Detroit Tigers: The last time Detroit Red Wings failed to make playoffs


The NHL playoffs began last night and the Detroit Red Wings begin their postseason quest once again tonight in Tampa. We here at Motor City Bengals salute the Red Wings for heading to the postseason for an amazing 24th consecutive season!

It was the spring of 1990 the last time the Red Wings did not merit enough points to chase Lord Stanley’s Cup. A month or so earlier, the first Gulf War had ended and George H.W. Bush (George W. Bush’s dad) was president.

In April 1990:

  • Minimum wage was $3.80.
  • Gas was $1.16 per gallon.
  • The City of Detroit had just more than a million residents (701,475 in 2012).
  • Cheers was the top-rated TV show of the year.
  • Home Alone was the highest grossing movie of the year.
  • The Oakland Athletics were the defending World Series champions, having swept their cross-town rivals during the infamous 1989 Earthquake World Series.
  • The Detroit Pistons “a.k.a. ‘The Bad Boys'” were just months away from winning their second of back-to-back world titles
  • The Detroit Lions, well, they still stunk, but the city had been wowed by rookie wonder Barry Sanders. The franchise was about two years away from their first playoff victory since 1957. Today they have one playoff victory since 1957.

Since we’re a Detroit Tigers’ blog, let’s put these into terms that our fans will understand. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander were seven years old, Victor Martinez was 12, Joe Nathan was a pimply faced 16-year-old, and Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus, who had an 18-year playing career, was still three years away from making his Major League debut.

The Tigers were not yet owned by Detroit Red Wings’ and Little Ceasar’s magnate Mike Ilitch. The club was still owned by rival pizza pioneer Tom Monahan, founder of Domino’s.

The Tigers were just six years removed from the 1984 World Series and two seasons removed from their last postseason appearance. It would be 16 more years before they would go back to the postseason.

A little regarded possible slugger had been signed by the Tigers in the prior off-season after a year in Japan: Cecil Fielder. Around the time the Red Wing-less NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs rolled around, no Tigers’ fan could ever fathom that Cecil would become the first player in 13 years, first American League player since 1961, and first Detroit Tiger since 1938 to hit 50 home runs.

Fielder had a four-year old tagging around the bowels of Tiger Stadium with him. That four-year old was future ex-Tiger Prince Fielder.

The 1990 Opening Day Lineup was a mix of aging 1984 heroes, journeymen and youngsters that never materialized:

  1. Tony Phillips-3B
  2. Alan Trammell-SS
  3. Lou Whitaker-2B
  4. Cecil Fielder-1B
  5. Lloyd Moseby-CF
  6. Matt Nokes-C
  7. Gary Ward-LF
  8. Chet Lemon-RF
  9. Dave Bergman-DH
  • The Opening Day pitcher was the same guy that it had been since 1980, Jack Morris, playing in his final season in Detroit.
  • There were no concrete plans for a new baseball stadium in Detroit and a decade of life was still ahead for Tiger Stadium. Comerica Park is now in its 16th year of operation.
  • Seven players on the current 25-man Tigers’ roster were not born the last time the Red Wings missed the postseason.
  • The team was one-year removed from their first 100-loss season in 13 years after 103 defeats in 1989. They would have two seasons over .500 over the next four seasons and then would suffer through 12-straight losing seasons, losing more than 100 three times.
  • Since 2006, they have been at or over .500 in eight of nine seasons.

As you can see, the Detroit Tigers have had their ups and (a lot of) downs while the Detroit Red Wings have remained very consistent.

I understand it is much easier to get into the postseason in hockey (where 53% go to the playoffs as opposed to 33% with the two wildcards in baseball), but it’s still a laudable accomplishment.

We look forward to revisiting this article in 2035 when the Detroit Tigers have clinched their 24th consecutive playoff berth. Fingers crossed.

Good luck to the Wings, bring the Stanley Cup home! Follow all of the Red Wings’ playoff action and information over at FanSided’s Octopus Thrower.

Next: Tigers best fights over the years