robinson from the game. Another run in the top of the fifth made it 7-2 and a bleak outlook for Detroit.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Madlock hit a home run off right-hander John Habyan. It was the ninth and final game with two home runs or more for Madlock, who finished his career with 163. It was a nice way to break out of a slump.

Eric King was pitching for the Tigers, and he did his job keeping the Orioles off the scoreboard, but Detroit failed to score in the sixth and seventh. A single run in the eighth inning on a run-scoring single by Chet Lemon offered little hope as the Tigers trailed 7-4 going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

If anybody left, and surely some did, they are probably still telling the story of what they missed.

Johnny Grubb led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a home run to cut the deficit to 7-5. Matt Nokes followed with a home run to make it 7-6, and the veteran Madlock came to the plate. He had never hit three home runs in a major-league game, and he was in the final summer of his career.

The Baltimore pitcher was Tom Niedenfuer, who had been teammates with Madlock on the Dodgers earlier in the season. Niedenfuer fell behind 2-0 in the count, and Orioles manager Cal Ripken Sr. visited the mound. Madlock drilled the next pitch into the upper deck in left field for his third home run, and the score was tied 7-7.

“All during that slump, I was behind in the count every time,” Madlock said in the Detroit Free Press. “I was 0-2 17 times, I know that.”

Three home runs in three consecutive at-bats against the same pitcher. It doesn’t happen every day.

“I’ve seen three straight homers before, but I’ve never seen them all come off the same pitcher,” Madlock said in the Free Press. “Usually the pitcher is gone before the third guy comes to bat.”

Tigers manager Sparky Anderson was equally amazed.

“I’ve seen three straight, too, but never in the ninth inning, not like that,” he said in the Detroit Free Press.

The Tigers could not get any more runs, but they had done their job, and the game was headed to extra innings.

Neither team scored in the 10th inning, and Willie Hernandez blanked the Orioles in the top of the 11th. The Tigers were facing Orioles reliever Doug Corbett in the bottom of the inning with a chance to win it. Nokes led off with a single between first and second base, and Madlock strolled to the plate. Could he make it four home runs in one game? It had never been done in Tigers history.

We’ll never know. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson gave Madlock the bunt sign. Who orders a batter who already has hit three home runs in a game to bunt? Sparky did, and it worked.

“I’d let him know before Nokes got on that I wanted him to bunt when Nokes got on,” Anderson said in the Free Press. “A sacrifice is the only way to play.”

Madlock got the bunt down and successfully and moved Nokes to second base. After Kirk Gibson was walked intentionally, Alan Trammell singled to center to score Nokes with the winning run.

After the game, Madlock said had no issues with Anderson’s decision to have him bunt.

“You’ve got Kirk Gibson coming up after me, then Alan Trammell,” he said in the Free Press. “I’m not a home-run hitter. That’s the first time in my life I’ve hit three in a game. My game is just hitting. That’s my strength and what I try to do.”

The Tigers went 59-32 the rest of the way and won the American League East Division title by one game over the Toronto Blue Jays. One game. And they had the best record in baseball, although their season ended in the ALCS against the Minnesota Twins.

Madlock hit eight more home runs in his final season, and the last one came against Bell, the pitcher who gave up the first of his three on that Sunday afternoon in June.

Madlock is one of 14 players with at least four batting championships in baseball history. The other 13 – Ty Cobb (12), Tony Gwynn (8), Honus Wagner (8), Rod Carew (7), Rogers Hornsby (7), Stan Musial (7), Ted Williams (6), Wade Boggs (5), Dan Brouthers (5), Cap Anson (4), Miguel Cabrera (4), Roberto Clemente (4) and Harry Heilmann (4), all are in the Hall of Fame or, as in Cabrera’s case, are headed for the Hall of Fame.

 

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