August 13: This Friday In Detroit Tigers History

Lance Parrish wore #13 for the Detroit Tigers from 1977-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Lance Parrish wore #13 for the Detroit Tigers from 1977-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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Friday, August 13, 1982

The number one tune in the country was “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. It was in the midst of a six-week reign on “American Top 40”, the radio-countdown show based on the Billboard Hot 100, which was hosted by legendary disc jockey Casey Kasem, a Detroit native. The song’s popularity stemmed from its inclusion in the movie Rocky III, starring Sylvester Stallone and Mr. T, but it was – and still is – the perfect rock & roll song to get Detroit Tigers fans fired up for action.

On this evening, the eyes of the Detroit Tigers were focused on the Royals, who were in town to begin a three-game weekend series. Right-hander Milt Wilcox was making his first start since July 19. Tendinitis in his shoulder had forced him to the disabled list. Kansas City came close to scoring a first-inning run after U.L. Washington dropped a one-out bunt and made it all the way to third base on Lance Parrish’s throwing error. That was some bad luck for the catcher who sported no. 13 on his back. Wilcox struck out George Brett and Amos Otis to avert further trouble.

Lou Whitaker had recently been moved up to the top of manager Sparky Anderson’s lineup. The silver-haired skipper dabbled with using his second baseman as a leadoff hitter briefly in 1979 and again in 1980, but this time it stuck. Three days earlier, Whitaker hit the first of his 23 career leadoff home runs off the Yankees’ Doyle Alexander, a future Tiger teammate. He did it again in this game, victimizing Royals’ righty Dave Frost with a shot to the seats in left field. Whitaker finished his brilliant career with 23 leadoff homers, which was a franchise record until Curtis Granderson hit his 24th in 2009. It was Sweet Lou’s 10th roundtripper of the season. Later in the inning, the Tigers took a 2-0 lead after Parrish singled and came around to score on a single from Chet Lemon.

Wilcox cruised through the next two innings, retiring all six hitters he faced and striking out three along the way. Then the Royals threatened. They loaded the bases in the fourth on a pair of walks and a single. Wilcox got out the jam when Steve Hammond, the most unheralded player in the Kansas City lineup, flew out to left. The Tigers’ offense cranked up the volume in the bottom of the fourth. Lemon led off with a single. After Rick Leach flew out, Tom Brookens hit a two-run home run. Ninth-place hitter Alan Trammell walked to turn the lineup over for Whitaker.

Three days earlier against the Yankees, Whitaker homered twice in the same game for the first time in his career. He did it again with another longball to left field. That put the Tigers up 6-0. Whitaker’s power was still developing at this stage of his career. The home runs off Frost were the left-handed hitter’s first two opposite-field blasts at Tiger Stadium. 1982 also marked the first time that Whitaker reached double figures in homers (15 total), although he was still three seasons away from hitting 20 for the first time. Whitaker admitted that he was surprised by what he’d done. He remarked,

"“I guess I surprised the Royals too, because they pitched me outside after the first one, and I just went with it. It’s a matter of patience because you only need one pitch. You just have to wait until you get it and then make sure you keep it in play”."

Detroit Tigers
Lou Whitaker in 1984.(Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Whitaker’s second home run knocked Frost out of the game. Righty Bill Castro took over, and Glenn Wilson immediately rocked him with a homer to left. It was the rookie outfielder’s fourth one that week (and he hit another two days later). The long inning on the bench didn’t faze Wilcox. He set the Royals down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth. With it being his first start back after being activated, Anderson planned for his veteran hurler to go only five innings. It was a successful return. Wilcox gave up a pair of hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven. He said that his split-fingered fastball, which pitching coach extraordinaire Roger Craig taught him a year earlier, was working well for him.

Lefty Pat Underwood kept the Tigers’ shutout intact for a couple more innings before the Royals scored off him in the eighth. Detroit wasn’t done scoring, though. Leach singled to lead off the eighth and scored on Trammell’s two-run home run to left. Whitaker stayed hot by ripping a double to left. He advanced to third a wild pitch from Castro and scored on Wilson’s sacrifice fly. That made it 10-1 in favor of the home team, and that was the final score. Underwood pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his first save in preservation of Wilcox’s seventh win.

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