What was the best season by a Tiger First Baseman?

I really haven't looked too far ahead in the lineup, but this is a fascinating call for many reasons.
Remember, going by the nominations you can see at http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com/fan_forum/all_time_nine/index.jsp?c_id=det
pick the greatest season by a Tiger first basemen in history. I challenge you to consider the era in which each of these guys played (eg. late 60's was a pitcher-dominated era, while 90's was the re-birth of the long ball) but I further challenge you to go beyond Sabremetics, or whatever the mathematically formulas are: how much did these guys contribute to the team in fielding, leadership, intangibles. I list them chronologically.

When I first saw the name Dale Alexander, I thought "Doyle Alexander?" No, stupid. In 1929 Dale "Moose" Alexander had one of the finest rookie seasons our guys have ever seen at the plate. He hit .345, with 24 home runs and 137 RBI's, good for third in a hitter's league. He collected more extra base hits than anyone except a few guys named Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx.
Unfortunately, he also led the league in errors, and according to wikipedia, was notorious for lack of mobility. Apparently a DH before they had a DH.
The Hank Greenberg story has so many angles, it's hard for me to focus on the 1937 season as a Tiger. (Look it up yourself online. The first Jewish major league hero, he challenged Babe Ruth as the premier power hitter of the era, went on to be CEO of AIG, and lost it all when
AIG fell apart.)
He was Hammerin' Hank before Aaron. He was affable, and powerful, and in '37 he led the league in batting average, (.371) RBI's (183) and put-outs. Remember, this was a league that included DiMaggio, Gehrig, Gehringer, Bill Dickey, Jimmy Foxx and many other sluggers. And he did it with "Iron Mike" Cochrane as a notoriously difficult boss and Tiger manager. (The Tigers closed just three games behind a great Yankee team.)
And so we move into the "modern era"
; long balls and hitting were about to end, but Stormin' Norman Cash put up some great numbers in 1961. He led the league with a .361 batting average, hit 41 home runs, and a darned good glove to boot, leading the league in put outs.
But he was known for his prodigious power. One June 11, 1961, he became the first player to hit a ball out of old Tiger Stadium.
Sadly, even though the Tigers had a great year in '61 with 101 wins, they came in second to the Yankees again. (Do we see a pattern here?)
Of course, Norm was also known for his sense of humor, and space restricts us from going on in that regard. (Can you tell Norm is one of my favorite Tigers?) A hard liver, a hard hitter and a guy I wish I had met.
Cecil Fielder was another hale and well met fellow who had a great season in 1990, hitting .277, but smashing 51 home runs, and getting 132 RBI's, as well as breaking my thumb on a foul ball in Texas Stadium. (First aid tip-immersing the broken appendage in ice cold beer while drinking a lot will get you through the seventh inning.)
On Aug. 25, 19990 Fielder became (and remains) the only Tiger ever to hit a ball over the left field roof of Tiger Stadium.
And so, that brings us to Miguel Cabrera. Does one night of partying and beating up his wife take away all the contributions of 51 home runs and 132 RBI's last summer? What do you think?


  1. It is hard to be objective when you are trying to evaluate men whom you have seen play as oppossed tot other player's stats. I had to go with Cash on this one. His accomplishments in 1961 were incredible. And he had a sense of humor. Didn't he come to bat with a table leg at one point? And didn't he pull the hidden ball trick on some chump?

    As for Cabreara, if you think he only had one night of partying you are only kidding yourself. I really don't know what to expect of this coming season. I guess my moral standards are way too high for these players. I hope he has an awesome season; as fans we deserve it after he let us down at the close of last season, but I just don't know. Give me Granderson and take away Cabreara any day.

  2. Agreed on all points, Chuck. As for Stormin' Norman's sense of humor, check out wikipedia on him. He brought the table leg to bat as the last hitter in a Nolan Ryan no-hitter. When the ump said "Norm, you can't hit with that," he replied "I can't hit his pitches with a regular bat, so what's the difference?" Yes, he tried the hidden ball trick on more than one player. Another stunt was to try to take an extra base, after a rain delay if he was on second, he'd go to third like he owned it. What a guy.

  3. Guys, guys, guys... I know you love Stormin' Norman -- what Tigers fan who grew up in the '60s and '70s didn't? But please take this into consideration: He admitted that he used a corked bat in 1961. He showed Sports Illustrated how to make one. Bottom line: He cheated. It doesn't change the fact that he was a good player or that he was great with the fans. But it does -- or should -- cause us to question the legitamacy of his greatest season. I'll take Greenberg.

  4. It would be a lame (but true) claim to say "lot's of people did it," but the truth is that a study by Bart Giamatti's egg-head physicist buddy said that corking only provided "marginal bat speed improvement."
    Of course, the other reason for the high average was the league's thin pitching in an expansion year. He still gets my vote.