The 1979 Indians (pictured here in the 1980 Topps card) was a classic schedule filler team. They were not a bad team. They finished with a winning record despite a negative run differential. But they never were really contenders.
They got off to a 43-52 start that prompted the firing of manager Jeff Torborg. Dave Garcia took over and they went 38-28 under his leadership, finishing the year at 81-80. Their 27-23 record in one run games helped.
The Indians were a strange streaky team that year. A 10 game losing streak in late June probably sunk Torborg. They were never within 10 games of first place again the whole year. A 10 game winning streak in late July padded Garcia’s resume. They reached 5 games above .500.
The 1979 Indians were one of two Tribe squads to be above .500 for the season. Friend of the Sully Baseball podcast Sid Monge was one of the stars of the team, winning 12 and saving 19 over 131 innings, all in relief. The two Ricks, Wise and Waits, were a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.
The lineup had 3 sluggers with more than 20 homers including Bobby Bonds in his lone season in Cleveland. Andre Thornton was still a reliable slugger and Toby Harrah provided power at third. Mike Hargrove was a .325 hitter. He had a .933 OPS despite only hitting 10 homers. Cliff Johnson, acquired mid season from the Yankees, gave them 18 homers in a part time role.
The Indians hovered around relevancy for the next few years. They finished 79-81 in 1980 and 52-51 in the strike shortened 1981 but could never quite contend.
The team picture shows “The Mistake By The Lake” Cleveland Stadium in the background while the team itself abandoned the funky “caveman font” and tomahawk C hats and burgundy tops for dull white uniforms, block font and a generic C hat.
It is too bad. This team had too many interesting characters to have such a dull and unmemorable look.
Is there a fan base whose fans are more loyal and shown more dedication than the Miami Marlins? I don’t think so. They suffer and get no sympathy… in fact their very existence is questioned.
That plus I look at the new statue to Jackie Robinson at the Rose Bowl in this Episode of Sully Baseball.
While we are at it, enjoy the In Memoriam video.
The greatness of the 1984 Tigers is still felt in Detroit. They got off to an amazing start, steamrolled through the regular season and lost one single post season game before winning at home. As of this writing, it remains the last World Championship won by the Tigers and the team was filled with players who seemed like they were born with the English D on their chest.
In retrospect it is amazing to see how long the rebuild was and how many of the pieces seemed to be in place years before and years after the lone World Series title and the follow up Division Title in 1987.
This team picture card from 1979 shows the team as it was in 1978. Less Moss is listed as the manager but Ralph Houk was the manager in 1978. Moss took over in the off season but didn’t last the year. After a 27-26 start, the Tigers decided to bring in Sparky Anderson. Tough to argue with that decision.
Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell were already in place at second and short and would remain so into the 1990’s. Lance Parrish and Jack Morris were already on the big league roster.
Every one of them were contributing 7 seasons before they went on to dominate and defeat San Diego in 1984.
Mark Fidrych was still there as well. A shell of the phenom that captivated baseball in 1976, he posted a 5.68 ERA over 9 games and was done. He was only 25. If he had proper rehab, he too would have been celebrating with Morris, Parrish and Trammell in 1984.
It is hard to imaging 1984 being sweeter than it was for Tigers fans, but that could have done the trick.