“He struck him out and Morris has a no-hitter! Lance Parrish goes out and grabs him and the Tigers get a no-hit performance for the first time since 1958 when Jim Bunning did it!” — Ernie Harwell, WJR broadcast from Comiskey Park, April 7, 1984
A Game No One Would Forget
Only 24,616 people were in attendance at the old Comiskey Park that Saturday afternoon, for the first Saturday game of the new season, but millions would be watching from televisions around the country, for this was the kickoff game for NBC’s Game of the Week in 1984. None of the people in attendance or watching from their couches or in neighborhood bars would ever forget the masterpiece they were about to witness.
Among the many fans watching on television were a four-year old boy and his grandfather, then residing in the small town of Stroudsburg, PA; the grandfather hailed from the even smaller town of Harbor Springs, MI, and had grown up a Tigers fan. The boy was about to watch his first baseball game of his young life. Earlier that day, the grandfather had bought his grandson’s first pack of baseball cards; the first card was Alan Trammell. It was like the day was fated to happen.
The First Three Innings: The Tigers Come Out Roaring
The visiting Detroit Tigers were 3-0, the White Sox were 1-1. The great Sparky Anderson was the Tigers skipper, and went with his ace Jack Morris; the Sox manager was future great Tony LaRussa, who chose Floyd Bannister. In the first, I was dejected when Trammell hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but the real magic, even though no one knew it yet, started in the bottom half of the frame.
Jack Morris set down the Sox 1-2-3, facing some serious batters in the first, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines. The grandfather smiled, looking at the boy, and said, “THAT was some pitching right there Joey.” The boy just smiled back, not too sure what to say. In the second, Chet Lemon cracked a 2-run home run, scoring Lance Parrish, and the four-year old learned you stand up and give high fives whenever that happens. In the bottom half, Jack Morris again set the Sox down 1-2-3.
In the third, Trammell again did not reach base, flying out to left field The young boy pouted, as he liked the card he had pulled, and his grandfather explained then that you cannot reach base every time. Meanwhile, Jack Morris repeated his first two innings performance, once again sending the Sox back to the dugout 1-2-3. The grandfather started leaning intently at the game, and the boy followed suit.
The Next Four Innings: Jack Morris Takes Over
In the fourth, Jack Morris walked the bases loaded, but got out of the jam with an unusual double play combo of pitcher-catcher-first base, then retired Ron Kittle on a strikeout. The boy saw his first fist pump then, from the grandfather, so he did it as well.
Trammell again was put out in the fifth, a groundout to third to end the top half. But it was a good inning before that, as Lemon and Kirk Gibson both scored. Jack Morris shut down the Sox in the fifth as well. Suddenly, there was a feeling of tension building, both in Chicago and in Stroudsburg. The grandfather grew silent, intently staring at the screen, only getting up during commercial breaks.
The sixth and seventh went by quickly. The boy looked up at his grandfather after the box score came up on the screen and asked if it was normal for a team to have no hits. The grandfather told him that it wasn’t, and that it should never be mentioned during a game.
The 8th & 9th: Jack Morris is a Man Possessed
In the eighth inning, Trammell finally got a hit, a single to left, which made the young lad jump up and cheer. Jack Morris retired all three he faced on groundouts, and now everyone in the young lad’s house was watching the game, all either on the edge of their seats or standing. The ninth was going to be tough: Fisk, Baines, and the dangerous Greg Luzinski. The grandfather kept ranting about that all through the commercial break. “Just three more guys, but they are tough ones.”
Jack Morris retired the first two, and then walked Luzinski. The tension in the house had built to a point that you could cut with a knife. You could hear the Sox fans boo the walk. The grandfather laughed at that, nudging the boy, telling him that almost never happens at a ball game, that the home team fans almost never boo when an opposing pitcher walks one of their guys.
Finally, up stepped Ron Kittle. The first pitch went inside for a ball, but the next three were all strikes, the final checked on. Lance Parrish ran out and hugged Jack Morris, his teammates mobbed him, and Jack Morris had thrown a no-hitter, giving a push to an amazing start that would become an unprecedented 35-5 start for the Tigers on the way to their last World Series victory.
Back in Stroudsburg, I watched my grandfather jump up from the couch, curious as to why this was so exciting, yet at the same time mimicking his motions. I understood about winning, and that the Tigers had won, yet I did not understand what was so magical about a no-hitter. By the end of the season, when the Tigers and Jack Morris had wrapped up the World Series, I understood that, along with so much more my grandfather taught me about baseball over the magical summer of 1984. I still have that Trammell card, his 1984 Fleer #91.
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