Morris’ no-hitter gets Tigers’ historic ’84 season rolling

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

It was the first Saturday of the 1984 season, and NBC Sports sent their primary crew to Comiskey Park to broadcast that day’s Tigers vs. White Sox matchup.

With wins in their first three games, Detroit was in the initial stages of a run that would take them to a remarkable 35-5 start to the season. And while no one could have predicted the Tigers’ incredible stretch of wins, Jack Morris gave the Game of the Week audience on April 7, 1984, a taste of what was to come by pitching a no-hitter.

In front of 24,616 shivering fans, Morris fanned Ron Kittle with a trademark split-fingered fastball – Morris’ 120th pitch of the game – to wrap up Detroit’s 4-0 victory.

“Got him swinging and he has his no-hitter!” NBC’s Vin Scully announced as Morris proudly walked off the mound before embracing catcher Lance Parrish.

For the next six months, the Tigers seemed to ride the wave of emotion that first surfaced that day in Chicago.

“Eighty-four was a magical year,” Morris told FOX Sports. “I was at the peak of my career, and even though it was a cool, windy day in Chicago, it was invigorating. I just felt so positive. The team was on a roll.”

Morris had started Detroit’s Opening Day game just four days earlier, working seven innings and allowing just one run in an 8-1 win over Minnesota. Returning on three days’ rest to face the White Sox, Morris walked six batters but struck out eight.

With the Tigers leading 2-0 after a Chet Lemon two-run homer in the second inning, Morris faced his biggest challenge in the fourth. He walked Rudy Law, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines to begin the frame, loading the bases with nobody out. But Morris got Greg Luzinski to ground into a 1-2-3 double play that forced Law at home plate, then fanned Kittle to end the threat.

The White Sox never put more than one runner on base in any inning after that.

“That was the turning point of the game,” Morris told the Associated Press. “You know, you need a lot of luck to pitch a no-hitter or even a shutout. I’ve had better stuff before.”

Following Morris’ escape act in the fourth inning, the Tigers put two more runs on the board in the fifth on a Kirk Gibson double and a Lou Whitaker RBI fielder’s choice. At that point, Morris – one of the game’s best finishers – was in control.

He got some help from his manager, however, when Sparky Anderson put Dave Bergman in the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement for Barbaro Garbey at first base. With Luzinski on first and one out, Tom Paciorek hit a liner headed to right field that Bergman caught while leaping.

Then in the eighth inning, Bergman snagged a hot grounder hit by Jerry Hairston, falling to the ground before flipping the ball to Morris to record the force out.

“Any time someone is going for a no-hitter, you have to dive for balls,” Bergman told the AP. “I’m just happy for Jack that the ball went into my glove.”

The no-hitter was the fifth in Tigers history and the first since Jim Bunning’s gem on July 20, 1958. It also tied the then-record for the earliest no-hitter, originally set by Houston’s Ken Forsch on April 7, 1979, vs. the Braves.

“I had a few walks, and there was nervous moments,” Morris said. “But somehow, I weathered through it.”

The Tigers went on to win the World Series that season, completing one of the most dominant seasons in history.

Morris was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series