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For the Love of the Tigers
An A-to-Z Primer for Tigers Fans of All Ages
By Frederick C. Klein, Mark Anderson
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2009 Frederick C. Klein
All rights reserved.
"A" is for Anderson, Who gave his teams spark. In his years in the dugout He left a huge mark.
White-haired George "Sparky" Anderson ran the Tigers from 1979 through 1995, the longest tenure of any Detroit manager. His 1,331 wins with the club also is a record. A hustling but weak-hitting infielder as a player, he hit his stride in the dugout, guiding Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" to World Series titles in 1975 and 1976 and repeating the feat with the 1984 Tigers. That Detroit club won 104 regular-season games and steamrolled through its eight playoff contests with seven wins.
"B" is for "The Bird," Mark Fidrych by name. For one memorable season He lit up the game.
Mark Fidrych was a righted-handed pitcher whose gangly build and mass of blond curls earned him the nickname "The Bird" after the Sesame Street character "Big Bird." Fidrych came up with the Tigers in 1976 at age 21 and promptly captivated the majors with dazzling stuff and such antics as talking to the ball and getting down on his hands and knees to smooth the mound. His 19–9 won-lost record and 2.34 earned run average that year earned him an All-Star Game berth and Rookie of the Year honors. Alas, the next season he suffered a shoulder injury, and while he pitched a few more years he never matched his rookie brilliance.
"C" is for Cobb, Who slid with spikes high. Between the white lines He'd never say die.
Ty Cobb was baseball's all-time-best hitter, averaging .367 over 24 major-league seasons (1905–1928), all but the last two with the Tigers. He won 12 American League batting titles and hit .400 or better three times. His career records for hits (4,191) and stolen bases (897) endured for decades after he'd retired. Cobb was a rough and uncompromising competitor who had few friends in the game, even among his own teammates, but set standards for intense play that still are remembered.
"D" is for Dauss, Whose nickname was "Hooks." His victory total Lives on in the books.
George Dauss was a curveball specialist whose 223 victories (against 182 losses) from 1912 through 1926 remains a Tigers team record. The right-hander had his best year in 1915, when he won 24 games for a team that trailed the Boston Red Sox by just 2 ½ games in the American League race. That would be the Tigers' best finish until their pennant-winning 1934 season. After he retired from baseball, Dauss became a detective with the Pinkerton Agency.
"E" is for Evers- This guy gave a hoot. He helped put the Tigers Upon the right route.
Walter "Hoot" Evers, who got his nickname because of his boyhood fondness for the movie cowboy "Hoot" Gibson, signed with the Tigers out of the University of Illinois in 1941. He played one game with the team that season, then marched off to World War II for four years. He returned in 1946 to have a 12- season major-league career, six in Detroit. His best year as a Tiger was 1950, when he hit .323 with 103 RBIs and was an All-Star Game outfield starter for a club that finished second, just three games behind the Yankees. That was as close as the Tigers would come to a pennant until 1967.
"F" is for Freehan, A rock in a mask. This U of M guy Did all you could ask.
Bill Freehan played both baseball and football for the University of Michigan before signing with the Tigers in 1961. He was promoted to the big leagues in 1963 and spent his entire 14- season career in Detroit, making a mark as one of the game's most durable catchers. Freehan was named to 11 All-Star teams and won five Gold Glove Awards. When he retired after 1976, his 1,581 games behind the plate ranked ninth on the all-time list. He later returned to coach baseball at his Ann Arbor alma mater.
"G" is for Greenberg and Gehringer, Two fellows with pop. In the '30s they led The team to the top.
"Hammerin' Hank" Greenberg's booming hits helped the Tigers win pennants in 1934, 1935, 1940, and — after four years of World War II service — 1945. The big first baseman posted some eye-popping numbers, including 58 home runs in 1938 and 183 runs batted in — the third-highest one- season total ever — in 1937. Quiet Charlie Gehringer was Greenberg's teammate for most of that period. He was the best-fielding second baseman of his era, batted .300 or more in 13 of his 16 full major-league seasons, and collected 2,839 career hits. Greenberg's uniform number 5, and Gehringer's number 2, both were retired in a Tiger Stadium ceremony on June 12, 1983.
"H" is for Harwell – The fans loved him so, That when the team sacked him They rose and cried "No!"
Georgia native Ernie Harwell brought his relaxed broadcasting style to Detroit in 1960 and kept it there through 1991, when Tiger management didn't renew his contract. So loud was the popular outcry over his release that in 1993 he was brought back for a decade-long encore by the team's new owner, Mike Ilitch. Among Harwell's signature calls were "Long gone!" for a Tiger home run and "Two for the price of one!" for a double play.
"I" is for Innings, The standard is nine. But if the game's tied Then more are just fine.
"J" is for Jennings, An old Oriole. He did what it took To help teams reach their goal.
Hughie Jennings earned his baseball stripes as a shortstop with the 1890s Baltimore Orioles, a team whose name remains synonymous with gritty play. He stood out among even that hard-nosed bunch by reaching base as a hit-batsman 51 times in 1896, a figure that's never been topped. Jennings managed the Tigers for 14 seasons (1907–1920), leading them to American League pennants in 1907, 1908, and 1909. He was noted for his shouting, whistling, arm-waving sideline antics, designed to distract the opposition. One year he was suspended for blowing a tin whistle while foes batted.
"K" is for Kaline, Also Kell and Kuehn, Three of the best players Detroit's ever seen.
At age 20, in just his second full season in the majors, Al Kaline won the 1955 American League batting title with a .340 mark. The right-fielder went on to play in Detroit for 22 years, collect 3,007 hits, and become the most-popular Tiger of his era. George Kell manned third base for the team from 1946 through 1952, winning the AL batting crown in 1949 and establishing Hall of Fame credentials. Harvey Kuehn was the league's Rookie of the Year as a Tigers shortstop in 1953. He won the batting championship in 1959 and made the All-Star team in each of his eight full seasons with the club.
"L" is for Lolich– Okay, he was round– But in the '68 series He starred on the mound.
Left-hander Mickey Lolich was a solid starting pitcher for the Tigers from 1963 through 1975, posting 207 of his 217 career victories with the team. But he never performed better than in the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, in which he started, finished, and won three games, allowing just five runs in all. His 4–1 decision over the Cards' Bob Gibson in the seventh game was a Series classic. Lolich had a rotund figure and joked about it. Said he, "All the fat guys watch me and say to their wives, 'See, there's a fat guy doing okay. Bring me another beer.' "
"M" is for McLain, Who threw fastballs and spinners. He's probably the last Of the 30-game winners.
What Mickey Lolich was to the 1968 World Series, Denny McLain was to the Tigers' regular season that year. The sturdy right-hander started 41 games, finished 28 of them, and rang up a 31–6 won-lost record. That was the first 30-or-more- wins season by a pitcher in 34 years. It's also likely to be the last, because today's five-man starting rotations and specialized bullpens don't give pitchers the opportunity to win that many games. McLain had one more good season before being felled by injuries. His post-baseball life has been marred by legal woes, capped by six-year prison term for looting the pension fund of a company he ran.
"N" is for Newhouser, Who during the war Kept up the spirits Of the Motown home corps.
Baseball's quality declined when many players served in the military during the 1941–1945 World War II years, but Detroit native Hal Newhouser, who was excused from service because of a heart problem, excelled on the mound during the period and helped bring home a 1945 World Series title. The tall, left-handed "Prince Hal" fought early career wildness before blossoming in 1944 with a 29–9 won-lost record. The next year he went 25–9 and won two games in the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. He put to rest claims he was a "war- years wonder" by posting 26 victories in 1946 and 21 in 1948. He's in the Hall of Fame.
"O" is for Ordonez, His muscles do ripple. Was that hit a home run? Nah, only a triple.
Magglio Ordonez was a proven batsman with power to all fields, but a knee injury that cost him most of the 2004 season made his signing by the Tigers to a long-term contract the next year risky for the team. The risk seemed to increase when he went on the disabled list with another injury early in his first season in Detroit. However, the move paid off in 2006, when "Mags" led the team's pennant drive with 104 runs batted in, and even more then next season when his .363 batting average led the league. He continued his fine play in 2008 by batting .317 with 21 homers and 103 RBIs.
"P" is for Parrish, Aka "The Big Wheel." For almost two decades He was the real deal.
Lance Parrish succeeded Bill Freehan as the Tigers' regular catcher in 1978. He spent the next nine seasons in the post, then went on to play through 1995 with several other major-league teams. Parrish had his best years in Detroit, hitting 212 of his 324 career home runs there, making six All-Star teams, and winning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. The strength of his throwing arm was revealed in the 1982 All-Star Game, when he gunned down three National League runners on the base paths.
Excerpted from For the Love of the Tigers by Frederick C. Klein, Mark Anderson. Copyright © 2009 Frederick C. Klein. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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