Just a year ago, of course, the A's and Tigers faced off in a memorable Division Series, which featured Justin Verlander giving up just one run over two games and 16 innings. In 2006, the Tigers swept the A's in the Championship Series. But their only other postseason match-up came way back in 1972, and that one was really memorable.
In the opener, the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 10th. Detroit ace Mickey Lolich returned to the mound to finish the game. But after giving up a couple of singles, Lolich was yanked in favor of Chuck Seelbach. After a failed sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Gonzalo Marquez -- who'd picked up only eight hits during the regular season, and would finish his whole career with 27 hits -- poked a single through the right side of the infield. The tying runner crossed the plate, and the winning runner scooted home when Al Kaline's throw to third base went awry.
In Game 2, Oakland's Blue Moon Odom pitched a three-hit shutout. Also, Campy Campaneris retaliated against Detroit pitcher Lerrin LaGrow by throwing his bat at LaGrow, which nearly precipitated a Billy Martin-led riot on the field.
In Game 3, Detroit's Joe Coleman struck out 14 A's on his way to a shutout.
Game 4 was even wilder than Game 2, as the A's took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 10th, only to fumble around and lose when the Tigers scored thrice in the bottom of the 10th.
Which set up the second Game 5 in League Championship Series history (the first had come 24 hours earlier). With Odom starting for the A's, the Tigers went ahead 1-0 in the first. That was all they would get. In the second, the A's tied the game when Reggie Jackson stole home on a play you just don't see any more:
(source: MLB Productions)
Jackson tore his hamstring on the play, and would miss the World Series. The A's wouldn't really miss Reggie, though. In the fourth inning, his replacement, George Hendrick, scored the go-ahead run. And the A's would ultimately top the Reds in a seven-game World Series.
But that would come later. Odom, complaining of breathing problems, exited after five innings. Erstwhile ace Vida Blue, demoted to the bullpen in the series by manager Alvin Dark, entered the game and tossed four shutout innings to earn perhaps the most impressive save in postseason history. Meanwhile, "Play was stopped several times while the field was cleared of debris, dispensed by raucous young fans who flung smoke bombs, firecrackers and rolls of toilet paper."
Starting pitchers working into the 11th inning, relief pitchers going four innings, bat-throwing, stealing home, smoke bombs, Billy Martin ... It was baseball, for sure. But in many ways, it was a different game.