Finally, with two huge swings of his bat, Kirk Gibson put the 81st World Series out of its misery and sent the Motor City into urban ecstasy -- i.e., riots.
Twice Gibson sent homers deep into the upper deck here in Tiger Stadium this evening. Once, he scored from third on a daring Krazy Kirk dash on a 200-foot pop-up.
When the ragged curtain dropped on this shaggy anti-Classic, the Detroit Tigers had their first World Series triumph since 1968. And Gibson had given an electric five-RBI performance that disguised the esthetic grotesqueries in Detroit's 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres in this fifth and final game.
This last contest of a superb Tiger season combined almost all the proper threads. The Tigers, one of only three wire-to-wire pennant winners in history, closed their show exactly as they began it, winning the Series, four games to one. Detroit started the season 35-5. It went 7-1 in the postseason; multiply that by five. When the Tigers needed to be good, they were great.
All the Tigers' central figures shared the closing stage.
*Gibson, who was the American League playoff MVP and Detroit's hidden superstar all year, hit a 430-foot, two-run homer in the first inning and a 420-foot, three-run blast in their last at bat of the year, turning Trumball Avenue outside Tiger Stadium into a riotous Damnation Alley. For five years Gibson, an all-America football player at Michigan State, has been the symbol of the Tigers' enormous physical potential but unpolished and sometimes uptight play.
*Sparky Anderson became the first manager to win Series in both leagues.
"I'm glad that today we finally played like we can play . . . the saddest thing to me is that my daddy can't be here," said Anderson, who has aged years this season under the double pressures of his father's death in May and his team's everything-to-lose league lead.
*Aurelio Lopez retired all seven men he faced, four of them on strikes, to get the victory and finish a 12-1 year. "This is the most beautiful moment in my life," he said.
*Lopez's fellow superstar reliever, Willie Hernandez, gave up an eighth-inning home run to Kurt Bevacqua that cut Detroit's lead to 5-4 and gave this town heart flutters, but staggered to his 35th save of 1984.
*Lance Parrish greeted reliever Goose Gossage with a seventh-inning homer even as the crowd of 51,901 sang, "Goosebusters."
*Finally, slick shortstop Alan Trammell, who hit .450 against the Padres, won the Series MVP award. "We've really grown the last two years," said Trammell, who's endured many frustrations here in recent years and who, within the next week, will face knee surgery and, perhaps, shoulder surgery as well. No, you never know when you'll pass this Series way again.
It was even fitting that, in a Series in which Bevacqua and Marty Castillo had game-winning homers, the game-winning RBI tonight went to Rusty Kuntz on a tiny pop-up.
Of all these days' fitting scenes, the best scripted was Gibson's three-run homer in the eighth that settled all doubts in this town that has had only one other champion since 1945.
After all the buffoonery of the past week, after the goofball plays and hours of yawnball, Gibson gave this Series an emblematic moment that combined Tiger heroism and incompetence.
Gibson, the Tigers' most physically gifted player, already had smashed a two-run homer in the first inning off Mark Thurmond, who got just one out and thus personified a San Diego starting rotation with a 13.94 World Series ERA. Gibson already had scored the tie-breaking run in the fifth on that meek pop-up by Kuntz that San Diego's right fielder lost in the clouds.
Now, with the Tigers clinging to a 5-4 lead in the eighth with two men on base, Gibson laid his enormous strength into a heater by Gossage. He rocked the ball 20 rows into the right field stands to finish the scoring, finish the Padres and finish a final game that was both exciting and fundamentally awful.
Awful as Garry Templeton standing inches from second base but forgetting to put his foot on the bag on what should have been a force play, two batters before Gibson's homer.
Awful as pinch runner Luis Salazar, the potential tying run, taking it upon himself to steal and getting picked off in the Padres' eighth.
Awful as Anderson yanking Lopez when he was overpoweringly sharp and replacing him with a tired Hernandez, who blew his two-run lead.
Awful as Padres Manager Dick Williams replacing a razor-sharp Craig Lefferts (two shutout innings and a 0.00 October ERA) in mid-inning after a strikeout so he could wave for Gossage, who had a 13.50 Series ERA. "If I had just done my job," Gossage said, "we probably would still be playing now."
The worst of all the awful decisions was the last. Williams actually had ordered that Gibson be walked with first base open. However, Gossage summoned his manager and talked him out of the rational move and into the emotional "I can get this guy, Skip," school of baseball.
Poor Andy Hawkins, who allowed one run in 12 Series innings, may have taken the loss, pinned on him by Kuntz's "sacrifice fly," but Thurmond and Gossage were the real culprits.
This game was a prototype of the whole Series in almost every way.
The Tigers scored three runs in the first inning, the eighth straight time that they took the lead in this postseason with runs in the first (six times) or second innings.
Lou Whitaker singled, Trammell forced him and Gibson sent the first pitch -- a waist-high gopher ball -- 15 rows into the upper deck far above the 370-foot sign. Parrish, Larry Herndon and Chet Lemon singled, sending Thurmond to the shower.
As has been the case throughout the postseason, the Padres showed their grit in battling back -- this time to a 3-3 tie. Steve Garvey, who'd managed only one RBI in 17 Series games, drove home a run off subpar starter Dan Petry with a two-out infield hit in the third. In the fourth, Bevacqua walked, Templeton doubled, Bobby Brown lined a sacrifice fly to center and Wiggins delivered a two-out RBI single to throw the game back to square one.
If this game had one key play, besides Gibson's turn-out-the-lights homer, it came in the Tigers' fifth.
Gibson -- who else? -- smashed a hit off the glove of diving Graig Nettles at third, then alertly took second on a long fly by Parrish. Herndon walked and, with Lefferts in the game, so did Lemon to load the bases.
Kuntz, a .234 hitter this year and the most unlikely of heroes, lofted his pop-up to short right. Gwynn never moved: "Lost it when it got above the roof." Instead of Gwynn cruising in for an easy catch and quick throw to the plate (on which no runner would have tried to move), Wiggins had to make a backpedaling catch and a weak off-balance throw to the plate.
Gibson, once among the game's worst base runners and still its most aggressive one, scored easily for a 4-3 lead.
All that remained was the overmanaging sweepstakes.
Williams waved for Gossage as Lefferts finished his 10th consecutive inning of shutout pitching with a whiff of Gibson to start the seventh. Parrish's liner over the left field scoreboard on Gossage's second pitch made it 5-3.
Anderson countered with a parallel gaffe. Lopez had been perfect, but he wanted better. Hernandez entered and started throwing line drives. One was caught, one by Bevacqua went into the upper deck in left and one was a single. That 5-4 lead didn't look a bit safe.
That's why the Tigers' eighth mattered so much. Gossage walked the leadoff man. Templeton fell asleep and never put his foot on second as Nettles made a great play to get the lead man on Whitaker's sacrifice attempt. Trammell moved the runners with a bunt.
Then came the obligatory walk to Gibson and the battle between Gossage and Parrish.
It never happened. Anderson held up four fingers to Gibson, meaning, "They're going to walk you." Gibson put up 10 fingers, meaning, "Ten dollars says they don't and I get a hit." Anderson took the bet. Smart man.
Two pitches later, a fellow who probably shouldn't have gotten to swing was this town's hero of heroes.
Detroit could dig in trashing itself and a comedy classic had ended.