By: Mike Stone
It is the trade that haunts Tiger fans to this day, but it really shouldn’t. Back in 1987 the Tigers were in a race for the Eastern Division title and needed some pitching help, so they acquired Doyle Alexander from the Atlanta Braves for a Double-A league pitcher, who had a record of 4-10 and ERA of 5.68. That pitcher as we know was John Smoltz, who ended up with 213 wins and 154 saves.
In his new book “Starting and Closing,” Smoltz recalls the details of the trade, in which he thought was a practical joke by his father. He also believes that he might not have had the success he had in Atlanta had he remained with the Tigers. In an interview I alluded to the difference in the coaching he had in the Atlanta farm system as compared with Detroit’s and he agreed, “There’s a lot of scenarios where baseball players are stuck for a while. They (Detroit) ran a group of guys, they became an older team and their farm system was tapped out.” What surprised me is that even after he was traded to the Braves, he found himself rooting for the Tigers and Alexander during the final month of the season and in the playoffs.
He also reflects on growing up in Lansing and his days as a diehard Tigers fan. He was actually in Tiger Stadium for the clinching game 5 of the 1984 World Series, telling me “I know exactly where I was sitting. I could see the words coming out of Goose Gossage’s mouth when Gibby came to the plate” What surprised me is that even after he was traded to the Braves, he found himself rooting for the Tigers and Alexander during the final month of the season and in the playoffs.
Smoltz, like everyone in baseball marvels at the exploits of Justin Verlander,”He’s a stud, a throwback. He’s a guy who trains very hard with a mindset that says I’m gonna train my body and the God given ability to throw a baseball and sustain it for 9 innings.”
You can listen to the entire interview below.