The Greatest Tiger - Part II

And so we continue our tour of Tiger greatness...on to the Oldies!

George Kell

It's easy for us "kids" to confuse the great broadcaster from the Hall of Fame Thirdbaseman and hitter, George Kell. But let us refresh our memory about the later. 

Kell the ball player was definitely a great, with a total career average of .306, with seven consecutive All-Star appearances as a Tiger. In 1949 he beat out the great Ted Williams for the batting title with a .3429 average (the extra digit is important, as the Splendid Splinter hit .3427.)

Interestingly, like many of today's players, Kell did not play his entire career as a Tiger; he was also with Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Baltimore. But he did seem to have his best years with the old English D on his head.  

Hal Newhouser

Verlander might be the greatest righthander in Tiger history, but I'd vote for Newhouser as the greatest lefty. A seven time All-Star, twice MVP (the only pitcher named MVP in consecutive years, and barely missed a third being beaten out by Ted Williams.)

Drafted right out of Detroit's Wilbur Wright High School, "Prince Hal" joined the Tigers a year later. Frankly, he stunk the joint out his first two years, giving up more walks the K's. But by the end of his illustrious career, his ERA stood at an awesome 3.06.

In 1944 he won 29 games, struck out 187 and posted a 2.22 ERA. He came back in 1945 to do almost as well, and even pitched four innings in relief in the last game of the season to help the Bengals win the pennant, and eventually the Series.

Do we still think Verlander was the greatest Tiger pitcher? Wouldn't it be something to have a rotation with both of these guys?

Alas, if there is any criticism to be made of Newhouser's stats, it must be noted that his greatest years were when MLB was thinned by WWII, and he didn't have to face the likes of Ted Williams. (To be fair, it must be noted that he tried several times to enlist, but was deferred due to a leaky heart valve.)
Hank Greenberg

"Hammerin' Hank" was one of the greatest home run hitters of the post-Ruthian era, nailing 58 dingers in 1938, and 331 over his illustrious career. His career average was .313, and only Lou Gehrig eclipses his season RBI mark for a left-hander to this day!

Five time All-Star, twice MVP, he was also the first Jewish superstar, refusing to play on Yom Kippur, although he was not a practicing Jew.

One big footnote on his career stats must be that he, like many of his era, gave up more than three years of his career to service in WWII.  

Interestingly, he was the first ballplayer to make more than $100,000.

(If you haven't seen it yet, catch the DVD of the movie "Greenberg." )

Charlie Gehringer

Easily overlooked because he was quiet and didn't hit with power, Charlie Gehringer was certainly one of the greatest Tigers.

We all recall how beautiful it was to watch Whitaker and Trammel, but our fathers were just as spellbound with Gehringer and Rogell at second and short respectively.

For 19 years he was known as "The Mechanical Man" at second, hitting .320 over his career, and getting 200 hits or more seven season, a feat matched only by Willie Mays!

Second highest assists for a second baseman all-time, an MVP and a batting title to his credit, the guy was amazing. He had two consecutive streaks of more than 500 consecutive games played. 

It says how little the players of that era were paid, when you consider that Gehringer worked as a salesman at Husdson's in the off season, and toured in barnstorming exhibition games in Japan and with the negro league all-stars. Satchel Paige once said Gehringer was the best white hitter he ever faced.

Ty Cobb

(Hagerty and other photographers might find the article at interesting. The photographer wasn't even sure he pushed the shutter, but he pulled the film out of the camera, just in case.)

So it really comes down to this, doesn't it? Ty Cobb was a totally unlikeable son-of-a-gun, a racist, mysogenist, anti-Catholic, who played the ultimate in Small-Ball that would make the Oakland A's embarrassed. But was he the greatest Tiger in history? Maybe the greatest player in the history of the game?

To this day, the man holds several records, including the highest career average (.366 or .367) and most batting titles (10 or 11) and most steals of home.

In what was no doubt the best deal the Tigers ever made, they bought his contract for $750 from the Augusta Tourists.

Interestly, he was MVP only once in 26 years, and made 271 outfield errors, still an American Leage record.

Books have been written on the man; check out for a more detailed account of his accomplishments and vices.

Harry Heilman

It's almost deflating to look at Heilman's record, after thinking about Cobb, but you've got to give the man credit. 15 years with the Tigers, four batting titles, including hitting .403 in 1923. Spanning the dead-ball, and live-ball era, he was the first man to homer in every ballpark in his day (He finished with the Reds.)

His career .342 still ranks as the 12th best all-time.

Perhaps his only weakness was his total lack of speed and agility in the field, earning him the dubious nick name of "Slug," not referring to his .520 slugging average.

In Summation

Well, that's all she wrote, as far as I'm considered.

Don't you wish we coul have seen them all? Don't you wish we could see them play against each other? Imagine Hal Newhouser pitching to Cabrera!

If you think I'm missing somebody, suggest him in the comments. Go ahead and give him the full-write up. I'm tired of doing research (although it was fun.)

Let's give it a few days, post your comments, and I'll put a ballot up later this week or early next.


  1. A great write-up. One addition to Willie Mays, Wade Boggs had 200 hits seven times and Suzuki has done it ten times.

  2. Great expose, Gregg. Iagree it would have been awesome to see those guys play.

    TY COBB gets my nod.

  3. Mr. Anonymous: thanks. I was just regurgitating what I read on Wikipedia, always a dubious source.
    You sound like an astute observer of the game. Want to join us as an official contributor? send me your e-mail address at There is no cost or obligation, and our only iron-clad rule is to keep it clean and generally about Detroit sports in some way.

    1. You've signed me up once already, but I forgot my log in stuff. This is Dave