By: Jeff Riger
It’s hard to believe, but yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the Pine Tar game. Even if you’re too young to actually remember the game, you no doubt know what I’m talking about. It’s legendary — The Royals were playing the Yankees in New York and George Brett came up against Rich “Goose” Gossage and hit a two-run homer to give Kansas City a one run lead. New York manager Billy Martin asked the umpires to check the bat for too much pine tar and Brett was eventually called out and the game was over and declared a Yankees win. Of course Brett went ballistic, stormed out of the dugout and had to be restrained and even though the Royals ended up winning the game later in the season because of a successful protest, it was the K.C. Hall of Famer going mad that has and always will be the story of the Pine Tar game.
But what is Detroit’s all time “Pine Tar” game?
There are certain games in sports that are so infamous that they go by one word or a short description. For instance we all know “The Catch” refers to Dwight Clark catching a Joe Montana touchdown pass. “The Bartman Game” refers to game 6 of the NLCS where the Cubs and their fans blamed some, headphone wearing fan that tried to take a foul ball away from Moises Alou. And, then there is “Buckner” which could be the most infamous of all. The Red Sox lost game 6 of the 1986 World Series when Bill Buckner failed to field a routine ground ball to first.
All of the above are classics and obvious and every sports fan young and old know exactly what you’re talking about when you utter the above words and phrases. But what about Detroit games that need only a word or short phrase to describe them? I’m glad you asked…
Below I have decided to list Detroit’s top ten all time “Name Games”! The games where if you go up to any random Detroit fan and say these words, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.
10. Fick’s Grandslam
This game could also be described as the last game at Tiger Stadium but former Tiger Robert Fick made it even more memorable. It was September 27, 1999, and the Tigers were playing the last ever baseball game at the corner of Michigan and Trumball. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Fick took Jeff Montgomery deep for a grand slam. Tigers won the game 8-2, Fick had 5 RBI and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place as more than 56 thousand fans left Tiger Stadium for the last time.
9. Complete the Process
Lions fans will never forget the phrase “Complete the Process.” The Lions were playing the Bears at Soldier Field on September 12th, 2010, it was the season opener. Detroit trailed Chicago 19-14 and with 31 seconds left, Calvin Johnson caught a Shaun Hill touchdown pass. It seemed like the Lions won the game and their first road game in what seemed like forever. However the catch was ruled incomplete as Johnson, according to officials did not complete the process before eventually dropping the ball after the catch. Since then, this dumb NFL has been changed, but of course it screwed the Lions.
8. Spartan Bob or Clock Game
The 2001 Michigan vs. Michigan State game was played on November 3, 2001 at Spartan Stadium. While the game was closely played throughout, it is the game’s conclusion that is most remembered. On fourth-and-goal, with one second remaining in the fourth quarter, Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker threw a touchdown pass to running back T. J. Duckett as time expired to win 26-24. Smoker spiked the ball with just one second left on the clock leading up to that touchdown. Debates on the last remaining second continue to this day. Some contend that clock operator Bob Stehlin; known colloquially as “Spartan Bob,” stopped the clock before the spike play had actually concluded, to give the Spartans one more chance.
7. The Jered Weaver game
Ask Tiger fans and they might say that this regular season game was their favorite. It was July 31st, 2011 and the Angels were playing the Tigers at Comerica Park. While there were many components of this game, it came down to Jered Weaver throwing at Alex Avila after Carlos Guillen took Weaver deep and showed him up. Weaver was originally upset because he thought Magglio Ordonez was admiring a homer earlier in the game while Ordonez claims he was just trying to figure out if the ball was going to stay fair. Of course this was also the game where Justin Verlander took a no-hit bid into the 8th inning when Maicer Izturis eventually broke it up with a single. Verlander was upset at Erick Aybar, who 3 batters earlier reached base on a Verlander throwing error as he laid down a bunt. Verlander thought the bunt was classless. Man I loved that game.
6. 3:30 Game
It was August 24, 2007 and the Tigers were trying to go back to the playoffs. They trailed the division lead by 2.5 games going into to play. The Yankees were in town and they were not scheduled to come back the remainder of the season. There was a four hour rain delay and if I remember correctly the game did not start until after 11PM. Of course the contest went into extra innings and in the bottom of the 11th, Carlos Guillen hit a 3 run homer against New York reliever Sean Henn. The homer flew out of the park right around 3:30 in the morning. Oh did I mention that the Tigers and Yankees played at 4PM the next day. When Guillen hit the homer, there was only about 5 thousand fans still in the park but man was it sweet.
C’mon this one is easy! Vinny Johnson, aka “the Microwave” hit a game winning shot against the Portland Trailblazers in the 1990 NBA Finals to win game 5 and the title. He hit the shot with 0.07 seconds left on the clock!
4. Turtle or Fight Night at the Joe
I’m pretty sure Detroit fans take the most pride in this game. It was March 26th, 1997 and the Red Wings were hosting the Avalanche. It didn’t take long for Darren McCarty to start pummeling Av’s right winger Claude Lemieux. D-Mac continued to punch Lemieux until he turtled and couldn’t take it anymore. Wings won the game 6-5 and there were many other fights during the game as well. Of course all the fights were retribution for Lemieux hitting Kris Draper from behind and injuring him for the season.
3. Time Out
On April 5, 1993, at Michigan’s second consecutive NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship game, Webber called a time-out with 11 seconds left in the game when his team, down 73–71, did not have any remaining, resulting in a technical foul that effectively clinched the game for North Carolina. Webber continues to receive ridicule for his time-out error; when he joined Inside the NBA in 2008, part of the humorous initiation ceremony was the question “In college basketball how many timeouts do you get in a game?” (Webber replied, “I still don’t know the answer!”)
2. Jim Joyce
Not much needs to be said about this game. Former Tiger Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians and first base umpire Jim Joyce screwed it up by calling Jason Donald safe when he was clearly out. Joyce admitted he was wrong afterwards and has since co-written a book with Galarraga. The whole incident was pathetic but Galarraga did get a Corvette out of it, so there is that.
1. Malice at the Palace
Enough said! Nobody will ever forget that memorable night on November 19th, 2004.
So what did I miss?