January 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Lynn Henning

1984 Tigers baffled by Hall of Fame snub

Jack Morris has just one year of eligibility remaining to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the writers. It is unlikely they will do so. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Considering Sparky Anderson's plaque was hoisted in 2000 at Cooperstown, N.Y., the 1984 world champion Tigers haven't thrown a complete shutout in cracking baseball's Hall of Fame.

But it's a curiosity unique to those skilled Tigers teams of the 1980s that Anderson, a manager, has been enshrined while none of his players has measured up.

Wednesday's tallies made it one more year in which Jack Morris and Alan Trammell failed to get the minimum 75 percent of votes necessary for Hall of Fame entry. Lou Whitaker missed a decade ago in getting even five percent of the vote required to earn another look from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who handle each year's Hall of Fame vote.

Lance Parrish. Darrell Evans. Kirk Gibson. Willie Hernandez. Neither did they, in past years, get a serious look from voters who, at various times over the decades, have elected Ralph Kiner, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter.

"I don't know, I honestly just don't know," Parrish, the towering Tigers catcher from the team's 1980s heyday, was saying Wednesday, speaking about the Tigers as much as about an election that saw nobody win induction for 2013.

"As far as our guys, I think Jack should be in, and Tram should be in, and I think Lou should be given a lot more consideration, just to name three guys off the top of my head. If they're not in, they should be very near the top. And, personally, I think Jack should be in right now."

On the borderline

Speaking from southern California, where he was traveling with his wife, Arlyne, Parrish was as confused as some of his old teammates as to why the '84 Tigers have been that rare championship team minus a Hall of Fame player.

"When you look at those years, we had some good seasons, but we won only one world championship," Parrish said of the 1980s, when the Tigers led all of baseball in victories. "We had some good players, but probably nobody on our team would you automatically say: 'He's a definite Hall of Famer.'

"We have a lot of borderline guys who, depending upon the mood of the voters, might yet have a chance. But I still believe Jack should be in the Hall of Fame. I saw how he stacked up against the best pitchers in the game, and that's Hall of Fame stuff."

There were no disagreements from Tom Brookens and Dan Petry. Nor was there any deep outrage from players who, like Parrish, agree the 1984 world champions were the embodiment of a talented, cohesive gang that featured a balance of blue-chip performers more than it flaunted superstars.

"I don't know if I have an answer as to why Tigers players don't seem to warrant Hall of Fame votes," said Brookens, who played third base on Anderson's '80s teams and who is now the team's third-base coach. "Maybe we were just a good team with a team concept and no one feels that there were any Hall of Fame players there.

"I certainly believe Jack and Tram both are worthy of Cooperstown, just as I understand it's truly an elite group of guys in the Hall, and it needs to stay that way. But, sometimes, I think it almost becomes too elite — that some guys who deserve to be there are passed on."

Just one title

Petry is in line with his Tigers brethren. He pitched in the same starting rotation as Morris. He won a championship ring. He was part of a nucleus that arrived from 1979-80 and stoked Detroit's '80s baseball bonfire.

He is mystified. But in playing the devil's advocate, Petry also can acknowledge the difficulty in crashing Cooperstown.

"It's such a good question," he said, "but the only thing that jumps out at me is: Did people expect the Tigers to win more championships, all because we had guys like Jack, Tram, and Lou, who played together for so long? Lance, you can put him in there, too, and make a case for him and the Hall."

ESPN was in its infancy during the 1980s. Games were not regularly televised even on the Tigers network. There was no Internet. Sabermetrics that today guide many voters were obscure and even mistrusted.

And yet it's intriguing, if not bewildering: How could teams so good for so long have failed to place at least one man in baseball's eternal shrine?

"I just don't understand it," Parrish said, in that familiar soft-toned voice. "I don't get it."

lynn.henning@detnews.com

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Jack Morris has just one year of eligibility remaining to be voted into ... (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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