Last week, Tiger Stadium would have turned 100 years old. In a great column, Chris Jaffe runs through what he considers the 10 greatest games played at Tiger Stadium. My favorite on the list was the 1987 Blue Jays series. Good stuff as always out of Chris and if you want more from him, be sure to check out his run down of Ivan Rodriguez’s career as he’s retiring today.
Yesterday when I was at the White Sox/Nationals game, Adam Dunn went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts. When I was looking at the Tigers box score, I noticed that Austin Jackson also had four strikeouts and was 0 for 4 (although he drew one walk). Four strikeouts in a game isn’t a common occurance, but it’s also not too rare so here’s a little history of Tigers and bad days at the plate. Here’s the raw data if you want to look at it yourself.
Austin Jackson yesterday was the first Tigers with four strikeouts in a game. Last year it happened four times by four different players. Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera (a little surprised by this one), Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch all struck out four times in one game in 2010. Boesch’s game was a four plate appearance game but for the other three, they all had five plate appearances (so there was one time at the plate that they didn’t strike out).
The last Tiger to strike out five times in one game is Craig Monroe. He did it on June 14, 2007. Prior to that, it hadn’t been done since 1995 when Danny Bautista went one for six with five strikeouts. The only other five strikeout games I could find on Play Index were Chet Labs in 1938 and Cecil Fielder in 1990 although there are still some holes during those times.
Only four Tigers have struck out at least four times in a game and hit a home run. Marcus Thames was the last player to do it in 2008 and he’s joined by Curtis Granderson, Jim Northrup and Alan Trammell (somewhat of a surprise). Thames is the only Tiger to strike out four times and have two hits in a game which he did in 2006. That was a 13 inning game.
Tony Clark has the most four strikeout games in a single season with four in 1999. Cecil Fielder (1990) and Rob Deer (1991 and 1993) were the other two to have four strikeouts games three times. There’s a four way tie atop the list of all time Tigers with four strikeout games. Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder and Tony Clark have eight each. Rob Deer has seven. No active Tiger has more then two.
Jim Northrup passed away. He played eleven seasons in a Tigers uniform from 1964 through 1974 and he’s best known for two things. First, he hit five grand slams in 1968. Second, in that same year, he drove home the winning run in game seven of the 1968 World Series. He was also indirectly involved in one of the most unusual manging moves ever. Because of his breakout season in 1968, the Tigers found themselves with four solid outfielders so manager Mayo Smith moved Mickey Stantley to shortstop for the tail end of the regular season and the World Series.
The Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz trade is one of the more infamous trades in the Tigers history. In a late season trade, the veteran Alexander was shipped to Detroit for prospect John Smoltz. Alexander did his job and was awesome in his eleven starts for Detroit (9-0, 3.9 WAR) and in hindsight it’s safe to the say that the Tigers probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs if they hadn’t made the trade. Of course Alexander didn’t do much after that and John Smoltz went on to have a Hall of Fame career for the Braves.
I still defend the trade because it did what the Tigers set out to accomplish. Now the Baseball Reference blog is soliciting answers to the question of “What if the Braves didn’t trade Alexander for Smoltz?”. There’s some interesting feedback and it’s worth the read.
In an interesting series Geoff Young at the Hardball Times is going through the 1987 draft and imagining what would have happened had each team take what would eventually be the best player available based on WAR (Wins Above Replacement). The Tigers actually did their job in this draft because they’re one of only four teams to be worse off under the revised draft compared to who they actually took (Travis Fryman).
Fryman was a mainstay in the Tigers lineup for most of the 1990s, splitting time between shortstop and third base before eventually becoming a full time third baseman. The five time All Star was traded after the 1997 season and he eventually landed in Cleveland where continued to have success until he retired after the 2002 season.
Under the revised draft, Fryman would have been taken with the tenth pick by the San Francisco Giants. In Fryman’s place, the Tigers would have picked Gil Heredia who had a pretty average ten year major league career. Of course the 1990s were pretty much a lost decade for the Tigers anyway so having a slightly better starter for a couple of years wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
It seems like forever since the Tigers played in the World Series, then after their loss to the Cardinals, made an offensive push by trading a package of prospects to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield. Shef is with the Mets and while he never lived up to the hype, never did the cornerstone of the trade on the Yankees side of things. Humberto Sanchez missed all of 2007 then in 2008 he played for three different minor league teams in the Yankees organization before getting a cup of coffee in September (two relief appearances, two innings pitched). This year, he’s been okay in limited time as a middle reliever for the Tampa Yankees.
I was always a little skeptical about Sanchez. He had the one great season in 2006 but even that was cut short when he developed elbow problems. Prior to that, he was decent but not exceptional. Now he’s 26 and he’s struggling in A+ ball so the odds of him making it are pretty slim at this point.
Yeah, I know Gibby has two big postseason home runs but one means more to Tiger fans then the other. I posted a great piece on Tigers Corner Wag the Dog by Bill Dow this morning on game five of the 1984 World Series. It contains extensive quotes from Kirk Gibson himself, as well as Sparky Anderson and former Free Press beat writer Bill McGraw. Coming later in the week will be a complimentary piece with quotes from Roger Craig on the 1984 season.
One of my daily reads is Beyond the Boxscore and one of their features is the Graph of the Day. Yesterday’s gragh took a look at some of the best second basemen and their respective Wins Above Replacement. When I looked at the graph, I immediately thought Lou Whitaker but I wasn’t alone because he was the first player talked about in the comments.
Patrick Sullivan at Baseball Analysts had a nice column on the best players at each position who played their entire careers for one team. Not only did Charlie Gehringer make the cut, but he got the most competition from former Tiger Lou Whitaker at second base.
I thought there was a relatively new biography on Gehringer but I couldn’t find it at Amazon.com.
Chris Jaffe, at the Hardball Times, penned an interesting piece on how the Tigers have never really had great pitching. At least not historically. He takes a look at the first half of the Tigers’ history. As he talks about, there’s pretty much Hal Newhouser then everyone else. Tommy Bridges warrants some Hall of Fame consideration, but after that, it gets pretty thin, at least through 1954. Good stuff.
Matt Joyce made the BA Top Twenty International League prospects. I’m not sure what the criteria is, but I’m surprised Jeff Larish didn’t make the list. There were some 26 year olds on the list, but it looks like Joyce made it more for what he did at the big league level then anything. He checked in at number 13, and it was Jay Bruce who topped the list for the second consecutive year.
I missed this on Friday, but it was announced that Eddie Brinkman passed away. Brinkman was a shortstop who played for the Tigers from 1971 through 1974 and he was part of a controversial trade that sent Denny McLain to the Washington Senators after the 1970 season. Brinkman played in his only All Star game and won his only gold glove with the Tigers in 1972 and he played in his lone All Star game as a Tiger in 1973. Brinkman carved out a 15 year career despite having a career batting average of just .224 because he was slick in the field. His best season with the leather was probably 1970, when (according to the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia) he led the league in Fielding Runs (31) and Range (117). It was the only season of his career that he led the league in Fielding Runs and just the second time he led in range. 117 was his personal best though. He also had a career high .330 on base percentage that season.
I also wanted to give a quick shout out to the guys at Baseball Rampage. If you want some high quality service and you’re in the market for a baseball bat or baseball equipment, I highly recommend that you check them out.
I’ve been working with Bill Dow, a freelance baseball writer, on the 2008 Edition of Tigers Corner and when he mentioned he had an interview with Ron LeFlore that one of the big papers didn’t end up running, I asked him if he’d like to put it up on Tigerblog. Fortunately for us, he was nice enough to agree and I found the interview pretty interesting. I didn’t know LeFlore’s first minor league manager was Jim Leyland and I found LeFlore’s thoughts on the trade that sent him out of Detroit particularly noteworthy. Anyway, here it is:
CATCHING UP WITH FORMER TIGER RON LEFLORE
By Bill Dow ******Just prior to his arrest for unpaid child support following an autograph show in Mt. Clemens,
How we remember him:
While serving a 5 to 15 year sentence at the Southern Michigan Prison in
Impressed with his speed and power, the Tigers signed LeFlore and he was released from prison on early parole after serving three years in prison. After playing briefly in the minor leagues, (134 games) the following year he became the Tiger’s lead off hitter and centerfielder.
In 1976 Leflore hit safely in 31 straight games, the longest American League hitting streak in 27 years, and he started in the All Star game. Two years later LeFlore lead the league in stolen bases with 78 and the major leagues in runs scored (126). In his Detroit career he batted over .300 three times, stole 294 bases and batted .297. In 1978 CBS aired the movie on his life, “One In A Million.”
After the Tigers: To the shock of Tiger fans,
LeFlore later coached at baseball clinics, played in the short lived Seniors League in Florida, and managed in the Independent Leagues. Immediately following the Tiger Stadium closing ceremonies in 1999, LeFlore made the news when he was arrested for not paying back child support. The following year he and his wife Emily were nearly killed in a head on collision caused by a drunk driver who was killed. She still suffers from brain trauma, while LeFlore has seven herniated discs, and will require knee and hip replacements.
Today: Leflore lives with his wife Emily near St. Petersburg,
On his June 1973 tryout at Tiger Stadium: “It was a one day furlough on my birthday and I took batting practice in front of Al Kaline, Jim Northrup, and Norm Cash. I’ll never forget walking out of the dugout tunnel and seeing that green grass and the enclosed stands. A week later I got another furlough and played an exhibition game at Butzel Field in Detroit in front of Bill LaJoie. I hit the ball well and was timed in the 60 yard dash. Bill told me I was the fastest guy he ever clocked.”
On lying about his age: “When I signed with the Tigers they told me to lie and say I was 21 years old and born in 1952. But when I was traded to Montreal Jim Campbell (GM) revealed that I was actually four years older. When I filed for my baseball pension at age 45, I had to straighten it all out.”
On Jim Leyland, his first manager in the minor leagues (Clinton, Iowa 1973): “Jim worked me to death. He took me out in the morning and hit fly balls to me and threw batting practice. He’s the one who got me to the major leagues so fast because he gave me the work ethic that was the determining factor in me making it.”
On his first major league game: “I joined the team in Milwaukee on July 31, 1974 when Mickey Stanley broke his hand. I went 0 for 4 and struck out the first three times against Jim Slaton the next day. His curveballs scared the hell out of me because I .had never really seen a great curveball before. I learned to hit the curve in Winter Ball in
On his 1976 All Star season: “I’m very proud that my parents saw me play in the All Star game but I am also proud of my 31 game hitting streak. It was difficult to concentrate because my younger brother had been killed during the streak. I don’t think anyone will beat DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak record with all the specialty pitchers now and the fact that you rarely face the same pitcher four times in a game.”
On his base stealing prowess: “Nobody taught me how to steal bases and nobody had really done it on the Tigers since Ty Cobb. I always had the green light. Stealing bases was the most fun I had in baseball. I remember having a cheering section at Tiger Stadium with the fans always yelling, ‘Go, go, go.’”
On his trade to Montreal: “It was one of the most demoralizing things that happened in my life. I loved playing in
On his arrest at the closing of Tiger Stadium: “My child support case was transferred to
On his dream of getting back into baseball: “Looking back, had I not joined the prison baseball team and if Billy Martin had not believed in giving people chances I’d probably be dead. I still love baseball and watch it closely. It’s frustrating to see players making base running errors and failing to hit the cut off man. I believe I have a lot to offer. Maybe I already had my opportunity, but hopefully someone will give me another chance.”
*******Bill Dow is a freelance writer based in Birmingham,
SABR is putting out a book on the 1968 Tigers next year and I’ve been busy working two biographies on Wayne Comer and Les Cain. I’d be interested to hear if any readers have stories or comments on either guy so if you know of either guy, drop me a line of leave a comment.
40 years ago today, the 1967 baseball season started and on the American League side, we had the closest pennant race ever. I’ve talked about this before, but with the help of some fellow bloggers, I’ve put together a website on the 1967 American League Pennant race to relive this classic season. And for Tiger fans, this will be good introduction to a lot of the players on the 1968 team (which I’ll be doing a diary on next year).
And if you’re a NL fan, Jeff Matthews at Gas House Gang will be doing a 1967 Cardinals diary. The opening day post should be up some time tonight.
I must have totally missed this. I knew Tram was the bench coach for Lou Pinella and the Cubs but I didn’t realize that Kirk Gibson got a job as the bench coach for the Diamondbacks. They bring up his time with Dodgers when during the spring season he had black eye put in his hat and they touch on Gibson’s intensity.
I got a sneak peak of the Tigers World Series DVD today and I have to say I’m impressed. In short, it provides highlights of each of the three previous World Series wins for the Tigers (yes, it goes all the way back to 1945) and while that’s interesting by itself, there’s a certain “coolness” factor that goes along with seeing Hank Greenberg go yard, Willie Horton gun down Lou Brock at the plate and Kirk Gibson hit his big homerun against Goose Gossage.
The first video is of the 1945 World Series and this was the one I was most interested in watching. Of all of four Tigers’ World Series wins, the 1945 season is the one I know the least about. You get to see Hal Newhouser get pummelled in game one but you also get to see him bounce back in a big game five win. Eddie Mayo gets some fielding highlights and they show him making a nice over the shoulder catch behind first base and you also get to see Hank Greenberg’s sweet swing. He hit two homeruns in the series and he was the only Tiger to go deep in the World Series.
The 1968 Tiger season to me is what 1984 is to a lot of people born in the mid to late 1980s. For thirteen years of my life, it was the last time the Tigers had won the World Series and I remember being up north at my uncle’s cottage in the early 1980s and I met a guy who was a big baseball fan. It was the first time I found out about Strat-o-Matic baseball and he also had an old school video projector (remember these in school, it was before VCRs existed) and one of the “movies” he had was the highlights of the 1968 World Series. I’m pretty sure the one on this DVD is the same thing and I remember Lou Brock getting a lot of hits and Bob Gibson striking out a lot of guys. More importantly, you also get to see the Tigers come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Some of the big parts include the game five gundown of Lou Brock at the plate by Willie Horton and the 13 run beatdown in game six. You also get to see Bob Gibson make history by striking out seventeen batters.
The 1984 part of the video was also cool but rather anticlimactic. The biggest part is the Goose Gossage/Kirk Gibson showdown where Gossage says he’ll strike out Gibson instead of giving him a free pass. Of course Gibson makes him pay and the rest is history. This is only a five game series while the other two were seven game series but there’s some neat extras here as well. The neatest thing about the 1984 portion is that these were the guys I grew up watching and getting a chance to see them one more time was very neat.
So in short, I highly recommend this video if you’re a Tiger fan. It’s about two hours, and it’s all good.
Record – 62-90, Finished Seventh Place in the American League
Pythagorean Record – 61-91
C – Lew Drill (.244/.335/.294)
1b – Charlie Carr (.214/.245/.267)
2b – Bobby Lowe (.208/.236/.259)
3b – Ed Gremminger (.214/.257/.285)
SS – Charley O’Leary (.213/.254/.254)
LF – Matty McIntyre (.253/.310/.317)
CF – Jimmy Barrett (.268/.353/.300)
RF – Sam Crawford (.254/.309/.361)
Homeruns – Sam Crawford, Matty McIntyre (2)
Batting Average – Jimmy Barrett (.268)
OPS – Sam Crawford (.670)
Best Fielder – Bobby Lowe (11 Fielding Runs Above Average)
Wins – George Mullin, Bill Donovan (17)
ERA – George Mullin (2.40)
Strikeouts – George Mullin (161)
If 1903 was a step forward for the Detroit Tigers, 1904 was a step back. The team lost 90 games, a franchise record that would stand until 1920, and they were pretty pathetic at the plate even by dead ball era standards. Probably the only thing that stopped them from being even worse was that the Washington Senators, who lost 113 games in 1904, were historically bad and it’s not ironic that the Senators were the only team that season that the Tigers had a winning record against (12-8).
At the plate, the Tigers hit .231/.278/.292 as a team, which put them in seventh place in the American League in each of those categories. To put it into perspective, the Tigers slick fielding second baseman, Bobby Lowe, notched an OPS+ of 58, and this was a guy who played in 140 games. Even Hall of Famer Sam Crawford had an off year. From 1901 through 1915, his single season OPS+ dipped below 130 only one time and that was in 1904 when he came out at 114. He did lead the team in slugging with .361 and RBIs with 73.
The pitching wasn’t that much better. The Tigers finished with a team ERA of 2.77 (ERA+ of 92) and that put them sixth in the league. They finished with two 20 game losers (George Mullin with 23 and Ed Killian with 20) and only Wild Bill Donovan finished with a winning record (17-16). George Mullin threw a ton of innings, but he also gave up a bunch of base runners and his 131 would lead the league (the second of four straight seasons he’d walk more batters then anyone in the AL). The Tigers walked more batters then any other team in the league (433) and they were only sixth in strikeouts (556). Most importantly, the Tigers gave up more runs (627) then every team except the Senators.
The 1904 Tigers actually got off to a decent start with an 8-7 record. That would be the last time they’d have a winning record though and they lost their next eight games. The made a decent run in August (their only month with a winning record, 14-13) but then they went 15-27 down the stretch.
1905 would bring new hope to the franchise. Ty Cobb would make his debut and the Tigers pitching staff would put together a solid season but for 1904, the Tigers have the Senators to thank for keeping them out of the cellar.
One of my favorite baseball author’s, Tom Stanton, has a new book coming out in May about the relationship between Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. While considered rivals, it looks like there was more to the two then the competition between the two and they eventually turned out to be good friends. I had a brief email conversation with Mr. Stanton and he told me it might blow away a lot of the assumptions people make about the Georgia Peach so Ty and the Babe is definitely a book I’ll be picking up.
I also had the chance to meet Mr. Stanton about a year ago when he was presenting on a book he edited called the Detroit Tigers Reader, which is also a great book for Tiger fans. Stanton blends a nice mix of home town flavor with diligent research in all of his books and while anyone can learn a thing or two, they’re especially good if you’re from the Detroit area.
A&E is releasing a Tigers World Series DVD at the end of the month that will provide highlights of the 1945, 1968 and 1984 World Series. It’s about two hours so you probably get about 40 minutes on each. Looks pretty cool and for $15, I’ll probably pick it up.
I finished a brief Bill Freehan retrospective over at the 1967 AL Pennant Race site. Things have been a little slow over there but I’m going to urge the other writers to ramp things up leading into the regular season. It should be a fun site and I’m looking forward to the actual season diary kicking off.
Also, Mike started his top ten Tiger prospect series with a look at third baseman/OSU grad Ron Bourquin. He doesn’t provide a ton of details but you’ll at least get familiar with the players.