Who Wast the Greatest Tiger of All Time? (Part One)

We had lots of fun a few winters ago, picking our favorite Tigers position by position, and over pasta a vino, MVP Chuck Piotrowski and I agreed it might be time to select our all-time favorite Tiger.

The rules here are a little loosey-goosey. (What else did you expect from me?) I think we should vote on the greatest career contribution to the Detroit Tigers and accomplishments as a Tiger. But hey, how can I police your vote, if you like Mark Fydrich, or just love Paul Foytack?

Here are my nominees from "The Modern Era." (Part II -  The old guys, next week.) If you have suggestions, include them in a comment, and then in a couple weeks we'll do a "formal" poll.  I tried to include players from most eras.

Justin Verlander

Certainly the ace of today's staff, and his career is probably far from over.

Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner, and MVP, he started more than 30 games for the last six years, and pitched more than 200 innings for the last five.

What's almost as amazing is that his ERA is "only" 3.41. Fact is, he did have a couple lousy years. In his rookie year, 2005, he went 0-2 and had a balloon-like 7.15 ERA.

Of course, now we know he was just paying some dues, took what he learned, and went on to greatness. Except in 2008, when he led the league in losses with 17, and got nailed for a 4.84 ERA.

But hey, nobody's perfect. He's been masterful, especially for the last few years, totalling 116 victories so far, and we all hope many, many more.

Miguel Cabrera

Often cited as what might be the best pure hitter in baseball right now. The guy is incredible.  He hits for average, power, RBI's, and as he's shown us this year, he really can handle third pretty well.

It's only unfortunate this is only his fifth year as a Tiger. (All following remarks note only his accomplishments as a Tiger.)  Hitting .322, with 168 homers. Miggy led the league in a slew of categories, (HR and total bases in 2008, RBIs and OBP in 2010, and last year the batting title with .344.) He plays almost every day, and seems to be a truly nice guy. (You ever notice how much he talks on the field? He talks to the opposition third base coach, he talks to the shortstop, he talks with runners. That's probably why he was such a good first baseman; he talked to runners at first more than any Tiger since Sean Casey, and he distracted the runner. But I digress.)

At 29 we all hope he is with the Bengals for years to come. It might not be fair to measure him against players who played a full career in Detroit, but he has already earned a spot in the pantheon of greats. 

Jack Morris

Why isn't he in the Hall of Fame?

As a Tiger, he was the ace for 14 years, earning 198 wins and a 3.73 ERA. When you look up the word "Horse" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Jack. He threw an amazing 3,042 innings, including 293 in 1983.

Unfortunately, he pitched for some pretty shabby teams; had he regularly been on a competitor, lordie only knows how many wins he'd have.

A real competitor.

Alan Trammel

20 years a Tiger, and what a career! Rookie of the Year, four-time Gold Glove winner, and an all-around nice guy.

Tram did it all, and did it all very well. Perhaps the harshest criticism might be that although he always did everything well, he rarely (ever?) led the league in any specific category, and never called attention to himself beyond letting his accomplishments speak on his behalf.

He could hit (.285 average) hit for power (185 HR's, including 28 in 1987) and stole 236 bases.  

A great one.

Kirk Gibson

We loved his gritty attitude, and we loved the fact that he's a hometown boy (Waterford, close enough.)

In a dozen years with the Tigers, he only hit over .300 once, and overall hit .273. He nailed 195 homers, and stole 194 bases, in a quirky combination of power and speed.

(He was an MVP for the Dodgers in '88. I guess letting him go as a free agent at the end of 1987 was a bonehead idea.) 

Al Kaline

For us baby boomers, Al Kaline is the gold standard of fine ball players.

Rookie of the Year and batting title winner in 1955, the guy was notorious for playing that right field corner in Tiger Stadium, and throwing out runners trying to advance a base. He had an arm that knew no equal. He racked up 10 Gold Gloves, and hit .297 in 22 years, a stat that understates his ability, given that much of his career was in the era of the pitcher.

(Doncha love that the Tigers haven't changed their uniforms much in 50 years?)


  1. My vote goes with #6 - Al Kaline. In fairness to Ty Cobb, I never saw him play, but in all I have read, he would get a 2nd place vote. I don't think you can consider Cabrera for another 10 years

  2. Cobb would be greatest in the Old Guys category. Given that JV and Miggy are still active, my vote goes to Kaline.

  3. its a relative question. realtive to the era which you first hand watched and saw that particular player and how he individually could affect the outcome of the game.
    names like kaline come to mind when taking on the yankees in a 61 weekend series, breaking a collarbone diving to make a game saving catch. colavito, pointing the barrel of the bat at the pitcher, cash, gangly, almost goofy standing up there, yet driving a ball over the roof in right. how could we forget mcauliffe, thee most unorthodox stance in the game for the era. nobody else stood in the box like him, yet incredibly reliable at the plate and at short. on a hot sunday, driving around detroit or sitting in the back yard, old sunday paw paw charlie maxwell inevitably was our hero. bringing earl wilson in to pinch bat, hank aguirre with a lifetime pathetic batting average of abour .049, and proud of it, jim bunning, steady durable, then gone to the phillies,norhtrup, with great catches in center, two grannies in one game one night, i still recall the game. mclain of course, lolich, chico fernandez at short, i loved listening to ernie say 'chico has it, the flip over to first and the tigers are out of the jamb'. as we got older, naturally the gibsons, parrishes, morris's, tram and lou,willie hernandez, it all became synonymous with the greatest tiger. pick a game and one of them, for a night, was the greatest tiger. now its the cabrera verlander fielder era. so you see, its very hard to pick the greatest tiger for me. as a lifetime fan, i have so many from so many great games. the entire team, effort, want to provide a winning team, even during the very lean years i still remained loyal and hopeful. the game, the team, the logo, all of it represents a break from reality for me, a team and players and even the english D, all of it is something i am proud of even though i have lived in chicago now for 35 years.

    1. I love Domzal's reflectiomns -- brings back memories. Old Old time is Ty Cobb; Old time is Al Kaline; Present day is Cabrera, with a close second to Verlander

  4. Great post, JD. But I'm gonna forceeverybody to choose one.