Thursday, March 05, 2009


I'm getting closer and closer to the end of these Home Grown vs. Acquired teams... but the season is creeping up on us too.

No time to slow down.

Let's tackle a team dripping in tradition and whose uniform has stayed remarkably consistent.

The Detroit Tigers.

When I write about an older franchise like the Tigers, I try hard to honor each positive era the team had.
And let me tell you, Detoit fans have been treated with a lot of terrific baseball over the generations.

The Ty Cobb teams of the 1900s.
The Hank Greenberg teams of the 1930s and 1940s.
The Al Kaline teams of the 1960s and early 1970s.
The great 1984 squad and the exciting Sparky Anderson teams.
The startling 2006 pennant.

And with more Hall of Famers than I was expecting to line up, some great All Time Tigers are going to be riding the bench.
If you are expecting Johnny Grubb or Bobby Higginson on this list... you will be terribly disappointed.

As always the rules for the rosters can be found here.

Dust off your old English D hats... it's time to talk Tigers!



Parrish made six All Star teams and won three Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger Awards while in Detroit. He was the premier power hitting catcher in the AL and homered off of Rich Gossage in the clinching Game 5 of the 1984 World Series.

I bet you already knew that.

Did you know he was also a body guard for Tina Turner?
I'm guessing it was around the time she covered "Let's Stay Together" and after the split with Ike.

A lot of catchers are tough. Only one was hired to protect Tina from Ike... and it wasn't Rich Gedman!


Hank Greenberg was a source of pride to a lot of people... including your pal Sully.

For recent immigrants, he was a hero as a first generation American making it in the big leagues.

For Jewish Americans, he was a God... a tall muscular power hitting slugger from an Orthodox Family, combatting Anti Semitism with his power (he nearly broke Babe Ruth's single season home run record) and his willingness to fight back. He became the first Jewish player elected to the Hall of Fame.

For Tiger fans, he was their great champion. He led them to their first ever World Series title. (I wonder what Ty Cobb thought about a Jewish player doing what he couldn't... win a World Series).

For Americans, he was a War Hero, sidetracking his career to become a lieutenant in the new US Air Force despite his flat feet.

For African Americans, he was a strong ally in the integration of the game. While in the front office of the Cleveland Indians, he brought in more Negro League stars than any other team.

For the Baseball Union, he was an unlikely ally as he was one of the few former players to speak on behalf of Curt Flood during his challenge of the Reserve Clause.

But why is he a hero of mine? He is undoubtedly the greatest baseball player to ever attend my alma mater... New York University.


I can write a lot of stats about Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer, possibly the greatest second baseman of all time. I can list his batting title, his MVP, his .320 career average, his seven 100 RBI seasons and his stolen bases.

I can write about how he hit .379 with an OPS of .955 in the 1934 World Series and then hit in the 1935 World Series Championship for the Tigers.

But I've always looked a little skeptical at stats before the integration of baseball. How would pre-integration players do against the best Negro League stars?

No less of an authority than Satchel Paige said Gehringer was the best white hitter he ever pitched against.
That's good enough for me.


No offense to George Bell, who had a terrific 1987 season, but Alan Trammell should have won the MVP that year. When the Tigers overtook a much more talented Blue Jays team in September, it was Trammell who led the charge.

He hit 416 with six homers and 17 RBIs in September, had an 18 game hitting streak. And on October 2, 1987, the third to last day of the season and with the Blue Jays and Tigers tied in the standings, Trammell smacked a game tying homer off of Jim Clancy. The Tigers would win the game by 1. The very next day, he hit a walk off 12th inning single to clinch a tie for the division.

That's some value.

He'll have to make due with his millions of dollars, an MVP in the 1984 World Series and Hall of Fame consideration.


Fryman was one of the few bright spots on some truly awful Tigers teams in the mid 1990s. Alan Trammell took Fryman under his wing and the young converted shortstop responded. He drove in 90+ runs five times including back to back 100 RBI seasons in 1996 and 1997.

He made four All Star teams with the Tigers, driving in a run in the 1992 All Star Game.

Later as a member of the Indians he hit a walk off hit in the playoffs against the Red Sox. I harbor no ill will.


The future Hall of Famer had his best seasons with the St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators... but so far he hasn't made any Home Grown vs. Acquired Lists.

He was a product of the Tigers organization and was no slouch in Detroit.
Going into the last day of the 1926 season, Manush trailed Babe Ruth, Bob Fothergill and Harry Heilmann for the batting title. He played a double header and went 6 for 9 and clinched the batting title outright.

Although he didn't know it, he had the second highest OPS in the league that year... second to Babe Ruth. (And it was no insult finishing second to Ruth then.)


Did you know that Ty Cobb once got a save as a pitcher?

Isn't that incredible? Along with holding at one point the all time record for hits, number of batting titles, career batting average, on base percentage, runs, stolen bases and being the biggest All Time Racist, there was a time he came in to PITCH... in a close game... and got the job done.

Did you know that Ty Cobb took a stab at writing fiction? One of his stories, The Lady of the Orchids, was turned into a TV Movie during the 1950s.

Most of have to choose between Hall of Fame player and published author with a TV deal.

I am sure I will stumble across many more amazing nuggets about Ty Cobb.


One more homer and Al Kaline would have had 400.
One more tater and he'd be in the 3,000 hit, 400 home run club.

I wonder if that bothers Al. I wonder if he thinks about one more shot...
One ball he remembers that just hooked foul.
One ball he clocked that the center fielder leaped over the wall to snatch back.
One ball that the wind kept in the park.

Not that he has anything to ashamed of in his career. He played in 22 seasons, all for Detroit. He was a 15 time All Star, winner of 10 Gold Gloves, had 8 top ten finishes in the AL MVP vote, won the 1955 batting title and hit 2 homers, drove in 8, batted .379 with an OPS of 1.055 in the 1968 World Series, earning a World Series ring. And of course he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But I wonder... does he think about that one lost homer?


Another Tiger hitter, another Hall of Famer.

He was brought up under manager Ty Cobb and could certainly hit like Cobb. The winner of four batting titles, he hit .403 in 1923 and hit over .390 three more times.

He lost the 1926 batting title on the last day to Heinie Manush but in 1927 he took the crown on the last day over Al Simmons.

He became the radio voice of the Tigers until his death in 1951.



How many people get to be a Hall of Fame pitcher and a member of the United States Senate?

Well I'm not sure where I would stand with the Senator from Kentucky on a lot of issues, but his career on the mound is beyond debate. He came up with the 1955 Tigers. By 1957, he was a 20 game winner. By 1958, he threw a no hitter against the Red Sox.

He was a five time All Star with Detroit, leading the league in strikeouts twice.

Ironically for a guy who has been able to be elected to Washington, he was unable to get into Cooperstown through the writers vote. He did get in via the Veterans Committee.


I have come to grips with the fact that Jack Morris will not be elected to the Hall of Fame. I'd vote for him based on his winning more games than any pitcher in the 1980s (yeah yeah yeah I know... wins don't count) and his five top 10 Cy Young finishes in Detroit (yeah yeah I know... Cy Youngs are subjective), his winning a strike out title, being a 250-290 inning eater, completing double digit games 10 out of 11 seasons, tossing a no hitter in 1984...

And oh yeah... being the ace of the 1984 World Champs, throwing a pair of complete games in the 1984 World Series.

I guess he belongs in the Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stewart, Frank Viola category of "Great 1980s pitchers who were the aces of a World Series winner but never going to make the Hall of Fame."

Not a shameful category to be in.


The 1968 World Series was supposed to be the Denny McLain vs. Bob Gibson show. 31 Regular season wins versus a 1.12 regular season ERA.

And after his mindboggling 17 strikeout, 1 walk complete game shutout in Game 1 and his complete game 10 strike out 2 walk performance in Game 4... Gibson was doing what he did best: Dominate the World Series.

And while the Tigers forced a Game 7, there was no real hope for them. Gibson was going to pitch the finale was was primed to win his third World Series MVP and second in as many years.

But a funny thing happened... Mickey Lolich, whose regular season numbers weren't as sexy and whose two complete game victories in the World Series weren't as eye popping, matched Gibson zero for zero in Game 7. And when the Tigers scored three unlikely runs (thanks to an uncharacteristic defensive mistake by Curt Flood) Lolich took over as the World Series hero.

The Tigers won the game 4-1 and Lolich had the Gibson-esque win loss total of 3-0 with three complete games. And by the way his ERA at the end of the series was 1.67... same as Gibson's.


Man this home grown team is loaded with Hall of Famers and MVPs!

Newhouser had a leaky heart valve that prevented him from being drafted. He stayed in the states and took advantage of the shallow talent pool.
Newhouser won back to back MVPs as a pitcher in 1944 and with the 1945 World Champs.

He came in second place in the MVP vote of 1946, but a fellow named Ted Williams just came back from the War and prevented Newhouser from three in a row.

He made up for a shaky Game 1 loss by pitching a complete game in Game 7 of the 1945 World Series to clinch the title. It was, as of this writing the last World Series game the Cubs ever played in.


Mullin was the Tigers workhorse pitcher during their pennant winning seasons in the 1900s. He threw the first no hitter in Tigers history. He was a 5 time 20 game winner.

He also had bad luck in the World Series. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 7 World Series games. He completed all 6 of his World Series starts yet only had a 3-3 record including losing the 1907 clinching Game 5 to the Cubs.

He was also a solid hitter who once pinch hit for Ty Cobb and tripled. Why do I have a feeling he had to apologize to Cobb afterwards?



A lot of relievers give their managers a heart attack. Not John Hiller. He gave HIMSELF a heart attack... literally.

A steady reliever and spot starter for the 1968 World Champs, he had a heart attack before the 1971 spring training started. Most people are told to "take it easy" after having their ticker go out on them.

Not Hiller. He came back in 1972 and pitched in the bullpen under Billy Martin and helped pitch the Tigers back into the playoffs. He won Game 4 of the ALCS when the Tigers were three outs away from elimination to the A's. No pressure there.

The next year he set the single season save record with 38 and finished 4th in the Cy Young and MVP ballot.

Not sure those were doctor's orders.


The All Time wins leader in Tigers history is also among the career leaders in saves. In fact in 1914 he started 35 games, completed 22 and yet still led the American League in saves.

He had 4 that year.

He got a career high 9 saves in 1926, his last year.

By the way, Hooks is an awesome baseball knickname. He got it because of his terrific curveball.


I feel a little strange putting Henneman on this list.

There are a bunch of terrific Tigers pitchers who I am leaving off, but none of them were true relievers. And I am also tempted to put Joel Zumaya on the list because of how he shut down the Yankees during the 2006 Division Series.

But I am sticking with Henneman. He has the second highest number of saves in Tigers history and did it while averaging more than an inning a save. Plus his 11-3, 2.98 ERA rookie season helped the Tigers overtake the Blue Jays in 1987. He piched two shut out innings for the save on the third to last game of the 1987 against the Blue Jays and then the next day threw three no hit innings to get the win and clinch a tie for the Division Title.

That was pretty impressive. Welcome to the Home Grown vs. Acquired List, Mr. Henneman.


Between Hal Newhouser and Dizzy Trout, the Detroit Tigers of the mid 1940s had the best 4-F pitching staff in baseball!

Trout stayed in America based on his hearing problems, and won 20 games in back to back seasons and his 352 1/3 innings and 2.12 ERA in 1944 led the AL. He finished second to Newhouser in the MVP vote. He won Game 4 of the 1945 World Series with a complete game over the Cubs.

He also compiled 34 saves over his 14 seasons in Detroit, finishing among the league leaders in five different seasons.

He ran for Sheriff in his home town but lost. I wonder if his lack of a war record hurt his campaign.


Schoolboy got his nickname because he played on an adult team as a teenager. He held his own and joined the Tigers and became a big time pitcher for back to back pennant winners in Detroit. He won 16 straight games his rookie year and threw two complete games in the 1934 World Series and two more in the 1935 World Series.

He also finished among the league leader in saves in 1935 and 1936.

He was also a media saavy player who was handsome and folksy. During radio interviews would shout out to his pretty wife "How am I doing Edna?" His devotion to his wife made women swoon and his strikeout totals and control baffled hitters.

If he was alive today, he'd be on ESPN and How am I doing Edna? would be his catch phrase.



It feels strange separating Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker on this list. They were a double play combination longer than any tandem in history. But was I supposed to bench Charlie Gehringer?

Whitaker was the 1978 Rookie of the Year, a 5 time All Star, a three time Gold Glove winner, a four time Silver Slugger winner and made an appearance on Magnum PI.

Hey Tigers, retire his jersey already!


Bush was five foot six inches and 130 pounds. Let's just say if he was playing today, there would be no Mitchell Report whispers about him.

But what he lacked in physicality, he made up for with his patience (he led the AL in walks five times), his ability to start rallies (he led the AL in runs scored in 1917) and selflessness at the plate (he led the league in sacrifices his rookie year.)

Also was a solid defensive shortstop and an unlikely World Series hero. Ty Cobb had a lousy 1909 World Series but Bush had an onbase percentage of .483. He had a three hit game in game 3 and got on twice in game 6.

His real name was Owen Joseph Bush. I have no idea what Donie was supposed to mean.


Doesn't it seem strange that most people associate Kirk Gibson, a guy born to be a Detroit Tiger, with the Dodgers?

But let's face it, the Pontiac native and Michigan State grad was really a Tiger who just happened to bring some Detroit toughness to L.A.

Just two years before he arrived the Dodgers were doing The Baseball Boogie.

Can you imagine Gibson on that set?

If he avoided injuries, who knows what kind of career he could have had.
But if he avoided injuries, he wouldn't be a legend.


Not the guy who sunk the Dukakis campaign. In fact that Willie Horton was used to be a racial wedge, while the Tigers' Willie Horton was exactly the opposite.

Horton was a terrifying home run hitter in an era when pitchers dominated. He batted .285 in 1968 and that was FOURTH PLACE IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE!!!

The four time All Star homered off of Nelie Briles in Game 2 of the 1968 World Series, drove in 2 runs in Game 6 and singled off of Bob Gibson in the 7th inning of Game 7 with two outs, setting up Jim Northrup's World Series winning triple.

But beyond his batting heroics, he tried (in vain) to be a peacemaker during the 1967 riots in Detroit... standing in full uniform attempting to calm the crowds. His statue outside of Comerica Park stands next to Ty Cobb's. Maybe he'll calm the racist vibes with Cobb as well.


Freehan was the best AL Catcher in the 1960s. The 11 time All Star won 5 Gold Gloves and managed to pop 25 homers in the pitcher happy 1968 season. He was the MVP runner up to Denny McLain that year.

He batted only .083 in the World Series, but he did get a two out RBI single off of Bob Gibson in Game 7.

Sometimes it is not how many you hit, but when you hit them!


How could I put Fidrych over Tommy Bridges?
Over Justin Verlander?
Yankee Killer Frank Lary?
Dan Petry?
Ed Killian?

Where's Ron LeFlore?
Dick McAuliffe?

All fair questions based on their body of work and I am judging Fidrych mainly on one single season. But I will explain my reasoning.

That one season he pitched tremendously. He led the league in ERA and despite not starting a game until May 15th, led the league with 24 complete games. He started the All Star Game. He pitched 10 or more innings 5 times. He was the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young runner up.

But those are just stats and facts.
He also was the biggest attraction in baseball. With people starting to come back to the game, nobody was a gate attraction like Fidrych. He looked like Big Bird, his on the mound antics were hilarious, he talked to the ball and still got the outs.

Tiger Stadium would fill up when he started and the stands were filled on the road as well.

I am convinced that if he didn't get injured (his rotator cuff injury was diagnosed until he was out of baseball) he would have been one of the biggest and most beloved stars in the history of baseball.

I think kids would have idolized him and the Detroit Tigers would have the coolest pitcher in baseball.
The "What Could Have Been" with The Bird out weighs any other number you can throw at me... even if you talked to the ball.

Folks THAT is an amazing 25 man roster!
8 Hall of Famers? Are you kidding me?

With a farm system producing players like that, did they even need to acquire anybody of note?

Can they possibly squeeze in any more Hall of Famers or post season heroes?

Oh just read on and see...



Hall of Famer number 9... and the first for the Acquired team.

The short tempered catcher of Connie Mack's last great team was sent packing in a salary dump after the 1933 season. With Cochrane behind the plate, the Tigers improved from 75-79 in 1933 to 101-53 the next year and made the World Series.

That's quite a leap.

Cochrane was the MVP that season and then the next season scored the World Series ending run in Game 6 of the 1935 World Series.

I am guessing the Tigers never regretting giving up Johnny Pasek to the A's to get Cochrane.



Both the Indians and the White Sox had Norm Cash under contract in the late 1950s. They both gave up on him and he wound up in Detroit.

He became a four time All Star in Detroit. In 1961 he led the league in hitting and also had the AL's highest OPS. That is even more impressive when you consider that was the year that Maris and Mantle were chasing Ruth. You'd think they'd have the highest OPS, but nope. It was Cash.

He batted .385 with an OPS of .933 in the 1968 World Series as he batted clean up.

The Tigers won the World Series that year... and the White Sox and Indians went decades without winning a pennant. They should have held onto Cash!


Polanco was an solid infielder who played on teams who wanted spectacular players. The Cardinals sent him packing to Philadephia for Scott Rolen and the Phillies sent him packing so they could play Chase Utley.

He ended up with the Tigers who were basically a graveyard for players in 2005. But a funny thing happened in 2006. He started hitting. In the 2006 Division Series he batted .412 with an OPS of .915 against the Yankees.

He turned up his game in the ALCS against the A's. He batted .529 with an OPS of 1.167 in the 4 game sweep, getting a single that set up Magglio Ordonez's series ending homer.

In 2007 he was named the starting second baseman in the All Star Game, won the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger, got 200 hits, and batted .341.

Dare I say it? He became spectacular!


Guillen came over to the Tigers around the same time Ivan Rodriguez did to change the culture of the team. Granted it wasn't hard to improve the team that lost 119 games in 2003.

But Guillen gave the team a steady veteran prescience up the middle.
And then when the Tigers made their way into the playoffs, hit the most underrated hit of the 2006 post season.

The Tigers were down 0-1 in the Division Series and losing Game 2 in the 6th. It looked like the Yankees were on their way to an easy sweep. But Guillen homered to tie the game off of Mussina and suddenly the series took on a new feel. Guillen batted .571 with an OPS of 1.625 in the series and the Tigers were on their way to the ALCS and eventually the World Series.

A little better than 119 losses.


Was George Kell the greatest third baseman of all time?
I'm sure Brooks Robinson would have a say in the matter. So would Mike Schmidt.

A-Rod would say something, but he'd probably retract it.
Ray Dandridge would have a say if the game was integrated in his prime.

George Kell should be in the conversation. The Future Hall of Famer had six of his All Star seasons with Detroit where he won a batting title and drove in 101 runs in 1950 despite only hitting 8 homers.

By the way, this was Hall of Famer #10.


Want to stump a friend in a baseball trivia question?
Try this one:

Who was the first person to lead the National League and American League in homers?
The answer is Crawford who hit 16 homers for the 1901 Reds and 7 homers for the 1908 Tigers.

Most of those homers were inside the park homers as he made up for the Dead Ball's lack of flight with his own speed.

He was the veteran on the team when Ty Cobb joined the Tigers. At first they got along fine but when Cobb stole his thunder, they devolved into petty mutual jealousy. While playing together in their mutual primes, they wouldn't speak to each other but would use head movements to let the other know their strategy.

They must have been a joy to manage.

Hall of Famer #11.


In Sanford Florida, you can send your kid to the Chet Lemon School of Baseball.

Lemon played 9 seasons in Detroit after coming over from the White Sox in the Steve Kemp deal. He was the starting center fielder in the 1984 All Star Game and for the 1984 World Champs. He hit 20 homers three times in a Tigers uniform and his two homers were one of the only Detroit highlights in the 1987 ALCS.

You can learn baseball from worse people!


Baseball is still behind the times with YouTube. They should let clips of great moments on YouTube and allow baseball fans to share the clips and build up a passion of baseball for a new generation.

But one of the neat things about baseball and YouTube is you will see "From the stands" reaction from home video for some of the recent dramatic moments in baseball.

There is no shortage of clips of Magglio Ordonez' homer that ended the 2006 ALCS. And the thing that is great when the player who would slug 24 homers in 2006 and finished second in the 2007 MVP race launched that ball over the wall, you can hear the euphoria of the Tigers fans.

I'm not talking about a general "roar" but individual people yelling "GET UP GET UP!" There's no Yankees entitlement nor Red Sox self absorption. Just euphoria.

This one is my favorite


A couple of things about Cecil Fielder.

- It's hard to remember what a big deal 50 home runs were in 1990, but it had been 13 season (and many Hall of Fame caliber sluggers later) since George Foster hit over 50. So when Cecil hit #50 and #51 in Yankee Stadium on the last day it was special.

- Because he played in Japan the year before, every sports broadcaster was obliged to say that season "usually they don't like Japanese imports in Detroit." Every sports broadcaster thought they were clever for saying that.

- The father in me hopes that he and Prince iron out their feud. But the lover of real life drama hopes it doesn't happen right away!



Yup, McLain was acquired.
He was selected off of waivers from the White Sox and safe to say, it was worth that waiver pick.

Enough has been written about McLain's off field troubles, mob ties and his prison time, so let's stay positive, shall we?
He was a two time Cy Young winner, an MVP, posted a 1.96 ERA over a league leading 336 innings pitched in 1968.

He won a critical potential elimination Game 6 of the 1968 World Series and remains our last 30 game winner. he had four brilliant seasons and looked like a Hall of Famer in the making.

Goodness knows it didn't turn out that way, but it was fun for Tigers fans while it lasted.


The Yankees, A's and Tigers all got together for a complex deal during the 2002 season. The A's wanted Ted Lilly from the Yankees and felt he would fit in perfectly with their World Series plans.

The Yankees thought they had stolen an an ace from the Tigers when they got Jeff Weaver.

The Tigers got a farm hand named Jeremy Bonderman.

Neither the A's nor Yankees won the pennant that year. Lilly was dealt away and Weaver was a total bust in New York.
Meanwhile Bonderman shut down the Yankees in Game 4 of the Division Series, pitching into the 9th as the Tigers clinched the series.

In the ALCS, he went against the other team in the trade and started the clinching Game 4 of the ALCS.

As Bonderman joined the celebrating Tigers on their way to the World Series, I wonder if A's GM Billy Beane called up Yankees GM Brian Cashman to say "What were we thinking?"


Do you like to watch dogs jump in the air, catch frisbees in the air and land in the water?

Who doesn't.

Well from my 3 seconds of research, one of the best places to catch dogs do that is with the Ultimate Air Dogs. And who runs the Ultimate Air Dogs and is available for autographs at their events?

Why it is Milt Wilcox, former Tigers pitcher. You can go to one of their events, watch dogs jump and meet the guy who threw 8 shutout innings in Game 3 of the 1984 ALCS to clinch the pennant and then won Game 3 of the 1984 World Series.

It sounds like a full day!


One of the ace pitchers for the three straight pennant winners in the 1900s, Wild Bill had his best year in 1907. He went 25-4 with a 2.19 ERA over 271 innings.

He had the worst imaginable luck in Game 1 of the 1907 World Series. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, he was 1 strike away from winning the opener. And guess what? He struck out pinch hitter Del Howard.

What was the bad luck? The ball... the game winning strike out... got away from catcher Boss Schmidt, allowing the tying run to score on the passed ball. The game would be called after 12 innings. Instead of winning the opener, game 1 was a tie and the Cubs would go on to win the 1907 World Series.

Good luck in the World Series should NEVER go the Cubs way!!!


It's funny how the uniform players wear sometimes affect what I think of their toughness. For whatever reason I think of players wearing Tigers uniform as tougher as players from a warm weather city. It makes no sense, but I admit it is there.

A case in point is Frank Tanana. He was a blond good looking star for the California Angels in the 1970s and I felt he looked out of place with the Old English D Tiger hat on his head. How could HE fit in with the tough players in Detroit.

On the last game of the 1987 season, where a victory would have meant the Division and a loss would have meant a one game playoff, Sparky Anderson gave the ball to Tanana.

He responded with a complete game division clinching 1-0 shutout, keeping the potent Blue Jays to only 6 hits and 3 walks.

I'd say he was tough enough.



Notice I have him as Willie and NOT Guillermo.

As Willie, he came over from the Phillies in a deal to shore up the bullpen in 1984... and he shot past all expectations. He won 9 games, threw 140 relief innings to a 1.92 ERA and saved 32 games. And he was no 1 inning and out closer. More than half of his appearances were more than 1 inning.

14 times he pitched three innings or more as the closer.

In the '84 playoffs he clinched the ALCS and threw 2 1/3 shutout innings for the save in Game 3 of the World Series and clinched the World Series in Game 5.

He won the Cy Young and the MVP for 1984.

When he went back to Guillermo, he was an effective pitcher... but not in any Cy Young or MVP conversations. I know that was his real name, but I think Tiger fans will always think of him as Willie.


Todd Jones has the most saves of anyone in Tigers baseball. That looks strange when I read it because Jones always has struck me as an effective pitcher but certainly not an all time record holder on an established franchise like the Tigers.

But I guess it should not be a surprise. He finished 5th in the 2000 Cy Young Vote and won the Rolaids Relief award that year. He saved a league leading 42 games for a sub .500 Tigers team. He saved 53% of their wins that year.

After wandering in the baseball wilderness the next 4 seasons, he regained his form with Florida and did what so many Florida stars do... he went to Detroit.

His second stint in a Tigers uniform included a trip to the World Series. He pitched 6 2/3 innings without letting up an earned run in the 2006 post season and saved 4 games including Game 2 of the World Series.

It wasn't always pretty with the recently retired Jones, but I guess I shouldn't be so surprised to see him at the top of the Tigers save leaders.


Unlike his teammates Hal Newhouser and Dizzy Trout, Al Benton actually served in World War II. The All Star pitcher and the AL Saves leader in 1940 missed the 1943 and 1944 seasons while in the Navy.

But he came back to join his 4-F teammates. He was used as a spot starter and a middle reliever in 1945 and got some points in the MVP vote. He was used as a reliever in the World Series and fit into that role well in the second part of his long career.

He was the only pitcher to face Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle in a major league game.


The Dodgers sent the hero of the 1959 World Series packing to Detroit for Lou Johnson, who would wind up being a hero in the 1965 World Series.

He fit in perfectly to the Tigers pitching staff as their bullpen closer. He saved 20 games for the 1966 team giving the Tigers more than an inning an appearance.

On July 24th, 1966 he threw 3 2/3 shutout innings for the win in relief.

He was later dealt for Jim Landis, a hitter he shut down in the 1959 World Series. It all comes full circle.


Lopez's nickname was Senor Smoke. I can't determine if that is a racist nickname or not.
I guess not.

He earned his reputation of being an All Star shut down closer. After being kicked around the Royals and Cardinals organizations, he found a home with the Tigers.

He finished 7th in the Cy Young vote his first season in Detroit as he saved 21 games and threw 127 all in relief winning 10 games for the Tigers. He would save 21 more games in 1980 and make the 1983 All Star team.

And while his closer job was supplanted by Willie Hernandez, he was a contributor to the 1984 World Series team. He went 10-1, saving 14 games and pitched 137 2/3 innings in relief as the Tigers coasted to the playoffs. He then pitched 3 shutout innings to win Game 2 of the ALCS in extra innings and would win the World Series clinching game 5 in relief of Dan Petry.

Senor Smoke indeed.



I don't always agree with Bill James, but it is interesting to note that he said Darrell Evans could be the most underrated player in baseball history. He certainly had a lot of pop in his bat when he came over from San Francisco before the 1984 season.

He hit 30 homers and anchored the middle of the line up as the Tigers won the World Series his first year in Detroit.

As an encore, he hit 40 homers in 1985, leading the American League.

Historically, keep this one stat in mind. Evans was the second player to hit 100 homers for three different franchises. The first one? Reggie Jackson.

Not bad company to be in. Maybe Bill James was right.


When the Tigers dumped Denny McLain on the lap of an unsuspecting Ted Williams and the Washington Senators, they got a few qualities players back in return.

Brinkman won a Gold Glove with the 1972 AL East Champs and his defense was so impressive that he finished 9th in the MVP vote even though he only hit .205.

I know Pinky Higgins was an All Star with the Tigers and might be deserving of this list. But it is MY list... and I refuse to honor the man who worked so hard to keep the Red Sox from integrating while serving as manager and GM.


The Tigers had never won a World Series entering 1935, but that year they won their second straight pennant. They had lost the 1934 World Series in seven games and the 1935 contest look like it might go the full seven as well.

The score was tied in the bottom of the ninth of Game 6 and there were two outs and the run that would win the World Series was in scoring position in the form of Mickey Cochrane. But the Tigers regular cleanup hitter and run producer, Hank Greenberg, was hurt and not in the lineup.

That role fell on the shoulders of Goose Goslin, the future Hall of Famer and 34 year old veteran who was picked up from Washington the year before. He was a threat... but no Greenberg.

No matter, Goslin singled to right field, Cochrane came home and for the first time ever, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series.

You get a walk off hit to clinch the World Series? Then you are on this list!


The only hope for the San Diego Padres to stun the Tigers and win the 1984 World Series was to steal Game 1. Two batters in, the Tigers were on the board and it looked bleak. But the Padres took a 2-1 lead in the first and the Padres looked resilient.

With two outs and one on on the fifth, Tigers left fielder Larry Herndon cracked a two run homer to right, giving Detroit the lead. There would be no more scoring the rest of the game.

The Tigers would win the series in five games... but who knows what kind of momentum San Diego would have had without Herndon's go ahead shot?

His knack for the big homer also was felt on the last day of the 1987 season when his homer clinched the Division against the Blue Jays


When Pudge Rodriguez left the World Champion Marlins to join the 119 loss Tigers after the 2003 season, I thought what everyone else thought. He went for the money and he was going to be miserable in Detroit obscurity.

Oh what we didn't know.
They improved by 29 games his first year there... granted they were still 72-90... but it was the right direction. He batted .334 his first year in Detroit and the Gold Gloves kept piling up for him.

By the time 2006 rolled around, he was handling a young talented pitching staff and leading them to the World Series.

When you see him celebrating Ordonez's homer, he did NOT look like a guy toiling in obscurity.


Who knows what position he will play, but when all is said and done, Cabrera might end up as one of the greats in Tigers history.

His talent is obscene, his power remains staggering as he won a home run title in a pitchers park like Comerica in 2008. He may be heavy but he plays every day and is developing into one of the game's legit superstars and if the Tigers are going to win a World Series any time soon, they'll do it on the back of Cabrera.

And dare I say it?
If his career continues going this way, he might be yet another Hall of Famer on this roster!!!


The acquired team has raw power in Fielder, Ordonez and Cabrera... they have the deep bullpen and Cochrane's fire.

But please! Are you going to beat a team with six Hall of Famers in the starting line up? They'd have Kirk Gibson off the bench... which you know is dangerous. There are just too many home grown weapons.



One more down!

That's the Tigers

And the White Sox.
And the Royals
And the Brewers
And the Reds
And the Dodgers
And the Blue Jays
And the Pirates
And the Diamondbacks
And the Mariners
And the Nationals
And the Angels
And The Padres
And The Twins
And The Orioles
And the A's
And the Astros
And the Giants
And the Rockies
And the Mets
And the Rangers
And the Marlins
And the Yankees
And the Red Sox

6 to go...



  1. - nice work on Greenberg
    - I will never understand why Jack Morris is not in the hall.

    One note tho- Doyle Alexander on your acquired team- didn't he go 10-0 down the stretch one year for them? I know they gave up Smotz in the deal, but still- he got them into the 'offs.

  2. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Sam Crawford was a rightffielder in his day, leftfield could have the forgotten Bobby Veach a great all around player for the Tigers also from the Cobb era.
    Otherwise a fine job

  3. Anonymous10:02 AM

    First let me say how much I appreciate this work. This is fun reading through and through.

    Now on to the error correction: Darrell Evans did not hit 30 home runs for the 1984 WS champs, he hit 16. He had hit 30 in 1983 with the Giants.

  4. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Good job...I would have given the nod to Freehan over Parrish, and I grew up in Michigan in the 80s. Definitely an entertaining series you got here!

  5. Anonymous4:45 PM

    Kaline is the greatest Tiger of them all.
    And no, he has no regrets.

  6. Awesome post! I've added a link to your blog from mine. I'll be visiting often as I hope my visitors do as well! Thanks Sully

  7. Anonymous3:39 PM

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