The Top 50 Greatest Detroit Tigers of All-Time: 20-11

We get ever closer in our pursuit of number one! Let’s begin with number 20!

20. Harvey Kuenn

 Harvey Kuenn

1952-1959, Shortstop/Outfield

Career with Detroit: .314 AVG, 53 HR, 423 RBI, 620 R, 51 SB, 1372 H, 322 BB, .360 OBP, .426 SLG

1959: .353 BA, 9 HR, 71 RBI, 198 H, 99 R, 48 BB, .402 OBP, .501 SLG

  • 8x All-Star (’53-’58, ’59 twice)
  • AL Rookie of the Year (1953)
  • AL Batting Champion (1959)

Harvey Kuenn debuted for the Detroit Tigers in 1952 and was immediately installed as the team’s starting shortstop at age 22 late in the season. His first full season as a Tiger set the pace for the rest of his tenure in Detroit, as he hit for excellent average (.308), accumulated 209 hits, and set a rookie record for singles in a season (167). He was also named an All-Star in ’53 and was an All-Star for the rest of his years in Detroit. Kuenn was named American League Rookie of the Year in ’53 and formed a powerful duo with Al Kaline in 1955. However, in an attempt to shake up the team and inject new life into the franchise, General Manager Bill DeWitt sent Kuenn to Cleveland for slugging outfielder Rocky Colavito. Kuenn fizzled as an Indian and recovered as a veteran in the National League, ultimately retiring in 1966. He managed the Brewers from 1982 to ’83 and lost the ’82 World Series in the franchise’s only World Series appearance. Kuenn passed away in 1988 at his home in Peoria, Arizona. He was 57.

19. Bill Freehan

 Bill Freehan

1961-1976, Catcher

Career with Detroit: .262 AVG, 195 HR, 731 RBI, 684 R, 24 SB, 1527 H, 614 BB, .341 OBP, .418 SLG

1964: .300 BA, 18 HR, 80 RBI, 156 H, 69 R, 36 BB, .350 OBP, .462 SLG

  • 11x All-Star (’64-’75)
  • World Series champion (1968)
  • 5x Gold Glove winner (’65-’68)

Bill Freehan is considered by some to be part of the great catching tradition that exists in the Detroit Tigers organization. Born in Detroit, Freehan was a hometown boy who had achieved notoriety as a college slugger in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. He made the team in 1963 and shared duties with the incumbent catcher, Gus Triandos, who was traded before ’64. He batted .300 in 1964 and earned the first of his ten consecutive All-Star appearances. The following year, he earned his first Gold Glove award. Freehan was considered the premier catcher in the American League and proved the speculations true when he was the quiet, steady leader of the 1968 World Series championship team. In the fifth inning of Game 5, he was involved in a controversial play with Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock in which he blocked the plate and prevented him from scoring. The Tigers would prevail in a seven-game classic. Freehan played his entire career in Detroit, retiring in 1976. He coached Lance Parrish during his tenure with the team in the 1980s and eventually coached at the University of Michigan from 1989 to 1995. He’s since spent his retirement in quiet enjoyment.

18. Jack Morris

Jack Morris

1977-1990, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 198-150, 3.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 1980 SO, 154 CG, 24 SHO, 3039.2 IP

1986: 21-8, 3.27 ERA, 223 SO, 15 CG, 6 SHO, 267 IP

  • 4x All-Star (’81, ’84, ’85, ’87)
  • World Series champion (1984)
  • No-hitter (1984)
  • AL Wins leader (1981)
  • AL Strikeout Champion (1983)
  • AL Shutouts Champion (1986)
  • Opening Day starter from ’80-‘90
  • All-time Tigers wild pitches leader
  • All-time Tigers balks leader
  • All-time Tigers leader in leading the team in wins (’79-’88, ’90)

Jack Morris is among the best starting pitchers the Tigers have had in recent memory. Debuting in 1977 after Mark Fidrych succumbed to injury, he took hold in the rotation in 1979 and didn’t look back. Along with Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish, and manager Sparky Anderson, the Tigers were slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Already well established as the ace of the Tigers and among the best pitchers in the AL, Morris threw a no-hitter on April 7, 1984. This was among the highlights of the ’84 season as Morris and Detroit celebrated a World Series title. Morris had an incredible season in 1986 but was overshadowed by the performance of the young Roger Clemens. He was a classic big game pitcher with a 7-1 record in nine postseason starts. He would leave the Tigers for the Minnesota Twins in 1991 and won two more championships before retiring in 1994. His candidacy for the Hall of Fame is still disputed as he was shutout of Cooperstown this past January in his 14th season of eligibility.

17. Miguel Cabrera

 Miguel Cabrera

2008-present, Third/First Base

Career with Detroit: .323 AVG, 183 HR, 600 RBI, 512 R, 16 SB, 960 H, 387 BB, .401 OBP, .579 SLG

2012: .330 AVG, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 205 H, 109 R, 66 BB, .393 OBP, .606 SLG

  • AL Triple Crown (2012)
  • AL MVP (2012)
  • 2x AL HR Champion (’08, ’12)
  • 2x AL RBI Champion (’10, ’12)
  • 2x AL Batting Champion (’11, ’12)
  • 3x All-Star (’10-’12)
  • 2x Silver Slugger (’10, ’12)

Miguel Cabrera is among the most widely recognized and beloved Tigers on the current roster. Cabrera’s 2012 MVP season is considered among the best by any player in recent memory but Miggy’s been putting up similar numbers since he put on the Tiger uniform. Cabrera came to the Tigers before the 2008 season in a blockbuster trade for a large package of prospects. Since then, Miguel has dominated the American League and is among the most feared hitters in baseball. Defensively, he struggled at third base before transitioning to first base in 2010. However, he slimmed down and is back at third playing better defense than he has before. Cabrera is expected to be offered an extension to stay a Tiger for life and his candidacy for the Hall of Fame would be a strong one: he has 1,802 hits before age 30.

16. Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander

2005-present, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 124-65, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1454 SO, 20 CG, 6 SHO, 1553.2 IP

2011: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 SO, 4 CG, 2 SHO, 250 IP

  • 5x All-Star (’07, ’09-’12)
  • AL Rookie of the Year (2006)
  • AL MVP (2011)
  • AL Cy Young (2011)
  • Pitching Triple Crown (2011)
  • AL Strikeout Champion (’09, ’11, ’12)
  • 2 No-Hitters (’07, ’11)

Justin Verlander, much like Miguel Cabrera, is among the most dominant at his position. Verlander, originally drafted out of Old Dominion in ’04, starred as a rookie in 2006 and excelled winning the AL Rookie of the Year and starting Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. He’s averaged 18 wins per season and since 2010 has been considered by many as “the best pitcher on the planet.” He’s thrown two no-hitters in his career: 2007 against Milwaukee, 2011 against Toronto. Verlander’s 2011 season was one for the ages as he won 24 games, struckout 250, and had a 2.40 ERA. He was named Cy Young and MVP in ’11 and was the Cy Young runner up in 2012. No pitcher in Major League history is as decorated as Verlander: he has ever been named the Rookie of the Year, a Cy Young award winner, an MVP, and been named to an All-Star team. His personal life has since been in the headlines since 2011 and the media has continually linked him to supermodel Kate Upton. Verlander is expected to be offered an extension to stay a Tiger but his talent alone could warrant a $200 million dollar plus contract.

15. Lou Whitaker

 Lou Whitaker

1977-1995, Second Base

Career with Detroit: .276 AVG, 244 HR, 1084 RBI, 2369 H, 1386 R, 1197 BB, .363 OBP, .426 SLG

1983: .320 AVG, 12 HR, 72 RBI, 206 H, 94 R, 67 BB, .380 OBP, .457 SLG

  • 5x All-Star (’83-’87)
  • World Series champion (1984)
  • 3x Gold Glove winner (’83-’85)
  • 4x Silver Slugger (’83-’85, ’87)
  • AL Rookie of the Year (1978)

Sweet Lou was one half of MLB’s longest double play combination. Whitaker was originally paired with Alan Trammell in Double-A Montgomery and they both were starters in the infield by the beginning of 1978. Whitaker won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1978 and had his best season in 1983. He was a part of an infield that hit 20 home runs each in 1986 and his above-average defense set the bar high for second basement to come. Whitaker was also one of the very few players to hit a ball of the roof of Tiger Stadium. There were some strange stories surrounding him during his career. He never stood, removed his hat, or acknowledged the American flag during the National Anthem. His uniform was forgotten while on his trip to the 1985 All-Star Game in Minneapolis. He had to purchase a novelty blank Tiger jersey at a department store and an adjustable mesh hat to play in for the All-Star Game. Despite these mishaps, Whitaker is among the most underrated players in baseball history. He failed to get 5% of the vote for the Hall of Fame and has been off the ballot since. He’ll be eligible for the Hall in 2015 despite having favorably comparable numbers to Ryne Sandberg and Barry Larkin.

14. Mickey Cochrane

 Mickey Cochrane

1934-1937, Catcher

Career with Detroit: .313 AVG, 11 HR, 152 RBI, 218 R, 14 SB, 335 H, 245 BB, .444 OBP, .430 SLG

1934: .320 AVG, 2 HR, 76 RBI, 140 H, 74 R, 78 BB, .428 OBP, .412 SLG

  • 2x All-Star (’34, ’35)
  • World Series champion (1935)
  • AL MVP (1934)
  • Detroit Tiger Hall of Famer (1947)

Cochrane’s tenure with the Tigers was short but ultimately considered legendary. So much so, that he’s in the Hall of Fame as a Tiger. Cochrane was already considered the best catcher in the Major Leagues by 1926 and by 1934 he was sold to the Tigers in a firesale from the Philadelphia A’s. He was immediately made player-manager and was part of an incredible lineup that already included Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, and Goose Goslin. Runners up in ’34, he regrouped the team and made a run of it in ’35 where the Tigers were triumphant over the Cubs in the World Series. Cochrane was forced to stop playing when he was hit in the head with a pitch in 1937. He was in the hospital for a week and the incident was a major reason for the institution of helmets for batters. Cochrane managed the Tigers into the ’38 season but was replaced before September. He served in WWII despite his head injury and spent the rest of his retirement, with a low profile. He died in 1962 from lymphatic cancer due to his smoking habits.

13. Tommy Bridges

 Tommy Bridges

1930-1946, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 194-138, 3.57 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1674 SO, 200 CG, 33 SHO, 2826.1 IP, 10 SV

1936: 23-11, 3.60 ERA, 175 SO, 26 CG, 5 SHO, 294.2 IP

  • 6x All-Star (’34-’40)
  • 2x World Series champion (’35, ’45)

Thomas “Tommy” Bridges was one of the best curveball pitchers in the Live Ball Era. Bridges joined the Tigers in 1930 and got Babe Ruth to groundout in his first Major League pitch. He came close to a perfect game in August of 1932 but gave up a hit on the last out. However, he wouldn’t really reach his potential until the 1934 season which brought success to the team as a whole. He went 22-11 in 1934 to help the Tigers win the AL Pennant. He defeated Dizzy Dean in a pitching duel in the World Series but the Cardinals ultimate got the best of the Tigers, winning in seven games. In 1935, Bridges had another very strong season, going 21-10 and pitching a complete game victory in the Series-clinching game. In 1936, he would lead the AL in wins (23) and eventually gave up Babe Ruth’s 700th home run. Bridges missed all of ’44 due to military service and came back to pitch in ’45. He and Hank Greenberg are the only two Tigers to play in four World Series. Bridges finished his career in 1946 but his retirement was marred by his alcoholism. He died in Nashville, Tennessee in 1968 at age 61.

12. George Mullin

  George Mullin

1902-1913, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 209-179, 2.76 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 1380 SO, 336 CG, 34 SHO, 3394 IP, 6 SV

1909: 29-8, 2.22 ERA, 124 SO, 29 CG, 3 SHO, 303.2 IP

  • AL wins champion (1909)
  • AL winning % leader (1909)
  • 7th on all-time assists list (pitchers)
  • 25th on all-time complete games list
  • 65th on all-time wins list
  • All-time Tigers innings pitched leader
  • No-hitter (1912-franchise first)
  • Won 20 or more games in five seasons

Only the most hardcore of Tiger fans would recognize this man’s name. Mr. George Mullin was the francise’s first true “aces”. Mullin signed with the Tigers in 1902 and was immediately one of the stars on the newly formed franchise. He was known as a hard-throwing, workhorse, who sometimes struggle with his control earlier in his career. (Kinda reminds you of Justin Verlander, you know?) Mullin was even more of a workhorse than Verlander, however, as he leads the franchise in innings pitched, both for a career and in a single season. Mullin’s best season was in 1909 in which he threw a one-hitter on Opening Day and then won eleven consecutive games. He didn’t lose until June and led the AL in winning percentage. In 1912, he pitched the first game ever at Navin Field (later known as Tiger Stadium), earned his 200th career victory over Washington’s Walter Johnson, and threw the franchise’s first no-hitter. However, he struggled in 1913 and was sold, rather quickly, to the Washington Senators. He played semi-professional baseball until 1915 when he retired. Mullin passed away in 1944 at age 63 and was posthumously inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1962.

11. Bobby Veach

 Bobby Veach

1912-1923, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .331 AVG, 59 HR, 1042 RBI, 859 R, 189 SB, 1859 H, 512 BB, .370 OBP, .444 SLG

1921: .338 AVG, 16 HR, 128 RBI, 207 H, 110 R, 48 BB, .387 OBP, .529 SLG

  • 2x AL RBI Champion (’15, ’17, ’18)
  • Hit for the cycle (1920)

Bobby Veach was yet another forgotten Tiger from yesteryear. Debuting in 1912, he played in left field alongside three future Hall of Famers (Ty Cobb in center field, Sam Crawford and later, Harry Heilmann in right field). Veach was impressive as a hitter and he had more RBIs and extra base hits than anyone in baseball from 1915-1922. Veach was constantly in the top 5 in offensive categories, mostly trailing Cobb, Crawford, and Babe Ruth. Defensively, Veach had an incredibly arm in left field. His 206 career assists are in the top 10 for left fielders. Veach was sold to the Red Sox in 1924 for reasons still unknown. He played for a few more teams before retiring in 1925. Bobby passed away in 1945 in Detroit after battling a “long illness.” He was 57. He’s buried in Troy, MI.

We are ever so close to both number one on our list and Opening Day! I’ll release the final 10 on Opening Day, the morning before the game. Stay tuned and Go Tigers!

(Update: Virgil Trucks passed away on March 24, after I published him on our list at #35. He was the last remaining member of the 1945 World Series championship team and was the oldest living former Tiger. Rest in peace, Virgil.)

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The Top 50 Greatest Detroit Tigers of All-Time: 30-21

This could be the most unknown group of Tigers on this list. Most of them are from yesteryear (1903 -1980) and many didn’t play for Detroit exceptionally long. But these next ten will illuminate what has been an otherwise, unknown section of the list.

30. John Hiller

John Hiller

1965-1980, Relief Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 87-76, 2.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 1036 SO, 13 SHO, 6 CG, 1242 IP, 125 SV

1973: 10-5, 1.44 ERA, 124 K, 38 SV, 125.1 IP

  • All-Star (1974)
  • World Series champion (1968)
  • AL Comeback Player of the Year (1973)

John Hiller was the ultimate reliever to have in the Tiger bullpen throughout the 70s. Hiller could be the long man, make a spot start, face a lefty, set up for a closer, or close himself. Debuting in 1965, he didn’t have a very big role with the club until 1967. He posted good numbers in 1968 but struggled in the World Series against the Cardinals. However, the Tigers would overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the Series. He suffered a heart attack in 1971 and was out for ’71 and part of ’72 before making a return down the stretch and in the playoffs against Oakland. A strong season in 1973 earned him AL Comeback Player of the Year. He would continue to pitch into the 70s, ultimately retiring in 1980 with the club record for most appearances by a left-handed pitcher. He’s spent his retirement out of the spotlight, running an insurance business. He lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Lynette.

29. Gee Walker

Gee Walker

1931-1937, Left/Center Field

Career with Detroit: .317 AVG, 61 HR, 468 RBI, 475 R, 132 SB, 966 H, 140 BB, .351 OBP, .469 SLG

1937: .335 BA, 18 HR, 113 RBI, 213 H, 105 R, 41 BB, .380 OBP, .499 SLG

  • All-Star (1937)
  • World Series champion (1935)

Gee Walker was among the most appreciated characters during the dominant Tiger teams of the 30s. Born in Mississippi, he eventually was nicknamed “The Madman from Mississippi” for his intense competitiveness and wisecracking antics. He debuted in 1931 with the Tigers and was instantly a crowd favorite. He batted .300 or better in five of his first seven seasons and was an excellent but overzealous basestealer. He hit for the cycle on Opening Day in 1937, the only player to do so. The Tigers traded Walker before the 1938 season and the city was outraged. Unfortunately for Walker, he was never really the player he was in Detroit and bounced around with four other teams before retiring in 1945.  He was a coach for Cincinnati in 1946 but left baseball after one year of coaching. He passed away in 1981 at the age of 73.

28. Vic Wertz

1947-1952, Right Field

Career with Detroit: .286 AVG, 109 HR, 512 RBI, 443 R, 5 SB, 798 H, 395 BB, .377 OBP, .477 SLG

1950: .308 BA, 27 HR, 123 RBI, 172 H, 99 R, 91 BB, .408 OBP, .533 SLG

  • 3x All-Star (’49, ’51, ’52)

Wertz is known by many as the man who’s flyball was chased down by Willie Mays in the ’54 World Series but before then he had a successful career with the Tigers. Vic debuted in 1947 and would hit for the cycle as a rookie. He would be among the better hitters for the Tigers in the late 40s and early 50s but was eventually traded to the Browns in an 8-player trade in 1952. He was nothing short of steady and his personality didn’t stand out much but he bridged the gap between the great Tiger teams of the 40s and the emergence of a new generation of Tiger teams, beginning with Al Kaline who would debut the following year. Wertz retired in 1963 and worked in Detroit for a beer distribution company. He died in 1983 as a result of complications of heart surgery. He was 58 years old.

27. Heinie Manush

Heinie Manush

1923-1927, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .297 AVG, 38 HR, 345 RBI, 385 R, 48 SB, 624 H, 149 BB, .292 OBP, .451 SLG

1926: .378 BA, 14 HR, 86 RBI, 188 H, 95 R, 31 BB, .421 OBP, .564 SLG

  • All-Star (1934)
  • AL Batting Champion (1926)
  • Detroit Tiger Hall of Fame (1964)

Heinie Manush was among the best hitters for the Tigers during his short tenure with the club. Manush made his Major League debut in 1923 and shared the outfield with Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, and Bobby Veach. Manush had a superb 1926 season and finished second in both slugging percentage and on-base percentage, behind Babe Ruth. Manush’s tenure in Detroit was kept short, however, as he was traded after the 1927 season. Manush had a successful career after his stint in Detroit and compiled over 2500 hits. He retired in 1939 after a 17 year career. Heinie was a scout for the Braves after World War II and served as a coach for the Washington Senators in the mid 50s. Manush was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Detroit Tiger by the Veterans Committee in 1964 but passed away in 1971 at the age of 69 in Sarasota, Florida.

26. Pete Fox

Pete Fox

1933-1940, Right Field

Career with Detroit: .302 AVG, 59 HR, 493 RBI, 620 R, 107 SB, 1182 H, 279 BB, .351 OBP, .438 SLG

1937: .331 BA, 12 HR, 82 RBI, 208 H, 116 R, 41 BB, .372 OBP, .476 SLG

  • World Series champion (1935)

Pete Fox was an integral part of the success of the Tigers in the 30s. Fox began his career in 1933 and posted a .288 batting average as a rookie in centerfield. However, he would move over to right field in 1934 and would stay there for the rest of his career. He led the league in outfield double plays and assists in ’34 and was known for his rocket arm and deadly aim. After losing in the World Series in ’34, he would come back stronger than ever in ’35 and hit a career high 15 home runs. He would accumulate 10 RBI over both games of a double header and also had a 29 game hitting streak during June and July of ’35. He left the Tigers in a move to acquire cash and spent the rest of his career with the Boston Red Sox before retiring in 1945. He lived until 1966 when he passed away at age 57 from cancer in Detroit.

25. Goose Goslin

Goose Goslin

1934-1937, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .298 AVG, 50 HR, 369 RBI, 346 R, 24 SB, 582 H, 241 BB, .383 OBP, .462 SLG

1936: .315 BA, 24 HR, 125 RBI, 180 H, 122 R, 85 BB, .403 OBP, .526 SLG

  • All-Star (1936)
  • World Series champion (1935)

Goslin established himself in the Major Leagues, long before he came to Detroit but still has a prominent place in Tiger history. Goose came to Detroit in a trade with the Washington Senators in 1934. A part of the G-Men (Goslin, Greenberg, Gehringer), he would form a fearsome triumvirate with two other future Hall of Famers to take the American League by storm. Despite falling short in ’34, Goslin came back strong in 1935 and the Tigers were back in the World Series. Goslin actually delivered the championship to Detroit when he singled to drive in the game-winning and Series-winning run. He played for Detroit until 1938 when he finished his career with Washington. Goslin was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Senator in 1968. He spent his retirement in the boating business on Delaware Bay until his death in 1971. He was 70.

24. Ed Killian

Ed Killian

1904-1910, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 100-74, 2.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 498 SO, 142 CG, 19 SHO, 1536.2 IP, 4 SV

1904: 25-13, 1.78 ERA, 96 K, 29 CG, 3 SHO, 314 IP

  • 24th on all-time ERA list
  • 1st on all-time fewest home runs allowed list
  • AL leader in shutouts (1907)
  • AL winning % leader (’05-’07)

Edwin Henry Killian, nicknamed Twilight Ed, was among the first dominant pitchers the Tigers had in franchise history. Killian was traded to the Tigers in 1903 from the Cleveland Naps and was an instant star. He was the victim of a poor offense and lost 20 games in his first season with Detroit, despite having a 2.44 ERA. Killian battled the great Cy Young in a memorable 14-inning showdown before the Red Sox scored the game’s only run. In 1907, he won both games of a double header against Connie Mack’s Athletics to clinch the American League pennant but was burnt out for the World Series as the Tigers fell to the Cubs in a sweep. He retired after the 1910 season and passed away in 1928 in Detroit at 51 years old.

23. Denny McLain

Denny McLain

1963-1970, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 117-62, 3.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 1150 SO, 94 CG, 26 SHO, 1593 IP, 1 SV

1968: 31-6, 1.96 ERA, 280 K, 28 CG, 6 SHO, 336 IP

  • 3x All-Star (’66, ’68, ’69)
  • World Series champion (1968)
  • AL MVP (1968)
  • 2x AL Cy Young (’68, ’69)

Denny McLain was one of the best Rule 5 draft steals in MLB history. Originally drafted by the White Sox out of high school in 1962, Chicago left him unprotected in the minor leagues and the Tigers scooped him up. He made his debut in September 1963 at 19 and pitched well for a teenager. He was up and down between the Majors and minors for the next few years and was finally a staple in the rotation by 1967. He was called upon to pitch the final, tie-breaking game of ’67 season but was ineffective due to an injury to his foot. He returned in 1968 and had, what some consider to be, the greatest season by a pitcher in the modern era. No pitcher since then has come close to McLain’s 31 victories and contributed so largely to a team’s success. He was named the AL MVP and Cy Young award winner but struggled in the World Series. After the triumph in ’68, he had another Cy Young worthy season in ’69 but was out of town by the end of 1970. He was suspended earlier in the ’70 season for bookmaking and was shipped to Washington where his tired arm failed him. He was traded by three other teams and retired from a dead arm at 29. McLain has since gotten himself into legal trouble with racketeering, drug possession, and embezzlement. He’s been in and out of prison since the 1980s and currently resides in Pinckney, Michigan.

22. Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan

1903-1912, 1918, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 2.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 1079 SO, 213 CG, 29 SHO, 2138 IP, 3 SV

1907: 25-4, 2.19 ERA, 123 K, 27 CG, 3 SHO, 271 IP

  • AL winning % leader (1907)
  • AL leader in complete games (1903)
  • 50th on all-time complete games list

“Wild Bill” Donovan was yet another dominant starter for the Tigers in the early years of the franchise. Donovan had pitched in the National League previously but joined the newly formed American League in 1903. He pitched in three consecutive World Series but didn’t have much success as the Tigers lost all three. Donovan continued to pitch well for the Tigers until an arm injury ruined his career in 1912. He caught on as a coach for the Tigers in 1918 and pitched the final game of the season, his final win. He was speculated to have some knowledge of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal but was never seriously implicated. He died tragically in a train wreck in 1923 while headed to the Winter Meetings. He was only 47 years old.

21. Barney McCosky

Barney McCosky

1939-1946, Center Field

Career with Detroit: .312 AVG, 19 HR, 231 RBi, 409 R, 52 SB, 744 H, 283 BB, .382 OBP, .434 SLG

1940: .340 BA, 4 HR, 57 RBI, 200 H, 123 R, 67 BB, .408 OBP, .491 SLG

  • AL leader in triples (1939)
  • 27th in MVP voting (1939)
  • Traded to Philadelphia for George Kell in 1946

Barney McCosky was an immediate success for the Tigers as a rookie in 1939. His .311 batting average was only second to slugger Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer. He was no slouch defensively either. He was known for his strong arm and ability to chase down balls in the gap. McCosky set a franchise record for triples in a season during his career 1940 campaign with 19. However, the most intriguing part McCosky’s story is what could have been. McCosky enlisted in the U.S. Navy during his prime (age 26-28) and lost three years in what could have been an even more incredible career. His tenure in the Navy hurt his comeback and he was traded to Philadelphia for George Kell, due to lack of production. McCosky played until 1953 and retired to southeast Michigan. He ran a party store near Southfield until his death in 1996 at 79 years of age.

Remarkably, we are just over halfway done with our countdown! Our next ten (20-11) really separate the good from the great and the great from the legendary. There are only two weeks to Opening Day and I’ll post a double feature that day for the upcoming season. Go Tigers!

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The Top 50 Greatest Detroit Tigers of All-Time: 40-31

I was encouraged by the positive reception the article from last week received. Thank you all for taking the time to read. As for this week, we get closer in our journey to number one.

40. Hoot Evers

Hoot Evers

1941, 1946-1952, 1954, Center/Left Field

Career with Detroit: .290 AVG, 63 HR, 429 RBI, 410 R, 35 SB, 787 H, 222 BB, 311 BB, .366 OBP, .436 SLG

1950: .323 BA, 21 HR, 103 RBI, 100 R, 170 H, 71 BB, .408 OBP, .551 SLG

  • 2x All-Star (’48, ’50)

Hoot Evers had a short career that could have been a great one had it not been for the global conflict known as World War II. Evers was signed as an amateur free agent in 1941 at 20 years old and played for a short time before reporting for the armed services in 1942. He served his country until the end of the war and returned to baseball at age 26 in 1946. However, he put up impressive numbers for being out for five years and was a bright spot on the struggling Tigers in the early 50s. However, he was shipped out of town in a blockbuster trade after a drop in production. He returned briefly in 1954 but was a shadow of his former self. He was out of baseball by 1956. However, he spent his retirement in the Tiger organization as a scout and in player development. He was a main source of inspiration for manager Jim Leyland as Evers encouraged him to go into managing in the minors. Evers passed away at age 69 in 1991 from a heart attack in Houston, Texas.

39. Steve Kemp

Steve Kemp

1977-1981, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .284 AVG, 89 HR, 422 RBI, 378 R, 24 SB, 711 H, 375 BB, .376 OBP, .450

1979: .318 AVG, 26 HR, 105 RBI, 88 R, 5 SB, 156 H, 68 BB, .398 OBP, .543 SLG

  • All-Star (1979)

Steve Kemp was one of the few bright spots on an other wise underachieving decade for the Tigers. Kemp was drafted by the Tigers in 1976 and only spent one year in the minor leagues before making his Major League debut in 1977 as the Detroit’s everyday leftfielder. Despite being on a struggling team, Kemp was very consistent and had a great season in 1979, eventually placing 17th in the AL MVP voting. However, he was eventually shipped to Chicago for Chet Lemon in an unexpected trade. He bounced around with a few teams and ultimately, retired in 1988 due to injuries. Kemp recently stated that he originally harbored ill feelings toward the Tigers for trading him. However, his retirement has been quiet otherwise.

38. Carlos Guillen

Carlos Guillen

2004-2011, Second Base/Shortstop

Career with Detroit: .297 AVG, 95 HR, 449 RBI, 469 R, 59 SB, 892 H, 327 BB, .366 OBP, .476 SLG

2006: .320 BA, 19 HR, 85 RBI, 174 H, 100 R, 71 BB, .400 OBP, .519 SLG

  • 3x All-Star (’04, ’07, ’08)
  • Hit for the cycle (2006)
  • 1st in MLB history to raise BA in 6 consecutive seasons (’01-’06)

Guillen, my father’s favorite Tiger for the past few years before Victor Martinez showed up, was an incredibly versatile player. Carlos started 2004 as a shortstop but would play a considerable amount of games at first base, second base, third base, left field, and at designated hitter as well. If it weren’t for massive injuries suffered throughout his career, he could have been an even better player. His stat line in 2006 was a huge reason why Detroit made it to the World Series. However, as the years went by, his health deteriorated. He was limited to 177 games during the final three years of his career. However, many Tiger fans will remember his hustle, versatility, steady hitting, and this. Guillen retired after the 2011 season at age 36 and is enjoying retirement with his family.

37. Willie Hernandez

Willie Hernandez

1984-1989, Closer

Career with Detroit: 36-31, 2.98 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 384 K, 483.2 IP, 120 SV

1984: 9-3, 1.92 ERA, 112 K, 32 SV, 140.1 IP

  • 3x All-Star (’84-’86)
  • World Series champion (1984)
  • AL MVP (1984)
  • AL Cy Young (1984)

Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez was one of the most integral members of the 1984 World Series Champion Tigers. Hernandez was acquired from the Phillies prior to the 1984 season and had an immediate impact, with an ERA less than 2.00 and 32 saves. He pitched well enough to help the Tigers get to the World Series and only gave one run in 5 innings pitched with two saves in the Tigers’ five game triumph. Despite never reaching the dominance he had in ’84, he remained a steady, consistent closer for the rest of the 1980s. He was released in August of 1989 and tried to make a comeback as late as 1995 but never got another shot in the Big Leagues again. He’s spent his time since then in quiet retirement.

36. Ron LeFlore

Ron LeFlore

1974-1979, Center Field

Career with Detroit: .297 AVG, 51 HR, 265 RBI, 532 R, 294 SB, 970 H, 251 BB, .348 OBP, .406 SLG

1977: .325 BA, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 212 H, 100 R, 37 BB, .363 OBP, .475 SLG

  • All-Star (1976)

Ron LeFlore’s story and career is the stuff of Hollywood. Originally born in Detroit, he was involved in criminal activity as a teenager and was sent to Jackson State Penitentiary at 15. While in prison, he joined the inmate league and was an outstanding player. He played so well that a fellow inmate convinced Tiger manager Billy Martin to give him a tryout. On a one-day parole, LeFlore impressed enough to sign a contract. He reported to minor league camp in 1973 and made the team out of Spring Training in 1974. LeFlore’s skills were refined as a Major Leaguer as he made the AL All-Star team in 1976 and dazzled fans with his blazing speed. He was dealt to the Montreal Expos after the 1979 season and retired in 1983. He attempted to become a MLB umpire but didn’t make it out of the academy. After the ceremonies at the final game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, LeFlore was arrested for violating a court order regarding unpaid child support. He’s been plagued with legal problems since then.

35. Virgil Trucks

Virgil Trucks

1941-1952, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 108-91, 3.24, 1.21 WHIP, 1046 K, 84 CG, 20 SHO, 1801.2 IP, 12 SV

1949: 19-11, 2.81 ERA, 153 K, 17 CG, 6 SHO, 275 IP

  • All-Star (1949)
  • World Series champion (1945)
  • 2 No-hitters (both in ’52)

Virgil Trucks experienced the best of days and the worst of days. Trucks broke into the Major Leagues at age 24 with the Tigers and was immediately thrown into competitiveness of the American League. Trucks was a part of the 1945 World Series champion team and stymied the Cubs in a masterful 7 hit, 1 run complete game performance. However, Trucks would see the worst of the Tigers in the early 50s. He would throw two no-hitters in the same season (1952) but would still lose 19 games. That would be his final season in Detroit as he was traded to the St. Louis Browns. Trucks would retire after the 1958 season and would coach for the Pirates, Braves, and Tigers before retiring from coaching in 1974. He is currently living in Birmingham, Alabama and is the oldest living former Tiger. He will turn 96 years old on April 26.

34. Ivan Rodriguez

Ivan Rodriguez

2004-2008, Catcher

Career with Detroit: .298 AVG, 62 HR, 300 RBI, 300 R, 30 SB, 709 H, 106 BB, .328 OBP, .449 SLG

2004: .334 BA, 19 HR, 86 RBI, 176 H, 72 R, 41 BB, .383 OBP, .510 SLG

  • 4x All-Star (’04-’07)
  • 3x Gold Glove winner (’04, ’06, ’07)
  • Silver Slugger (2004)

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez originally came to Detroit as one of the biggest free agent signings in Tiger history. It was actually quite remarkable that Rodriguez would even consider signing with the Tigers after winning a World Series with the Marlins in 2003 and the Tigers being nearly historically bad as well. Despite this, it was Rodriguez, along with Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez that brought a winning mindset back to Detroit. Rodriguez was the perfect person to have behind the plate to mentor young pitchers in Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Joel Zumaya. Rodriguez was no slouch with the bat either as he batted nearly .300 as a Tiger. However, he was traded away to the New York Yankees for reliever Kyle Farnsworth in an attempt to save the team some cash for the offseason. Rodriguez played until 2011 for a variety of teams (New York, Houston, Texas, Washington) but was never the player he was in Detroit or even before. He’ll definitely be a  Hall of Famer but it’s doubtful he’ll go in as a Tiger.

33. Dizzy Trout

Dizzy Trout

1939-1952, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 161-153, 3.20 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 1199 K, 156 CG, 28 SHO, 2591.2 IP, 34 SV

1944: 27-14, 2.12 ERA, 144 K, 33 CG, 7 SHO, 352.1 IP

  • 2x All-Star (’44, ’47)
  • World Series champion (1945)

Trout was yet another integral part of the Tigers’ success in the 40s. Teamed  with Virgil Trucks, Hal Newhouser, and Schoolboy Rowe, the rotation for Detroit throughout the 40s was among the best. Trout struggled in the early years of his career, never accumulating a winning record until 1943. In Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, Trout kept the Cubs at bay with a 5 hitter, in a 4-1 victory. However, that would be the extent of his success. He was traded in 1952 to the Boston Red Sox but only started 17 games for them before retiring. He called Tiger baseball games on Detroit radio and was involved in the White Sox organization before his death from stomach cancer at age 56.

32. Jim Bunning

Jim Bunning

1955-1963, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 118-87, 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1406 K, 78 CG, 16 SHO, 1867.1 IP, 12 SV

1957: 20-8, 2.69 ERA, 182 K, 14 CG, 1 SHO, 267.1 IP

  • 7x All-Star (’57, ’59-’63)
  • AL wins champion (1957)
  • 2x AL strikeout champion (’59, ’60)
  • No-hitter (1958)

Despite having a Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Jim Bunning lands on our list because of the reputation he had built in Detroit previously. Bunning was among the best in the American League during the 50s and it was on full display in 1957, only his third season in the Majors. Bunning had an immaculate inning (3 strikeouts on 9 pitches) against Boston in 1959. However, despite all his personal achievements, the Tigers never were a winner. He was traded to the Phillies after the 1963 season and had the majority of his Hall of Fame success with Philadelphia. After retiring in 1969, he returned to his home state of Kentucky and became involved in politics. He eventually would win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987 and the U.S. Senate in 1998. Bunning would not seek reelection in 2010, instead conceding the Senate seat to Rand Paul, the incumbent. He lives in Kentucky.

31. Magglio Ordonez

Magglio Ordonez

2005-2011, Right Field

Career with Detroit: .312, 107 HR, 533 RBI, 452 R, 12 SB, 989 H, 318 BB, .373 OBP, .475 SLG

2007: .363 BA, 28 HR, 138 RBI, 216 H, 117 R, 76 BB, .434 OBP, .595 SLG

  • 2x All-Star (’06, ’07)
  • Silver Slugger (2007)
  • AL Batting Champion (2007)

Ordonez was a divisional steal for the Tigers. After spending the first eight years of his career as a member of the Chicago White Sox, Ordonez signed with Detroit in the same rebuilding project that Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez had joined. Ordonez provided the middle-of-the-order thump to support Guillen and Rodriguez that the Tigers desperately needed. He is especially endeared to Tiger fans for his walk-off home run against the Athletics in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS. (Dan Dickerson’s call here.) Like Guillen, Ordonez would be plagued with injuries and would retire in 2011. He’s revered in Detroit and is enjoying a low key retirement.

That’s it for this week’s countdown. Our schedule is as follows:

March 18: 30-21

March 25: 20-11

April 1 (Opening Day!): 10-1

I will try to keep to the schedule but it’s a one man crew on this project. Where will your favorite Tiger, past or present be on this countdown? Check back next week to find out!

 

(UPDATE: Virgil Trucks passed away on March 24, after I published him on our list at #35. He was the last remaining member of the 1945 World Series championship team and was the oldest living former Tiger. Rest in peace, Virgil.)

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It All Comes Down to This

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A finalist for Player of the Year, Trey Burke will be a big factor for Michigan against Indiana.

It’s been an exciting season in college basketball, hasn’t it? Who would’ve thought that we’d have a new number one almost every week? Well, in the Big Ten, the excitement will last into the weekend as things are going to be decided by the Sunday night. But what does that mean for Michigan, Michigan State, or any of the other schools left contending?

INDIANA: 25-5 (13-4 in Big Ten)

Remaining schedule: @ #7 MICHIGAN (3/10)

MICHIGAN: 25-5 (12-5 in Big Ten)

Remaining schedule: vs #2 INDIANA (3/10)

OHIO STATE: 22-7 (12-5 in Big Ten)

Remaining schedule: vs Illinois (3/10)

MICHIGAN STATE: 22-7 (11-5 in Big Ten)

Remaining schedule: vs #22 Wisconsin (3/7), vs Northwestern (3/10)

WISCONSIN: 20-9 (11-5 in Big Ten)

Remaining schedule: @ #12 Michigan State (3/7), @ Penn State (3/10)

The scenario for Michigan is simple at this point: beat Indiana and they’ll be co-champions of the Big Ten. Michigan has everything working for them going into Sunday’s game. Losing a tough game in Bloomington should give some spark to the team as will the chance to cut down the nets if they win. Additionally, Michigan could snag that 2 seed with a win due to Miami and Georgetown’s recent losses. There’s a lot at stake here; Michigan just has to go out and get a W.

As for Michigan State, they are in for a dog fight of their own. Thursday’s game at home against Wisconsin is a do-or-die game for the Spartans. If they win, they own the tiebreaker with Wisconsin for the right to be conference co-champions. If they lose, Wisconsin owns the tiebreaker and could be conference co-champion. Yet the Spartans have to beat Wisconsin, and Northwestern, and hope that Michigan takes care of business against the Hoosiers. It’s a long shot, but I’m sure Spartans won’t mind rooting for a rival if it means sharing a championship (see OSU’s win over IU, Michigan fans).

Despite all this confusion, this is what college basketball fans live for. The match-ups, the rivalries, the eliminations. While the NCAA Tournament hasn’t started, the calendar does say March and the Big Ten is here to fill it with madness.

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The Top 50 Greatest Detroit Tigers of All-Time: 50-41

Going back a few months, I was surfing the pages of ESPN and came across an all time greatest countdown for the New York Yankees. Paging through the countdown, I began to wonder if a one for our beloved Detroit Tigers existed. Remarkably, it didn’t. So I began to formulate an idea of making one myself. After going through Retrosheet and Wikipedia vigorously, I started to become very familiar with the history of the Detroit Tigers and the players throughout Tiger history. This project is the product of countless hours of statistical analysis, fact checking, research and an interview here or there. I’d like to thank , David Morehouse, my impromptu statistician, my father, Joseph Sr. for knowledge of the team that extends beyond my own, Retrosheet.org, for being an invaluable resource, and the Detroit Tigers for giving me a passionate hobby for the last few months.

Without further ado, here are the greatest Detroit Tigers of All-Time.

50. Larry Herndon

Larry Herndon

1982-1988, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .278 AVG, 83 HR, 364 RBI, 358 R, 32 SB, 765 H, 222 BB, .331 SLG, .436 OBP

1983: .302 BA, 20 HR, 92 RBI, 182 H, 88 R, 46 BB, .351 OBP, .478 SLG

  • World Series Champion (1984)

Larry Herndon was a fan favorite in the 1980s and was in the middle of many of the Tigers’ great moments. He hit a two-run home run in Game 1 of the 1984 World Series against San Diego to clinch the first game and caught the last out of the Series to set off a legendary celebration. Herndon also hit a solo home run three years later on the final day of the 1987 season to give Frank Tanana a 1-0 lead to protect as the Tigers won the AL East over the Blue Jays. Herndon retired in 1988 and is currently a coach for the Tigers’ minor league affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

49. Bobby Higginson

Bobby higginson

1995-2005, Right Field

Career with Detroit: .272 AVG, 187 HR, 709 RBI, 736 R, 91 SB, 1336 H, 649 BB, .358 OBP, .455 SLG

1996: .320 BA, 26 HR, 81 RBI, 141 H, 75 R, 65 BB, .404 OBP, .577 SLG

  • 1/19 players in MLB history to hit .300, score over 100 runs, hit 30 home runs, hit 44 doubles, drive in over 100 RBI, and steal 15 bases in one year (2000)
  • 2x Tiger of the Year (’97, ’00)

Bobby Higginson is one of the most under appreciated Tigers in franchise history. He played during the Randy Smith era, a time when the Tigers didn’t have a real sense of direction. The team struggled in the win column but Higginson shined. He was the best player on one of the worst teams and there was probably too much pressure on him to lead the team towards success. Unfortunately, he never won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, or was named as an All-Star. He retired in 2005 after an elbow injury and now runs a limousine company in Oakland County, MI. Despite not having much success as a team, it was Higginson that kept the seat warm for the new wave of Tiger talent that would make it to the 2006 World Series.

48. Jim Northup

Jim Northrup

1964-1973, Right Field

Career with Detroit: .267 AVG, 145 HR, 570 RBI, 571 R, 39 SB, 1184 H, 420 BB, .332 OBP, .430 SLG

1968: .264 BA, 21 HR, 90 RBI, 153 H, 76 R, 50 BB, .324 OBP, .447 SLG

  • World Series champion (1968)
  • Game winning hit of HOF pitcher Bob Gibson in Game 7 of ’68 World Series
  • 13th in AL MVP voting (1968)

Jim Northup is yet another hero from the glory that was 1968. Arriving to the Tigers in 1964, he competed with Al Kaline, Willie Horton, and Mickey Stanley for playing time in the outfield. Northup’s greatest achievement was in the 1968 World Series as he was one of the few Tigers that had success against Cardinals’ ace Bob Gibson. His triple over the head of St. Louis centerfielder Curt Flood scored two runs late in the game to clinch the Series for Detroit. Northup would play for the Tigers his entire career, retired from baseball in 1974 and would be a color commentator from 1985 to 1994. He died on June 8, 2011 from a seizure. He was 71.

47. Billy Rogell

Billy Rogell

1930-1939, Shortstop

Career with Detroit: .274 AVG, 35 HR, 532 RBI, 668 R, 76 SB, 1210 H, 590 BB, .357 OBP, .372 SLG

1933: .295 BA, 0 HR, 57 RBI, 173 H, 67 R, 79 BB, .381 OBP, .404 SLG

  • Fielding percentage leader at SS (’35-’37)
  • World Series champion (1935)

An incredible fielder, Rogell was paired with Hall of Fame second baseman, Charlie Gehringer and the duo would lead the league in double plays. Rogell and Gehringer would play over 1000 games together and would be one of the longest tenured double play combinations in baseball. Billy was no slouch with the bat either. He batted .296 in 1934 and was a part of one of the best infields in baseball history (Rogell, Marv Owen, Gehringer, and Hank Greenberg). Rogell was eventually traded to the Cubs in 1940 after his performance suffered and he retired after one year in Chicago. He came back to Detroit in 1942 to join the Detroit City Council, a position he would hold until 1980. He threw out the first pitch at the final game at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999, almost 70 years after he made his major league debut at the same park. He died of pneumonia in Sterling Heights, MI in 2003. He was 98.

46. Lance Parrish

Lance Parrish

1977-1986, Catcher

Career with Detroit: .263 AVG, 212 HR, 700 RBI, 577 R, 22 SB, 1123 H, 334 BB, .317 OBP, .469 SLG

1980: .286 BA, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 158 H, 79 R, 31 BB, .325 OBP, .499 SLG

  • 6x All-Star (’80, ’82-’86)
  • World Series champion (1984)
  • 3x Gold Glove winner (’83-’85)
  • 5x Silver Slugger (’80, ’82-’84, ’86)
  • Caught Jack Morris’ no-hitter (1984)

Lance Parrish is one of the many generational talents at catcher the Tigers have had over the years. Originally drafted in 1974, he was converted to catcher in the minors before making his Major League debut in 1977. Parrish was a good hitter for a catcher and was instrumental in learning the young pitching staff the Tigers had in the late 70s and early 80s. He caught a no-hitter for Jack Morris in April of 1984 and anchored the lineup during the season as the cleanup hitter. Additionally, he set an AL record for most home runs as a catcher with 33 in 1984. Parrish left the Tigers for the Phillies via free agency in 1987 and struggled in Philadelphia before playing for the Angels which resurrected his career for a short time. He would play for a new organization each year for the last four years of his career and retired in 1994 after trying to make a comeback with Detroit. He had various jobs as a coach in many different minor league systems and is now living a quiet life in retirement.

45. Kirk Gibson

Kirk Gibson

1979-1987, 1993-1995, Right Field

Career with Detroit: .273 BA, 195 HR, 668 RBI, 1140 H, 698 R, 499 BB, .354 OBP, .480 SLG

1985: .287 BA, 29 HR, 97 RBI, 167 H, 96 R, 71 BB, .364 OBP, .518 SLG

  • World Series champion (1984)
  • ALCS MVP (1984)

Kirk Gibson is among the most remembered and most liked members of the 1984 team. His hustle and eye for the game was incredible and he thrived playing under manager Sparky Anderson. Drafted out of Michigan State, he made his major league debut in 1979 and was a staple in right field for years to come. He had a knack for coming through in clutch situations and his talents were on full display in the 1984 playoffs. He won the ALCS MVP in a short series against the Kansas City Royals and blasted a home run off of Goose Gossage in the World Series, after he convinced his manager to let him face Gibson instead of walking him. It was icing on the cake as the home run effectively sealed the Series. After leaving via free agency ’88, he returned in 1993 and played two more years, retiring at age 38. He joined Alan Trammell as a bench coach for the Tigers when Trammell was named the manager in 2003. With the hiring of Jim Leyland in 2006, Gibson left Detroit and joined the Arizona Diamondbacks, eventually being named manager in 2010. He was named NL Manager of the Year in 2011.

44. Willie Horton

Willie Horton

1963-1977, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .276 AVG, 262 HR, 886 RBI, 671 R, 14 SB, 1490 H, 469 BB, .337 OBP, .472 SLG

1976: .316 BA, 17 HR, 53 RBI, 130 H, 42 R, 23 BB, .362 OBP, .501 SLG

  • World Series champion (1968)
  • 4x All-Star (’65, ’68, ’70, ’73)
  • #23 retired

Horton, a hometown kid, made the most of his 14 years on the Tigers. Breaking through in ’63, he cemented his position in left field and anchored the lineup in the cleanup position. The Tigers came up short in 1967, losing the pennant to the Boston Red Sox but the city was ravaged during the summer by intense race riots. Horton, still in his baseball uniform, tried to calm crowds to no avail but his commitment and devotion to the city was evident. Horton played for the Tigers through the 60s and was traded in 1977  to the Texas Rangers. He retired after the 1980 season and has been active in the organization, as a  special assitantever since. His number 23 was retired and a statue was erected at Comerica Park in his honor.

43. Norm Cash

Norm Cash

1960-1974, First Base

Career with Detroit: .273 AVG, 366 HR, 1075 RBI, 1011 R, 41 SB, 1759 H, 1006 BB, .356 OBP, .493 SLG

1961: .361 BA, 41 HR, 132 RBI, 193 H, 119 R, 124 BB, .487 OBP, .662 SLG

  • 5x All-Star (’61 twice, ’66, ’71, ’72)
  • World Series champion (1968)
  • AL Batting Champion (1961)
  • 2x AL Comeback Player of the Year (’65, ’71)

Stormin’ Norm Cash was considered among the best teammates to have. Cash started his career in the White Sox organization but was traded to Cleveland and flipped to Detroit before the 1960 season. Both Chicago and Cleveland would regret those decisions as Cash proved his worth with a batting title in 1961 and a World Series championship in 1968. His fun-loving, humorous personality meshed perfectly on the Tigers’ teams of the 60s. A notable example was on July 15, 1973 during Nolan Ryan’s second career no-hitter, when he came to the plate with a table leg, instead of a bat. When told he couldn’t bat with the table leg, Cash replied “Why not? I won’t hit him anyway.” Cash retired after the 1974 season and did Tiger baseball broadcasts in the early 80s. However, Cash drowned in a tragic accident off of Beaver Island in northen Lake Michigan in 1986. Cash was 51.

42. Schoolboy Rowe

Schoolboy Rowe

1933-1942, Starting Pitcher

Career with Detroit: 105-62, 4.01 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 662 SO, 92 CG, 16 SHO, 1445 IP, 8 SV

1934: 24-8, 3.45 ERA, 149 K, 20 CG, 3 SHO, 266 IP

  • 2x All-Star (’35, ’36)
  • World Series champion (1935)

One of the most creatively named players in Tiger history, Lynwood Rowe was a large part of the two AL pennants and World Series championship enjoyed during the mid 30s. Rowe had his best season in 1934 but was met with tough competition from the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang in the World Series. He pitched a twelve inning complete game allowing only 2 runs and retiring 22 consecutive batters. However, Paul “Daffy” Dean would get the best of him in Game 6 and the Tigers would lose the Series. Schoolboy and the Tigers would triumph over the Cubs, the following year in 1935. Rowe pitched for Detroit until his skill dropped off in the 1940 World Series. He was traded to Brooklyn early in the 1942 season and left baseball for two years to fight in World War II. He was out of baseball by 1949. Rowe died of a heart attack at age 50 in 1961 in El Dorado, Arkansas.

41. Rocky Colvavito

Rocky Colavito

1960-1963, Left Field

Career with Detroit: .271, 139 HR, 430 RBI, 377 R, 6 SB, 633 H, 346 BB, .364 OBP, .501 SLG

1961: .290 BA, 45 HR, 140 RBI, 168 H, 129 R, 113 BB, .402 OBP, .580 SLG

  • 4x All-Star (’61 twice, ’62 twice)

Colavito was traded to Detroit from Cleveland for slugger Harvey Kuenn in 1961. Cleveland  originally thought to get the better end of the deal as Kuenn was the more consistent player but the Tigers got the last laugh. Kuenn was injured for most of his short time with the Indians and was gone after a season. On the other hand, Colavito was productive as a Tiger. He had serious power numbers in 1961 (45 HR, 140 RBI, and 129 R) and was a 4x All-Star as a Tiger. However, he often clashed with the Detroit sportswriters and was traded after the 1963 season. He bounced around eventually going back to Cleveland before finishing his career with the Yankees in 1968. He is appreciated more in Cleveland but his career totals with the Tigers are hard to ignore.

Next week, we will delve further into the countdown, covering 40-31. Where will current stars Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander land? Where will legends like Al Kaline and Ty Cobb be? Stay tuned to find out!

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Detroit Tigers Grades: Batters

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“I say I like to hit?”

The final piece of the entire Detroit Tigers team analysis is finally here. It was a disappointing year for the offense as a whole despite the fact that the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years anchored the lineup and was protected by the biggest free agent signing in Detroit Tiger history. But the struggles of the rest of the lineup were very obvious on the national stage that was the World Series. However, to provide closure, the final grades on the batters are as follows…

AUSTIN JACKSON (CENTER FIELD)

GRADE: B+

Jackson returned to his 2010 form and actually did much better batting .300 for the first time in his short career. He was a top 3 finisher for the Gold Glove Award in Center Field and was regarded by some to be the next best fielder to the Angels’ Mike Trout. He cut down on his strikeouts this year (134 in ’12 compared to 181 in ’11 and 170 in ’10) and was among the AL leader in triples with 10. 2013 should be another great year for the Tigers especially considering that he now has Torii Hunter batting behind him.

OMAR INFANTE (SECOND BASE)

GRADE: C+

Throughout the season, second base was a carousel for Detroit with bench players like Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, Ryan Raburn, and Jeff Baker each taking a turn and failing to deliver on a consistent basis. However, when Infante was brought back to the Motor City, he brought a sense of stability back to the second base position. “Sense” would be the key word as he statistically wasn’t incredibly better than any of the previously named players.

Infante with Detroit: .257 BA, .283 OBP, .385 SLG

Santiago in 2012: .206, .283, .272

Raburn in 2012: .171, .226, .254

Worth in 2012: .216, .330, .257

However, his career numbers are incredibly better than any other options the Tigers have and he’s primed for a return to form in 2013.

MIGUEL CABRERA (THIRD BASE)

GRADE: A+

There was (arguably) no one better with the bat in baseball in 2012. In what’s been an already impressive career, he had his best season so far, accumulating the American League MVP award, winning the first Triple Crown in 45 years, and going to the World Series. What will keep the rest of the American League up at night is that he’s still 29 years old and could very well do this again.

PRINCE FIELDER (FIRST BASE)

GRADE: B+

While some were doubting that Fielder would only be a replacement for DH Victor Martinez and not an upgrade, I wouldn’t say they were totally wrong. We can only speculate what would’ve happened had Martinez played in 2012 but so far it seems that the signing of Fielder has been a good investment. He batted over .300 for the first time in his career and developed into a better hitter as opposed to strictly a power hitter. The trio of Cabrera, Fielder, and Martinez could be the stuff of folklore next season.

DELMON YOUNG (DESIGNATED HITTER)

GRADE: C-

Much like his brother, Delmon Young’s tenure with the Detroit Tigers was filled with inconsistency (.267 batting average behind Fielder), off-field problems (I think its safe to say he won’t be spending Hanukkah in New York), and rare shines of brilliance (being named the ALCS MVP and holding the franchise record for postseason home runs). Young did a less than stellar job this past year but with the return of Victor Martinez and his lack of mobility in the outfield, there was simply no where for him to play.

JHONNY PERALTA (SHORTSTOP)

GRADE: C

Jhonny’s 2012 campaign was definitely a step back from a stellar 2011 season (.239 BA, .305 OBP, . 384 SLG in ’12 compared to .299, .345, .478 in ’11). His defense was about the same as it was the year before (7 errors in both ’11 and ’12). But he is one of the few players who batted after Fielder in the lineup who is actually getting a second chance. Peralta isn’t the long term option for the Tigers but he’ll have to do for now.

ANDY DIRKS (OUTFIELD)

GRADE: B

Dirks’ injury woes didn’t exactly hurt his numbers (.322 BA, .370 OBP, .487 SLG in 88 games played), it lowered the sample size. Dirks really put himself in a great position this winter with his play in 2012. He provided an element of speed and an adequate presence in all three outfield positions but it would appear that GM Dave Dombrowski isn’t entirely sold on Dirks as the full-time leftfielder in ’13. I’d give him a shot full time but that’s just me.

ALEX AVILA (CATCHER)

GRADE: C

It wouldn’t be fair to any of the other Tigers on here if I gave Avila a pass on this season but I think he would deserve it. The man got hurt early in the season and was supposed to step in a swing the bat well as soon as he came back. As a catcher, mind you. Catchers aren’t really known for being offensive weapons but I think many Tiger fans will tell you he’s in the mold of Mickey Cochrane, Bill Freehan, and Lance Parrish. I don’t think his 2011 season was a fluke and I think he could re-challenge Baltimore’s Matt Wieters and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer for a Silver Slugger. Only time will tell in ’13.

BRENNAN BOESCH (RIGHT FIELD)

GRADE: D+

This was a tough one for Boesch. In 2010, he came up from the minors and looked like he’d play for the next 10 years. After this season, his time with the Tigers might not last 10 more weeks. The heir apparent in right field after the retirement of Magglio Ordonez, this was almost an ultimatum for him. Boesch struggled against lefties (.230) and righties (.244) and had almost no power (12 home runs). Its hard to imagine him making the team next season when Dombrowski is looking for a right handed hitter to platoon with Dirks in left and with the addition of Torii Hunter in right. Unless of course, he gets traded first.

AVISAIL GARCIA (OUTFIELD)

GRADE: B

Garcia showed savvy way beyond his years. He became one of two Tigers under 21 to record a hit in the World Series. (The other being Ty Cobb.) Garcia was mentioned in a few trade talks but in order to compensate for the shopping spree initiated by owner Mike Ilitch, Dave Dombrowski kept Garcia in Detroit. He didn’t show much power in his time in the Show but his game is the epitome of “raw”. He’s got a lot of improving to do but with his play this past fall, he could very well solve the right-handed hitting platoon problem in left field with Andy Dirks.

QUINTIN BERRY (OUTFIELD)

GRADE: B-

Berry provided the base stealing threat going 21 for 21 on stolen bases. He emerged in the wake of an injury to Austin Jackson and played a spectacular center (and later left) field. His numbers went down as did his appearances and at-bats later in the season. He became a spark for the Tigers and gained an appreciative fan base. Berry has a year of experience under his belt and he’ll be in the thick of winning a job in the outfield in Spring Training.

BENCH (RAMON SANTIAGO, DANNY WORTH, GERALD LAIRD, DON KELLY, RYAN RABURN)

GRADE: D+

The bench of any major league team shouldn’t be considered its strength. For the Tigers, it was far from a strength. Ramon Santiago, much like past years, hasn’t provided much more than steady defense at second, short, and third. Danny Worth got called up and was sent back down lmost a half dozen times. Gerald Laird hit lefties moderately well but was lured away to Atlanta this offseason. Don Kelly was a postseason hero in Game 2 of the ALDS but will likely be in the minors come spring time. Lastly and most certainly least, Ryan Raburn seemed to do everything in his power to make the entire city hate him. The bench will be better in 2013. At least we hope.

OFFSEASON ACQUISITIONS

TORII HUNTER: RF, LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Hunter will be an instant upgrade from Brennan Boesch, both offensively and defensively. Hunter brings a great baseball mind and a veteran presence back to the team, something they desperately needed. As good as Austin Jackson was this past season, don’t be surprised if he improves due to hanging around a great defensive mind in Hunter.

BRAYAN PENA: C, KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Pena brings a switch hitting presence to the Tigers off the bench that was only previously held by Ramon Santiago. He hits lefties (.245) just as well as righties (.249). He’s not going to impress much but he’s solely here to provide depth behind Alex Avila.

So comes to a close my analysis of the 2012 Tigers. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I watched Prince Fielder awkwardly answer questions with Dave Dombrowski and Mr. I. With the absence of hockey, it would appear that Mr. I is going all in with his baseball fans. As he said himself, “My fans, you pump my players up!” Well, in about 50 or so days, the promise of glory in the Fall Classic will pump us up.

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The Future of the Sporting Mitten

As much as the title might scare some people, don’t worry: we’ll be back very soon! Keep in mind, I am a college student and my schedule has been extremely hectic. Getting closer to the holidays, I’ll have a lot more time on my hands and will be better at time management.

During my absence, I’ve actually joined an up-and-coming blog, The Farm Club. It’s a fully-staffed sports blog covering a variety of topics and have a national audience. I encourage you all to check it out, they have great writers there from all over the country.

As for this blog, things will be a little different. I’ll still be writing on here as will my colleague, Reis Thebault. I will also still be accepting guest pieces at sportingmitten@gmail.com. However, I’ll be starting a YouTube channel for this blog. I’ll fill you all in with information regarding the channel once everything is finalized. 

As much as I enjoy writing for this blog, I had to put things first. But don’t worry, I’ll be back very soon.

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