Sometime in the grand summer of 1984, when the Tigers were running away from the pack in the American League East, Sparky Anderson was holding mini court before a game with a few ink stained wretches at Tiger Stadium.
Sparky pointed to the flagpole that rose like a skyscraper in center field.
"You see that? That's where they'll hang me if we don't win this thing," Sparky said of the Detroit baseball fans.
1984, which to this day runs neck-and-neck with 1968 as far as iconic baseball seasons go in Detroit, was Sparky's worst nightmare.
He said so in his book of the late-1990s, They Call Me Sparky.
To the white-haired skipper, the famous 35-5 start of '84 set the Tigers up for fantastic failure, rather than terrific success.
Sparky wrote that he enjoyed 1984 the least of almost any season he'd ever managed---and that includes 1989, when the Tigers lost over 100 games and Sparky had to take a leave of absence due to exhaustion.
Winning the World Series in 1984 for Anderson was nothing more than sweet relief, rather than any feeling of exultation.
The fans, of course, have a much different feeling when they think of 1984. The memories are nothing but good.
The 1984 Tigers, though, were an anomaly. They were a World Series winner with nary a Hall of Famer on the roster.
That factoid chafes the fans in Detroit. But facts don't always cooperate when we try to romanticize the past, which the fans tend to do around here when it comes to 1984---despite the great successes that are occurring with Tigers baseball in the present, and which aren't being appreciated nearly enough.
The constant bitching on sports talk radio and on Social Media is befuddling, when you consider Tigers baseball hasn't been this good in over 100 years.
But more about that later.
The 1984 Tigers were a blip. They didn't win in 1983 and they didn't win in 1985. They went from a team on the rise to World Champion to terrible disappointments in a space of three seasons.
The 1985 team, with most of the same cast of characters as in 1984, sputtered after the All-Star break and finished 84-77, a distant 15 games out of first place.
That freefall back down to Earth, just one year after championship glory, is why the 1984 Tigers shouldn't be considered as anything more than one-hit wonders in the annals of baseball history---just like the '68 team.
As I said, facts don't always cooperate.
In 1987, the Tigers did manage to squeeze one more year of near glory from the core of the '84 team, sans Lance Parrish, who fled to Philadelphia in free agency in the 1986 off-season.
The '87 Tigers gave Sparky one of his favorite years, according to his memoir.
That team started 11-19 and the critics had it buried before Memorial Day. In early-June, Tigers GM Bill Lajoie acquired a washed up hitter from the National League who had been cashiered by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The hitter, Bill Madlock, was batting .180 when Lajoie picked him up for a bucket of baseballs.
Madlock was a multiple batting champion in the NL in the 1970s, using his deadly, short and compact swing to strafe pitchers with batting averages as high as the mid-.300s when he was at his best.
But when the Tigers came calling in 1987, Madlock was a 36-year-old who looked to be ready for retirement.
Madlock, whose only American League time consisted of 77 at-bats as a rookie with the Texas Rangers in 1973, joined the Tigers in Boston on June 4, 1987 and went 3-for-4 including a home run.
In his first 23 at-bats with the Tigers, Madlock had 12 hits. He was batting .522. He didn't look 36 anymore.
Madlock's resurgence coincided with that of his teammates. Sparky's pride and joy team went 87-45 after their rotten start and captured the AL East flag after a final week of baseball that will forever be talked about in Detroit---and grumbled about in Toronto.
The '87 team flamed out in the ALCS against the Minnesota Twins, but that was OK according to Sparky. He wrote that the '87 Tigers were spent after their amazing comeback and that final frantic week, when Detroit swiped the division right from under the Blue Jays' noses.
There was no post-season baseball for the Tigers until 19 years later, after which Comerica Park has been fairly busy in October.
Since World War II, which is often used as a tent pole when discussing baseball history, the Tigers hadn't had any real "runs" of success---until what is going on right now, which ought to be tightly embraced and enjoyed.
The 1945 team won the World Series but wasn't heard from afterward.
The 1968 team captured the brass ring after a heartbreaking second-place finish in 1967, but the Baltimore Orioles overtook the Tigers---and everyone else in the league---in 1969 and the O's were unquestioningly the class of the AL for the next three years to come.
The 1984 Tigers represented the realization---finally---of potential of a youthful core that grew together starting in 1978, and which flirted with the post-season in the strike-shortened 1981 season.
In the 1980s, the Tigers had just one losing season, but only appeared in the post-season twice in the decade.
It is right here, right now, where we are seeing the best run of baseball in Detroit since the 1907-09 Tigers of Ty Cobb won three straight league pennants---albeit zero World Series.
The Tigers, in eight seasons starting in 2006, have played in two World Series, four ALCS, a one-game playoff, and have won three straight divisional titles.
But the franchise still hasn't won a World Series in 30 years.
And yet, no manager has been found hanging from a flagpole.
The moral of this story? Appreciate what you are seeing right now, because periods of success like the one the Tigers are experiencing now don't come down the pike very often in any baseball fan's lifetime.