To start with, we could have a lengthy conversation as to the benefits of the DH.
People with infinitely more wisdom have debated this issue since its inception in 1973. My personal opinion is that it is good for the game. Pitcher’s duels are always fun to watch, but the excitement of offense is what I love to watch. Most of the finalists I will list have had their careers extended because of the opportunity to assume the role of the DH.
In the history of the DH, two Tigers have been awarded as the American League DH of the year. Gates Brown won that distinction for his performance in 1973. He appeared in 133 games, batting .236 with 12 home runs and 50 rbis. #26 was always a fan favorite and can still be found at Comerica Park greeting fans. Willie Horton was the American League DH of the year in 1975. He appeared in 159 games, with 25 HR and 92 rbis. #23 also was a fan favorite (in fact it looks like most DHs are). I remember him walking the streets of Detroit during the ’67 riots trying to calm a divided city.
Other Tigers DHs include:
Rusty Staub (1978) – didn’t you love this big brute with that red hair? He played in all 162 games that year, batting .273, with 25 HR and 121 rbis. Those 121 rbis were the second most for the entire American League that year, and Staub was in 5th place for the MVP.
Dmitri Young (2005) – nicknamed “Meat Hook” – wasn’t he arrested for spousal abuse? In 2005 he was DH in 74 games and 1st base in 70 games. He hit .271, with 21 HR and 72 rbis.
Kirk Gibson (1995). During Kirk’s first tour of duty here he rarely DHed, but after becoming a World Series hero with the Dodgers, he finished his career here with lots of DHing. Kirk had a total of 60 HRs and 220 rbis as a DH. In 1995 he hit .260 with 9 HR and 35 rbis. Let me open a can of worms here – When Leyland’s tour of duty as a manager is done, how about considering Kirk Gibson, who is in training as bench coach of the Diamondbacks? – just a thought.
Frank Howard “Hondo” finished his career here in 1973 with 36 games at DH and another 72 in the field, hitting .256 with 12HR and 29 rbis. The website listed him as weighing 255 – NOT! One thing I remember about Frank was that I attended a game and he got thrown out of the game before a pitch was even thrown. I think he was continuing an argument from the day before, or maybe he wanted a day off. He probably doesn’t need to be listed here, but I am the author.
Al Kaline finished his career here in 1974, playing in 147 games, hitting, 262, with 13HRs and 64 rbis. Hard to consider Al for this category due to his phenomenal play in that infamous right field corner in Tiger Stadium.
Darrel Evans DHed in 72 games in 1988. He also played 1st and 3rd in 65 other games batting .208, with 22 HRs and 64 rbis. What an asset he was in 1984 during the pennant rush. He DHed is half of his games that year batting .232 with 16HRs and 63 rbis.
Gary Sheffield (2007) DHed in 119 games with another 26 in the outfield. Remember those chef hats that many people wore? He hit.298 with 25 HRS and 75rbis. Injuries plagued him. Either you liked him or you really didn’t (I was in the second category).
Marcus Thames (2009), originally was drafted by the Yankees in 1996 and he just signed a minor league contract with them on Feb. 8th – I sure hope he makes it somewhere. Last year he DHed in 50 games and played the field in another 42 games. He hit .252 with 13 HRs and 36 rbis.
Aubrey Huff (2009) – brought in to help us win the American League pennant – what a flop he was. He only hit .189 while with the Tigers. Thank you Mr. Dumbrowski.
2010 – Who knows? Guillen? Ordonez? Ramirez? Some Spring Training phenom? – stay tuned!
A final note not related to DHing. The website I used listed the amount of money players have earned in their careers. They only did this for more recent players. Here is the list (all in millions): Darrell Evans 3.6, Marcus Thames 4.3, Kirk Gibson 15.2, Aubrey Huff 34.8, Dmitri Young 52.8, AND
Gary Sheffield – 168. Didn’t Kaline once turn down $100,000 because he didn’t think he was worth that much?
(In case you couldn't guess, baseball fans, this was written by Chuck Piotrowski.)
Go to a Grand Rapids Whitecaps game, and you definitely have a choice.
Two of the most interesting are the "Declaration of Indigestion" and a "Twinkie Cheese Dog."
Frankly, a deep-fried Twinkie stuffed with cheese and a hot dog sounds gross to me, especially with beer.
According to the Whitecaps, "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to disband from the tyranny of healthy eating, they should consume the Declaration of Indigestion. You see, all sandwiches are not created equal as this half-pound, footlong hot dog is covered in a philly cheese steak (steak, cheese, peppers and onions) and served on a gigantic sub roll. It is certainly your unalienable right to consume one of these in the pursuit of happiness."
Maybe. But I think I'll stick to good old French Canadian poutine.
Hey, we need a volunteer to head out to Grand Rapids this summer to do some serious research.
(OBTW - these are just nominations for a Whitecap menu expansion. The election will take place on line at http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100209&content_id=8042520&vkey=pr_t582&fext=.jsp&sid=t582 Unfortunately, some PR man's creativity ran out in front of their social networking skills. The press release went out this morning, but the ballot isn't on the site. Somebody let me know when they get it up. Hey, I'm getting hungry, and I just ate breakfast!
8:33 a.m.-Leyland's first request of spring for PR director Brian Britten "get me another pack of cigarettes." (glad I'm not his PR man.)
"You can be a jerk sometimes," Leyland says to the reporter who asks him how it feels to manage the Tiger's first player born in the 1990's, Jacob Turner.
From The Detroit News: http://apps.detnews.com/apps/blogs/tigersblog/index.php?blogid=2022#ixzz0g0Xo7PbR
So there is my true confession and my thanks to Gregg.
By the powers vested in me by, well, nobody, I'm scrapping this week's poll and starting over again.
Initially we had our list of nominees from http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com/fan_forum/all_time_nine/index.jsp?c_id=det.
I complicated things by trying to split the players out by specific position, despite the fact that outfielders are lumped together, and they're all notorious for being switched around by management.
First, Tom justifiably busted me for putting Gibson in left in 1984; it was Herndon. What are we to do? I dare say Gibbie wouldn't have outvoted Kaline in our rightfield poll, where he belonged. So I know it's not Kosher, but let's leave him here for this poll.
Willie Horton was not on the original ballot; now that I've taken a look at his record, I think I see why. He had a tremendously productive career,we all love him, hitting 325 homers over 18 years. But this poll is for the greatest single season. One might argue over when was his "break out" year. For example, in '68 he hit .285, (fourth in the league)nailed 36 homers (second) and 85 RBI's (fifth.) In 1970 he upped the average to .305, 17 homers and 69 RBI's, but hitting had come back, and Willie didn't rank in any of those categories. I'm going to give you the option to vote for his '68 season, since they won the series that year.
Bill asked me why I didn't include Luis Gonzales. Mainly, because he wasn't on the ballot, but I have a challenge for you: he only played for the Tigers in 1998. He didn't make the All-Star team and his wikipedia entry barely mentions the Tigers. Bill, why should we vote for him?
So there you go. Chuck, please vote again if you please.
Bless me father, for I have sinned.
This afternoon I put up the poll for greatest season by a left fielder, and left Colavito in left. Sorry Rock. Sorry readers.
Somebody voted for Gibbie. Unfortunately, I can't save your vote and add Rocky now. Please go back and vote again if that was you. Everybody (including me) gets one vote.
Amazing to me that after the awesome talent we have seen at all the other Tiger positions, the relative paucity of great years in leftfield. (That ought to start a few fights in the old bar room.)
Some of these guys I've never heard of, and many I've never seen, but I guess we must use the list of nominations we are given, and obviously, and as always, your commentator has an opinion.
Bobby Veach is one of the guys I've never heard of. My Dad never told me about him (because he never saw Veach either) but in 1921 (Dad was just nine, and living way up north)Bobby had a career-year. He hit .338 and was fourth in the league with 128 RBI's. He must have been good with the glove, as he led the A.L. in putouts for a left fielder. But hey, in those heady days of offense, a .338 average wasn't that hot, and Veach's own teammates Cobb and Heilman hit .389 and .394 respectively. (Five starters hit over .300 for the Tigers that year, which certainly didn't hurt his RBI total if he hit low in the order.)Unfortunately, all this hitting went for naught, as the Tigers came in sixth, with Ruth and the Yankees taking another flag. (A Tiger ERA of 4.4 was no doubt part of the problem.)
Al Wingo had a career year in 1925, with a .370 average, but this was another year in the era of the hitter. In fact, Al's cohorts in the outfield, Cobb and Heilman, again hit over .370, the only time in MLB history (according wikipedia.)IMHO, "Red" Wingo wasn't too remarkable for his time.
A good (not great) year was had by Goose Goslin in 1936. He hit .315 with 24 homers and 125 RBI's, but in those days of Gehrig, Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Joe DiMaggio, he just wasn't among the leaders.
Many of us older guys remember "The Rock," Rocky Colavito. In 1961 he hit .290 with 45 dingers (I wish I could've been a sportswriter in the '40's and '50's). Of course, that was the year Roger Maris hit 61 homers, but Rocky was still good for fourth spot in total bases and fifth for homers. He also had a gun for an arm, getting 10 assists from the outfield.
Some of you have called him "Two-Swing Gibbie", but ya' gotta love something about Kirk Gibson. In 1984 he hit a respectable .282 with 27 homers and 91 RBI's. Trams, Whitaker, Lemon, even Bararo Garbay had better averages, Lance Parrish got more homers, but Gibbie brought it all with gusto, and with that blazing speed of his early career he was among the league leaders in triples.
By 2000, I had been gone from Detroit for 20 years, and the Tigers were turning in a mediocre season, four games under .500, but Bobby Higginson was turning in good season with a .300 average and 30 home runs. You guys fill in the rest.
If this was a draft, who would you pick?
This week’s ballot is pretty short, only three candidates, and (IMHO) a slam dunk for one guy, Ty Cobb.
I don’t think anybody liked him, but everybody admits, he must have been one of the greatest. In 1911 he walked on water, at the plate and in the field. Has his average, .420, been matched in the last century? I don’t think so. Granted, it was a different game back then, and two very different leagues. Honus Wagner led the National League with .334, but “Shoeless” Joe hit .408, and Cobb’s teammate Sam Crawford hit .378 in the “Junior Circuit” (been a long time since I’ve seen a sportswriter use that term.) ironically, there seems to be some good pitching in those days, with two guys coming in with ERA’s under two, and at least five 20 game-winners. As I said, must have been a different game, but I digress from Cobb’s great year.
He led the league in RBI’s, total bases, slugging average, stolen bases, runs scored, doubles, triples and second in homers. Getting a hit almost every other time he went to the plate, you would think pitchers would have walked him intentionally more often, but he didn’t rank in the top three in walks.
Almost as amazing is his fielding. He led the league total fielding chances per game and put-outs for a center fielder, and took part in an amazing and league leading 10 double plays! (Must have had a gun for an arm.)
Take points off his score for being a totally miserable teammate, and see if you think he was the best.
Amazingly, even though the Tigers had Cobb and Crawford, and a slick-fielding shortstop named Bush who led the league in many defensive categories, they came in second to Connie Mack’s Athletics.
Can you imagine how tough it must have been to replace Cobb, with Cobb watching over you, and sharing the position abut a third of the time? That was the fate of Heine Manush, who hit .378 and took the AL crown for batting average in 1926. While we must give him his due, the hitters seemed to be in power in this era, with Manush, and five others hitting better than .350.
For whatever reason, the Tigers traded him before the 1928 season, and slid to a losing record that year in sixth place.
We all love Curtis Granderson and what he did for the Tigers in 2007, reaching the 20-20-20 club, and hitting .302 with power. His range in the field is awesome. To his credit, he is a great teammate, with speed and contributed to a pennant winner. To his detriment, he did strike out a lot, and if we are measuring these guys by the “best in the league” in the same year, Curtis was overshadowed by teammate Mags by 60 points in average.
I dare say his best years (maybe an MVP) are still ahead of him) but does this season match Cobb in 1911?
First, it's about one of our guys, Hall of Famer, Hank Greenberg. Second, it is a tremendous documentary on it's own. It won several awards, and throughout the hour and a half, I found myself saying, "Huh, I didn't know that!?" (Like the fact that Father Coughlin, pastor of Royal Oak Shrine of the Little Flower and popular broadcaster during the 1930's was vitriolically anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi. ) I had heard of the anti-Semitism Greenberg had to put up with during his career, but it was great to see footage of interviews with him and his family when he was alive. The film also portrays Greenberg as a hero of the Jewish community, and interviews people like the Levin brothers (Senator Carl and Sandy) Walter Matthau and many others.
But no doubt, best of all was the baseball. I found myself actually breaking out in cheers when Hank came back from World War II by hitting a home run and leading the Tigers to a World Series victory.
You can buy it or rent it, but take a look at it if you call yourself a Tiger fan. You won't be sorry.
(You might think "the Jews" in Hollywood suffer from a little idol worship, but interestingly, Hank was a rather secular Jew. His son says when he came back from the war, he was sickened by the way religion divided people, and never went back to synagogue. "I believe all people are God's children," he said in the film. So much for the "Chosen People;" he might not have made any friends with the Jewish community with that remark.
He seems to be such a genuine, nice man, we all hope he's in Heaven today.
Radio stations are making it sound like Johnny Damon is close to signing with the Tigs.
While some fine players, like Harvey Kueen could play any outfield position (and a few in the infield too) can you imagine a manager putting a guy like Granderson anywhere but center? That said, it requires some arbitrary judgment to anchor a guy at one spot.
First, records are a little sketchy as to which outfield position one played. Second, who’s to say that managers didn’t move their guys around in the season or even during the game for strategic reasons. (I was surprised to learn that in 1959 Kaline is listed as a center fielder in my Baseball Encyclopedia, apparently to make room for Kueen.) So I’ll make a best guess, plunk them into one spot, and promise you that everybody will get on the ballot in the next three weeks.
Before you wax nostalgic about Kaline’s heyday, or Mag’s great 2007 MVP season, I ask you to seriously consider a few older players. Sam “Wahoo” Crawford’s smacked .314 with a league leading 134 RBI’s during the dead ball era in 1914. He was second in the league in homers, total hits, total bases, and third in slugging average. Wikipedia refers to “The Gray Ink Test,” which statistically compares hitters, and he is the ninth best hitter of all-time, ahead of slouches like Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Barry Bonds. With Cobb in center, it’s amazing the Tigers only came in fourth that year.
In 1923 the Tigers had another rightfielder that might make us forget about Kaline and Mag’s if only we would have seen him. Harry Heilmann hit an incredible .403 for the AL title, and did it with power, nailing 18 HR’s. (Only the Babe and some guy from the Browns hit more.) Harry came in third in the MVP balloting to Ruth and Eddie Collins of Chicago. (I guess playing in a big city had its advantage even in those days.)
Gee Walker is kinda hard to judge. Frankly, until I started working on this, I’d not heard of him, although he had a fine season in 1936, with a .353 average. Probably this is due to the fact that there were astronomical average in those days, and .353 didn’t even land him in the top five for averages, or rank him in homers, RBI’s or any of the big offensive categories. Today, I think this guy would be a .300 hitter, no more.
Vic Wertz had a fine season in 1950 by anybody’s standard, and was immensely popular, but frankly, how can we compare his .308 average and 27 homers to the accomplishments of these other guys?
Over his career, Al Kaline was probably the finest combination glove and stick us older generation of Tiger fans have ever seen. Now I’m gonna draw some heat: he never really returned to the same form from this sophomore season of 1955 (although we probably should take into that hitters in the American League as a whole slumped in the late ‘50’s and early 1960’s.) But almost as valuable as his hitting was his incredible fielding and phenomenal arm. It was a joy to any Tiger fan to watch him go deep in the rightfield corner on a fly ball, and then throw a strike to the shortstop putting the tag on a runner trying to advance from first. Wikipedia says he threw out two runners at home in one inning, but they need a citation. Best of all, he was and is a nice guy.
In 1959 Kaline moved over to center to make room Harvey Kueen, who took the batting title with a .353 average. Harvey made his mark as a spray-hitting singles and doubles hitter, and left the Tigers during the next winter in the famous Rocky Colovito trade.
Magglio Ordonez 2007 season was something out of a storybook. He led the majors in average (.363) and doubles, and racked up historic numbers in slugging average and on base percentage. To boot, he earned an MVP and a Silver Slugger award. We’ll ignore the fact that he’s a big supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.