Which Detroit Tiger? …

Some people called this former Tiger great The Mechanical Man.

Some people called this former Tiger great The Mechanical Man.

By Glen Sparks

Few teams can claim the historic star power of the Detroit Tigers. This is the franchise of Cobb and Kaline, of Greenberg and Gehringer. (OK, I just provided some hints to the following quiz.) The Tigers, notable for the “olde English D” logo on their caps, have won 11 American League pennants and four World Series. The team played in Tiger Stadium from 1912-99.

  1. Which Tiger wrote this shortly before his death: “In legend, I am a sadistic, slashing, swashbuckling despot who waged war in the guise of sport.”
  2. Do you know the Tiger Hall of Famer who later helped lead the Los Angeles Angels to Pacific Coast League championships in 1918 and 1921?
  3. Which Tiger infielder turned an unassisted triple play at Tiger Stadium on May 31, 1927?
  4. Which Tiger manager set a record for being hit by a pitch in one season as a player?
  5. Who led the Tigers with a 29-8 won loss record and 2.22 ERA in Detroit’s pennant-winning year of 1909?
  6. Which Detroit second baseman was nicknamed “The Mechanical Man”?
  7. Which Tiger slugger once hit 63 doubles in one season, knocked 16 triples in another season and belted 58 home runs in still another season?
  8. Can you name the Tiger catcher whose career came to a sudden end on May 25, 1937, after being hit in the head by a pitched ball?
  9. Which Tiger player led his team with 11 hits in the 1968 World Series?
  10. Which Tiger pitcher looked a bit like a character out of TV’s Sesame Street?
  • Ty Cobb summed up the opinion of many others in this quote. The outfielder could be quick-tempered and mean to opponents and teammates alike. He also hit a baseball like few players ever could. Cobb batted .367 in his long career (Some sources say .366. With Cobb, there is always controversy.), collected 4,191 hits and stole 892 bases. The Georgia Peach won 12 batting titles, including nine in a row (1907-15).
  • The Tigers signed Sam Crawford, out of Wahoo, Neb., before the 1903 season. He had broken in with the Cincinnati Reds and played four seasons with that club. “Wahoo” Sam turned into a Hall of Fame outfielder with the Tigers, playing alongside Cobb. He batted .309 lifetime with 2,961 hits. Wahoo retired from the Tigers, left for California and hooked on with the Angels. Later, he coached the University of Southern California baseball team for several years.
  • Journeyman first baseman Johnny Neun completed his unassisted triple against the Cleveland Indians. He did it like this: He caught a line drive hit by Homer Summa for the first out. He stepped on first base to get Charles Jamieson, who had strayed off the bag, for the second out. He ran toward second base to retire Glenn Myatt, another careless Cleveland base runner, for the third and final out. It was the seventh unassisted triple play in major league history and the first one that ended the game. There have now been 15 unassisted triple plays, the last one executed by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Eric Brunlett on Aug. 23, 2009, against the New York Mets. That one also ended the game.
  • Hughie Jennings managed the Tigers from 1907-20, while also playing for the team in several of those seasons. He was a tough skipper (necessary with Cobb on the club) and a good player. Jennings batted .311 in a career that began in 1891 with the Louisville Colonels. He spent the 1896 season black and blue, though, getting hit 51 times while with the old Baltimore Orioles, then of the National League.
  • George Mullin compiled a 228-196 won-loss record in his career. All of his big years were in Detroit, and the right-hander still appears on the Tigers’ all-time leaderboard in several categories. Mullin led the league in wins and winning percentage (.784) in 1909. In the World Series that season, he went 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA, but the Tigers lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. The hard thrower from Toledo, Ohio, won at least 20 games five times. He also had a bit of a wild side, leading the American League in walks four times.
  • Quiet, consistent and durable (He led the league in games played four times), Charlie Gehringer was The Mechanical Man. A teammate said, “You wind him up opening day and forget him.” Well, pitchers didn’t. Gehringer batted .320 over a 19-year career, all with the Tigers. He hit 184 home runs, 574 doubles and 146 triples. He won the A.L. MVP, along with a batting crown (.371) in 1937.
  • Hank Greenberg could mash a baseball. The New York City native belted 331 home runs in his career, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Not by any means. Greenberg led the A.L. in homers four times, topped off by that 58-dinger season in 1938. His career total would have been much higher but for World War II. The 6-foot-4-inch Greenberg missed all of three seasons and much of two others. (As a first lieutenant in the Army Air Forces, he scouted B-29 bomber bases in the China-Burma-India Theater). The slugger came back for a full year in 1946 and led the league with 44 home runs. A two-time MVP, Greenberg was one of the country’s first Jewish sports heroes.
  • Mickey Cochrane was one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, both for the Tigers and the Philadelphia A’s. He had already won two MVP awards, played on three World Series winners and appeared on the cover of Time magazine when New York Yankee pitcher Bump Hadley drilled him with a pitch. Cochrane nearly died and never played again. He hit .320 in his career with a .419 on-base percentage.
  • Al Kaline, the son of  a Baltimore broomaker, debuted with the Tigers in 1953 as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. He spent 22 seasons in Detroit, making the All-Star team in 15 of them. Kaline recorded 3,007 hits and 399 home runs.  He never hit 30 home runs in one season, but he smashed 29 twice and 27 four times. Mr. Tiger, as many call him, finished in the Top 10 in the MVP voting nine times. A top defensive outfielder, Kaline earned 10 Gold Gloves. In the 1968 Series, he went 11-29 (.379) with two home runs and eight RBI as the Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
  • Mark Fidrych sported a mop of curly hair and a big grin. Fans labeled him “The Bird,” after Big Bird, the large, yellow feathered fowl from the popular Sesame Street program. Fidrych took Detroit and the country by storm in 1976. ABC’s Monday Night Baseball showcased him June 28. That night, the right-hander beat the Yankees 5-1 in a game that lasted just one hour, 51 minutes. Mark the Bird liked talking to the ball and cleaning up the dirt from around the mound. He finished the year 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA, winning A.L. Rookie of the Year award and finishing second in the Cy Young race. Unfortunately, his right arm gave up on him way too soon. Fidrych pitched his last big league game on Oct. 1, 1980. He retired with a career record of 29-19. The Bird died April 13, 2009, at age 54.

    "Wahoo" Sam Crawford has on the shades as he prepares to make a play.

    “Wahoo” Sam Crawford has on the shades as he prepares to make a play.


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