The Detroit Tigers have been a part of the American League since 1901. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ roots in the National League extend back to 1884. The two storied franchises’ history as opponents is much, much shorter. However, the Tigers have created some very exciting moments in their sporadic visits to Dodger Stadium.
Interleague play became a reality in Major League Baseball in 1997, but the American League’s Detroit Tigers and the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t tangle until 2003. That season, the Dodgers were one of eight different teams that swept a three-game series from the Tigers at Comerica Park. The franchises from the Motor City and the City of Angels wouldn’t compete against each other at Dodger Stadium until 2005.
A Shared Legend
Detroit’s visit to Los Angeles in the summer of ’05, was particularly special for Kirk Gibson, who was in his final season as a member of the Tigers’ coaching staff. The Dodgers, of course, were the first team that Gibson played for after leaving Detroit as a free agent following the 1987 season. Gibby will forever be remembered and beloved by Dodgers fans thanks to his dramatic home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He was appearing in uniform at Dodger Stadium for the first time since his last game as a player wearing Dodger blue there 15 years earlier.
The Dodgers will honor Gibson with a bobblehead night and induction into the “Legends of Dodger Baseball” during the Tigers’ 2022 interleague series in L.A. This time around, recovery from recent knee surgery will keep Gibson from attending as part of Bally Sports Detroit’s broadcasting crew.
The first Tigers-Dodgers matchup at Chavez Ravine took place on June 6. The Dodgers, powered by Jeff Kent’s three-run, sixth-inning home run off the Tigers’ Jeremy Bonderman, won the opener of the three-game series, 5-3.
June 7, 2005
This was a busy day around MLB. While the Detroit Tigers’ players were getting ready for action in L.A., the Detroit Tigers’ front office was taking care of business of their own. It was Draft Day, and the Tigers chose high school outfielder Cameron Maybin with the 10th pick in the first round.
Once the Tuesday night game at Dodger Stadium began, Jeff Kent quickly became a thorn in the Tigers’ side again. His RBI-single off starting pitcher Nate Robertston gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Detroit scored lone runs in third and fourth innings to go up, 2-1. Los Angeles tied it in the fourth.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Carlos Guillen walked and advanced to second base on a passed ball charged to Dodgers catcher Jason Phillips. Dmitri Young laced a single into center field that looked like it would score his teammate with the go-ahead run. Guillen didn’t make it, though. He strained his left hamstring on the way home and was thrown out as he limped toward the plate. The game remained tied, and the Tigers lost their starting shortstop. Guillen missed the next 15 games. The Dodgers scored a pair in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead.
In the top of the sixth, veteran righty Scott Erickson took over on the mound for the home team. Future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, in his second year with the Tigers, greeted him with a home run to right-center. Pudge’s fifth homer of the season made it a 4-3 game. The Tigers’ All-Star catcher had a nice night at the plate. He finished 4-for-5 and scored twice.
Following Rodriguez, Craig Monroe lined a single to left. Ramon Martinez walked, and that was it for Erickson. Against reliever Franquelis Osoria, the Tigers manufactured the tying run when Nook Logan’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runners and Chris Shelton’s groundout to short brought Monroe home.
Tigers manager Alan Trammell went to his bullpen for the first time in the bottom of the sixth. Righty Chris Spurling needed only six pitches to induce the three infield groundouts that made up his 1-2-3 inning.
The Tigers Roar
Leading off the top of the seventh for Detroit was switch-hitting rookie Tony Giarratano. It was his first plate appearance of the night after replacing the injured Guillen at short. Batting left-handed against righty Duaner Sanchez, “Tony G.” crushed the second pitch he saw. It soared high and deep to right field before landing in the seats. Giarratano’s roundtripper broke the tie.
The ball was retrieved for him after a fan tossed it back onto the field. It was the only home run that the 22-year-old hit in his big-league career, which lasted from June 1 through June 25 that season.
Dmitri Young followed with a blast that was even more impressive, an estimated 446-foot shot to right-center. It was Young’s 11th home run of the season. “Da Meat Hook” went on to lead the team with 21 homers in 2005. The Tigers now led, 6-4, but they weren’t done roaring.
Rondell White hit a ground-rule double, and Pudge singled him to third. Sanchez had yet to retire a Tigers hitter. He got Monroe to ground out to short for the first out, but that plated White. Two batters later, Logan singled Rodriguez home for Detroit’s fourth run of the rally. The visitors took an 8-4 lead into the seventh-inning stretch. Their bullpen took over from there.
Closing It Out
Kyle Farnsworth took the mound for the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh and struck out two in his 1-2-3 inning. Trammell called upon Ugueth Urbina for the eighth. He yielded only a harmless walk in his scoreless inning of work. Closer Troy Percival, in his first season wearing an Old English D, got the ninth inning, despite it not being a save situation. He won a nine-pitch battle with Mike Edwards thanks to a called third strike. Percival, the longtime California and Anaheim Angel, needed only three more pitches to get the final two outs. The Tigers won, 8-4.
Although fans back in Michigan staying up late to catch the game were excited by the first-ever Detroit Tigers victory over the Los Angeles (née Brooklyn) Dodgers, Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times wrote that “it sure seemed mundane for something that never happened in 105 years.”
The Dodgers took the series with a 3-1 win on June 8 behind the pitching of Jeff Weaver, who was no stranger to Tigers fans. Weaver, Detroit’s first-round pick in 1998, had been traded to the New York Yankees in 2002. The following year, he lost his only start against his former team. The Dodgers acquired him in 2004, and so this was just Weaver’s second start against the Tigers. The big righty pitched like he had a chip on each of his shoulders. In seven innings, he gave up only one run on two hits. Weaver struck out seven and didn’t walk anybody.
Weaver’s only blemish was the solo home run that Jason Johnson hit in the third inning. Johnson was the Tigers’ starting pitcher that night and became the first Detroit hurler to homer since Les Cain in 1971. It turned out to be the only home run of his career.
The Tigers and Dodgers didn’t meet again until 2008, when Detroit swept a three-game series at home. The Tigers’ next visit to Dodger Stadium happened in 2010.