There are a lot of good choices, no doubt, from the '68 series, to the '76 Fidrych game vs. the Yankees, the '84 series, the '87 AL East Clincher, some dubious 90's fare, the 2006 post-season, and Justin Verlander's no-hitter.
I've got good stories from two of these games. Today, I'll share my tale from the 1987 divisional clinching game vs. the Blue Jays on October 4. Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on Justin Verlander's no-hitter.
In 1987, I was a freshman at the University of Michigan (don't do the math, let's just say I'm right behind Sheffield, knocking on 40's door). When we saw that the division was going to come down to the last day of the season, that it was between us and the Jays, and we were playing the Jays--creating essentially a play-in game situation, we knew we had to score some tickets to that game. I even managed to hype up one of my best new friends from my dorm hall, who could have cared less about baseball. We knew our only shot was at bleacher seats, which didn't go on sale until game day. My friend's roommate had a car, and so the four of us set off--me, my friend, her roommate and the roommate's boyfriend. We left Ann Arbor at about 7:30 am, and arrived at the Stadium around 8:30 to sit out for seats. The line was already half way around the stadium. Tickets didn't go on sale until 11:00 if I remember right. We were pretty sure we were in a spot to get tickets, but anxiously discussed our chances as we waited it out. As we got close to the ticket window, we tasted victory, and entered the stadium with near euphoria.
You know how rowdy the bleachers could get at Tiger Stadium, but it was all good, playoff-vibe rowdy. Before the game even started, some Tigers fans tossed around a stuffed animal Blue Jay, disemboweling it as a symbolic gesture of what we were about to do to the real Jays. Frank Tanana stepped on the mound, and into a pitcher's duel extraordinaire. The game was in the 8th inning, 1-0, fraught with nervous tension, when my friend's roommate, our driver, says we better get going to avoid getting caught in traffic. I was so caught off guard, I could only stare blankly in stunned disbelief. We could not be leaving this game, it's 1-0, we'll be going to the playoffs if we win, we CANNOT leave this game, is this some kind of demented joke? Well, you can guess the rest, she was dead serious, and they dragged me out. I remember looking bleakly through the fence at the action as we walked down the ramp. Sitting in the back seat riding back to UM, I stewed and fumed, listening to us win the division on the radio. I don't know why I didn't just take a taxi 45 miles back to my dorm. I guess it just sounded too extravagant, too impossible for me to pull off by myself in Detroit. My poor friend had to listen to me rant and rave for days over the incident, but she sympathized, though probably secretly thinking me a crazed zealot.
Perhaps this experience taught me to always drive myself to the game, issuing a stern warning to any passengers that we're not leaving early, no matter what. I'll bet some of the Boston fans who left the ALCS comeback game against the Rays this year are living with massive guilt, shame and regret. I'll always live with the pain of leaving that 1987 game, but at least I have the consoling thought that it was against my will.