Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#94 - Tigers Team Records

In this photo we have the Tigers on a beautiful sunny day in Detroit. It is another blurry team card but most of these guys can be made out. The only thing I cannot figure out is the manager. It should be Billy Martin but the guy in the middle of the first row (next to the guy that looks like Jimmy Carter) looks too old to be Billy. But it ain't Joe Schultz who finished out the '73 season. It's not Ralph Houk either who managed in '74 because Frank Howard is in the picture and he was gone by then. So I guess it is Billy.At least this time he's not giving the finger.

The '73 Tigers were the defending AL East champs. Things were going well enough for them early in the season but a few key injuries nailed them. John Hiller and Lerrin Lagrow
got hurt shagging flies on the same day. Willie Horton and Al Kaline lost some serious time to injuries. Plus the regulars were getting old and Martin was starting to wear out his welcome. He and Jim Northrup, probably the team's most consistent hitter that year, did not get along and Billy benched Jim a bunch. Billy was also using up his starters, something that would tend to recur for Mr. Martin. He was fired at the beginning of September and replaced the rest of the season by Joe Schultz, of "Ball Four" fame. On the day Billy was fired the Detroit GM almost took a bullet in his hotel room. In the end the Tigers finished 85-77, 12 games back of the Orioles. The season's bright spot was probably John Hiller rescuing a five year old drowning in a hotel pool.

This is a very telling checklist card. Outside of Joe Coleman and Aurelio Rodriguez everyone whose signature is represented was at least 30 years old. It was an old team and a bunch of guys would be done or gone by the next season. I think Jim Northrup has the best signature.

I had not realized how often the Tigers met the Cubs in the Series. Out of eight Series appearances for Detroit, the Cubbies were on the other side four times. As for the then record-holders:

Rocky Colavito was everyone's favorite Indian in the late '50s. Signed by the Tribe in '51 out of The Bronx, NYC, Rocky banged his way through the minors and made it to The Show to stay in June of  '56. He started hitting homers right away - he hit 21 in just over half a season and finished second in ROY votes - and by '58 was hitting over 40 in a season. From that year to '62 his low in that department was 35. Fittingly Rocky had a rocket for an arm but had a reputation for being passive in the outfield. He could also be a streaky hitter and in early '60 was asking for more money. Those all contributed to the very unpopular - think LeBron - trade of Rocky to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn, the next guy on this post. Rocky continued to smack them for the Tigers and put up his best numbers in '61: 45 homers, 140 RBIs, 113 walks, and a .290 average. In Detroit he wasn't universally loved and he eventually went to the A's in '64 where he again topped 30 homers. In '65 he returned to Cleveland in a three-team deal that cost the Indians Tommy John and Tommie Agee, both of whom would have considerably more success than Rock down the road. In '66 he did lead the league in RBIs with 108 and walks with 93. The following year he hit 30 out again but his RBI totals faded badly and in mid-'67 he would go to the White Sox. In '68 he finished things up with LA and the Yanks, his boyhood idols. For his career he hit .266 with 374 homers, 1,159 RBIs, and a .359 OBA. He was also an eight-time All-Star and was regularly among league leaders in fielding, finishing in the top 60 all-time for putouts, assists, and double plays in right field. After he retired he helped run a mushroom plant he owned in PA. He returned to Cleveland as an announcer ('72, '75-'76) and coach ('73 - he nearly had a card in this set, '76-'78) and would also coach for the Royals ('82-'83). Thereafter he would spend a bunch of time hunting, both professionally and for fun. His home base is still Pennsylvania.

Harvey Kuenn was signed by Detroit out of the University of Wisconsin - where he was his school's first All-American - in '52 and by the end of that season was in the majors. In '53 he won ROY with 209 hits and a .308 average. He was primarily a shortstop early in his career and would eventually move to the outfield. Harvey was a spray-hitting machine; he led the league in hits four times and doubles three times. In '54 he again topped 200 hits and only struck out 13 times in nearly 700 plate appearances. In '55 he topped out with 101 runs scored and led MLB in doubles, which he would do two other times. In '56 he peaked in homers and RBI's with twelve and 88, respectively. He slumped to under .300 in '57 but then rallied to a .319 in '58 and then in '59 he led the league with a .353 average and in hits and doubles. But that off-season he went to Cleveland in the infamous trade. While he topped .300 in '60 he had barely finished the season there when he was traded to the Giants, further increasing the ire of Cleveland fans. While the average declined, Harvey was a productive member of the SF outfield for four-plus seasons and went to the '62 Series with them (he didn't hit too well). During '65 he went to the Cubs and in '66 he finished things up with the Phillies. He was a lifetime .303 hitter with over 2,000 hits and a .357 OBA. He too made eight All-Star teams and in the post-season hit .083 in his three games. After he finished playing Harvey would work as a sports announcer in Milwaukee and then as a sales rep for a printing company in that city. He returned to baseball in '71 when he became the Brewers' hitting coach, a post he retained though mid-'82. He then took over as manager of a .500 club, went 72-43 the rest of the way, and led the team to the Series, losing to the Cards in seven games. He had another winning record in '83 and was then fired. His managerial record was 160-118. Harvey had circulation problems and in '80 lost part of a leg. He scouted for the Brewers until he passed away from a heart ailment in '88 at age 57.

Ty Cobb has a great and comprehensive bio on his baseball-reference bullpen page so I won't go crazy here. He was signed by Detroit in '05 after playing local semi-pro and minor league ball. Shortly thereafter his mom shot and killed his dad, believing he was a burglar. Informed by that and by some very rough hazing he received from his Detroit teammates, Ty would adopt an overly aggressive - many would say abusive - style of play. He would also be charged as a racist, in a large part due to his assaults on black men at various points during his career. But there was no denying his talent on the field: he won the Triple Crown in '09; he hit .420 in '11 and .409 in '12; he led the AL multiple times in batting average (12 times), hits (8), runs (5), doubles (3), triples (4), RBI's (4), and stolen bases (6). He played for Detroit through '26, also managing the team the last six seasons. For the next two years he played for Connie Mack in Philly. He finished with a .366 lifetime average, 4,189 hits, 2,244 runs, 295 doubles, 117 triples, 1,933 RBI's, 897 stolen bases, and a .433 OBA. In the Series he hit .262 with nine RBI's in 17 games. He made the Hall on his first shot - and its first shot - in '36. He was a nasty guy but made a fortune investing in Coca-Cola among other public companies. He passed away in '61 at age 74.

Hank Greenberg was a big Jewish kid out of NYC. He was signed by Detroit in 1930 after a year at NYU and though he hit well at every level, took a few years to make it to Detroit. But after making the cut in '33 and a slow start he was the Tigers' starting first baseman by mid-summer. He hit .301 his rookie year with 12 homers and 87 RBIs. In '34 he cranked 63 doubles, 26 homers, and 139 RBIs and led Detroit to the Series which they lost to the Gashouse Gang (he hit .321). '35 was even better with 36 homers and 170 RBIs - geez - both of which led the league, giving Hank his first MVP. Again the Tigers went to the Series, this time winning it, although Hank broke his wrist midway through. He also broke it a couple games into the '36 season essentially missing the whole thing. In '37 he went after Hack Wilson's record, just missing with 183 RBIs. In '38 he went after The Babe, again just missing with 58 homers. A nice '39 followed and a real nice '40 (.340/41/150) thereafter with a second MVP. In those years from '34 to '40 Hank would average over an RBI per game. In '41 WWII called and Hank would miss all or most of the next four seasons. He came back mid-way through the '45 season and again went to the Series. A great '46 followed - .277/44/127 - and when he didn't get the raise he wanted he decided to retire; the Tigers then signed him and traded him to the Pirates where he hit 25 homers and then retired, but not before being one of the few guys who openly welcomed Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues (he was one of the few guys to identify with Jackie being the recipient of ethnic slurs). By the time he was done he hit .313 with 331 homers, 379 doubles, and 1,276 RBIs and a .412 OBA with four All-Star appearances in about nine-and-a-half seasons. In the post-season he would hit .318 with a .420 OBA, five homers, and 22 RBIs in 23 games. He then hooked up with Bill Veeck and was a managing partner of both the Indians ('48-'58) and the White Sox ('59-'61), getting to the Series at each stop. Thereafter he became a successful investment banker. He made the Hall in '56 and passed away at age 75 in 1986.

Sam Crawford played in the outfield with Ty Cobb (they barely spoke). He was from Wahoo, Nebraska - hence the nicknmae "Wahoo Sam" - and followed some local ball with stops in Canada and then Grand Rapids of the Western League. He was signed by the Reds in 1899 and immediately came up hitting above .300. He had an OK 1900 then hit his stride the next season, hitting .330 with 16 triples and leading the NL with 16 homers. Triples were his thing and he would lead his league in that category six times. In '02 he hit 22 and then following that season Sam signed with both the Reds and Detroit and was awarded to the latter team for $3,000. His first year in the AL he banged out 25 triples and hit .335. Then came a few sub-.300 seasons but with continued big triple numbers. During that time Sam mentored Cobb when he came up but then lost some thunder to him, hence at least part of the not speaking thing. In '07 Sam's average bounced to .323 as he scored over 100 runs for the first time. In '08 he led the AL in homers with seven and in '09 in doubles with 35. In 1910 he led the league in RBI's with 120 and returned to the top with 19 triples. He then went on the best extended run of his career and over the next five seasons would top 100 RBI's four times and lead the AL in triples three times.. He would remain a regular through '15 and would lose starting time the next two seasons to Harry Heilmann, the Tigers' next hitting star. He was cut after the '17 season and then played four seasons in the minors in the PCL for LA. He finished with a .309 average, 2,961 hits, 97 homers, and 1,525 RBIs. He also had a record 309 triples. He would hit .243 with eight RBI's in 17 Series games (no triples). After his career he coached USC baseball in the '20s and umpired in the PCL in the '30s. He would be one of the old stars interviewed for "The Glory of Their Times" in the '60s. He was elected to the Hall in '57 and passed away in '68 at age 88.

Just for the heck of it I have posted some cards from 1910 of the guys on this post from that era. The cards are reproductions.

Wabash George Mullin was signed out of Fort Wayne in the Western Association by the Tigers in 1901. He jumped into the rotation the following year and was an innings hog, regularly putting up well over 300 a season. He won 20 or more games five times for Detroit and lost 20 or more for them three times. He had a great fastball and a curve and led the league in walks four consecutive seasons. He led the league in earned runs three times also but his stats were normally at or better than his contemporaries. George was a sort of predecessor to Mark Fidrych in that he would often step off the mound to make some equipment adjustments and talk to opposing players and even fans. He got into three Series with the Tigers and was arguably the team's best post-season pitcher those years. He threw a no-hitter against St. Louis in 1912, remained with Detroit through early '13, and then was sold to the Senators the rest of the season. The next two years he joined the Federal League and was done in the majors when that league folded. He pitched a season in the minors and then hung them up. He went 228-196 with a 2.82 ERA, 353 complete games, 35 shutouts, and eight saves. He was also a lifetime .262 hitter with 70 doubles, 23 triples, and 137 RBI's. In the post-season he went 3-3 with a 1.86 ERA, six complete games, and a shutout in his seven games. After he stopped playing he coached in the minors a few seasons before returning to Wabash, Indiana where he was a policeman. He passed away in '44 at age 64.

Denny McLain just missed having a card in this set (he can actually be seen on the Braves team card). A Chicago kid, he was signed by the White Sox in '62 and started off well enough – he threw a no-hitter in his first professional game - but went unprotected the following winter and was claimed by the Tigers in the first year draft. He won 18 in a '63 split between A and Double A and came up at the end of the season.He hit a homer in his first start up top. Hurt for a bit in '64 he grabbed a spot in the rotation late in the year and then started cranking the next season. In '65 he went 16-6 with a 2.61 ERA. In '66 he won 20 but his ERA ballooned a bit. In '67 he won 17; the rumor was that his win totals came down because he got his foot squashed by a mob guy to whom he owed money. '68 was his big year: 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA and 280 strikeouts got him the Cy and MVP. He led the Tigers to the Series and won Game Six. 24 wins and another Cy came in '69 and then things went south - fast. He was suspended three times during the '70 season for bookmaking, consorting with gamblers, and pouring a bucket of water on some sportswriters. He only won three games that year and then was sent to the Senators in a horrible trade for Washington; Denny went 10-22 and incurred manager Ted Williams' ire. He went to Oakland and then the Braves in '72 but couldn't keep his ERA below 6.00. In '73 he attempted minor league comebacks with both the Brewers and the White Sox but his arm was toast. He finished his career with a 131-91 record with a 3.39 ERA, 105 complete games, 29 shutouts, and two saves. He went 1-2 in his three post-season games with a 3.34 ERA. Along with the two Cy’s he was an All-Star three times. After playing McLain would work as a musician – he put out a couple albums as an organist, hustle golf, and do some radio shows. But he would also get busted for running drugs and arms and for fraud and other financial crimes and serve a bunch of time.

Wild Bill Donovan was another early 20th century pitcher. Originally signed by the first - NL - Washington Senators out of Lawrence, MA in 1898, he went to Brooklyn the following two seasons. He pitched sparingly in both stops with a high ERA and spent most of his time in 1899 and 1900 in A ball where he won a combined 42 games and earned his "Wild" nickname in a funny way: after a teammate was called up to MLB after a game in which he threw a pitch over the backstop, Bill decided that was the best way to get up and in his next start walked nine consecutive batters. While that may not have done the trick, in 1901 he broke into the Superbas rotation and went 25-15 with a 2.77 ERA. He spent another season with Brooklyn, winning 17, and then jumped to Detroit where he joined the rotation and was a roughly .500 pitcher the next four seasons. In '07 he went 25-4 with a 2.19 ERA and pitched in the first of three consecutive Series. He would never again win 20 but did have some decent percentages the next few seasons, going 18-7 in '08 and 17-7 in '10, until his arm died in 1912. He then went to the minors where he played at and managed Providence. In 1915 he returned to the majors as player-manager of the Yankees. After three seasons with NY he returned to Detroit as a coach for the '18 season. That was his final time on the hill and for his career Wild Bill was 185-139 with a 2.69 ERA, 289 complete games, 35 shutouts, and eight saves. Another decent hitter, he hit .193 lifetime with seven homers and 92 RBI's. In the post-season he went 1-4 with a 2.88 ERA in six games, five of them complete. The next two years he managed Jersey City in the IL and then in '21 returned to MLB to manage the Phillies for half a season.He then went to New Haven, a Single A league. He was in line to manage the Senators in '24 when he was killed in a famous train crash in upstate New York. He was 47.

Paul Foytack was signed by the Tigers in 1949 out of Scranton, PA. After two good years – a combined 32 wins – in the low minors and a decent ’51 split between A and Triple A ball, he ran into a bit of a wall at the higher level due to injuries and an unrefined curveball. He spent the next few years shortening his break and reached the majors briefly in '53 and '55. In '56 he finally joined the rotation and won 15 games. He remained in the rotation the next three seasons, averaging 14 wins a year but then a rough start to his ‘60 led to pen time and an ugly 2-11 record with a huge ERA. The ERA stayed pretty high the next couple seasons though he returned to the rotation and won a combined 21 games. In '63 he got off to another slow start and was traded to the Angels where he finished with a decent record as a reliever. He pitched a couple games for LA in '64 and was then released. He returned to the Detroit system and finished out the year with ten wins in Triple A. He then went to Japan for ’65 where he turned in decent numbers in a short season for Chunichi. He finished with an MLB record of 86-87 with a 4.14 ERA, 63 complete games, seven shutouts, and seven saves. During his first season in LA, he famously gave up four homers in a row. When manager Bill Rigney came to the mound after the fourth run and asked Paul how he thought he was doing, the pitcher responded: “pretty well, I think. There aren’t any runners on base.”He returned from Japan to the Detroit area and for a few years threw batting practice for the Tigers. He also was a salesman for many years of industrial rubber for the Sell Corporation. He is now 80 and still around.

Hal Newhouser is the first Hall of Fame pitcher the Tigers have produced. Raised in Detroit, he was signed in '39 by the Tigers and though he got off to a rough start in the minors – a combined 13-18 but with a pretty good ERA - he was on the team by the end of the season. Hal was very tough on himself and his teammates and for his first five years he would post not great numbers - 34-52 with an ERA around 4.00 - as he moved between the rotation and the bullpen. Hal had a huge kick - think of Juan Marichal - and pulled a Sandy Koufax in '44 when he suddenly became the best pitcher in the league. He went 29-9 with a 2.22 ERA and led the league with 187 strikeouts. In '45 he went 25-9 with a 1.81 ERA and 212 Ks leading the league in all three and most other major pitching categories. He won MVP both seasons, the first pitcher to do that successively. In the '45 Series he went 2-1 with 22 Ks in 20 innings even though his ERA was above 6.00. In ’46 he again led the AL with his 26 wins and 1.94 ERA and posted his best strikeout total of 275. He continued his success the next three seasons, recording a combined 54 wins, though the Detroit offense contacted considerably. He hurt his arm midway through the '50 season and though he won 15 that year his ERA moved up a run. The next three seasons he would lose a bunch of hill time and he hurt the arm again in '53. In '54 he went to the Indians where he experienced a one-year revival as the team's long relief ace and threw in that year's Series. He was done after a couple games the following season. Hal went 207-150 with a 3.06 ERA, 212 complete games, 33 shutouts, and 26 saves and was 2-1 with a 6.53 ERA in his four post-season games. Another pretty good batter, he put up a .201 career average with 81 RBI’s. Following his career he was a bank executive for a bunch of years before returning to baseball as a scout for a few teams - he signed Milt Pappas, Dean Chance, and almost Derek Jeter (for the Astros) in ’92 when he was also elected to the Hall by the Veteran's Committee. He passed away in '98 at age 77 from complications related to emphysema.

Quite a few Tigers are missing from the '73 team. Duke Sims, the primary backup catcher had a Yankee card (he was traded to them at the end of the season). Tony Taylor (.229 in 302 at bats) played a bunch as an infield reserve (he was cut in December). Frank Howard (.256 with twelve homers in 227 at bats) shared DH time in '73 with Gates Brown in his last season. Rich Reese (.137 in 102 at bats) played one season for Detroit after many in Minnesota, backing up at first and in the outfield. Taylor (first row second from left) and Howard (third row first guy) are both on the Team card. Reese probably is also but the card is too blurry to tell. On the pitching side Bob Miller had a Mets card and Tom Timmermann a Cleveland card. Including them, 153 of 162 decisions are represented by the set. The only missing guy is Mike Strahler, a spot guy who went 4-5 with a 4.37 ERA and a complete game in his final season. I am pretty sure he is the fourth guy in Frank Howard's row. With nine missing decisions and over 600 missing AB's Detroit fares pretty poorly in the player representation category.

This will be a challenge:

1. Willie Horton on the '73 Tigers;
2. Horton and Nate Colbert '75 Tigers;
3. Colbert and Ivan Murrell '69 to '73 Padres;
4. Murrell and Marty Perez '74 Braves;
5. Perez and Rod Gilbreath '75 to '76 Braves.


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