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Greatest Detroit Tigers Sluggers of All Time
The Detroit Tigers were one of the charter teams of the American League, playing their first game as a major league team in 1901. But most of the team's home run leaders played for the Tigers over the last 40 years or so. Here, we look at some of the greatest Tigers sluggers of all-time, based on home run totals while with the team. That is certain to leave out pure sluggers like Darrell Evans, Tony Clark and Rocky Colavito-all of whom played for less years in Detroit than the top ten here.
Al Kaline-Outfielder Al Kaline played his whole career for the Tigers, from 1953 through 1974, and slugged 399 homers during that time and helping the team to a World Series title in 1968. Kaline was steady, but never hit more than 29 homers in a season (1962), and his best season overall was 1956, when he clubbed 27 four-baggers with 128 RBI and a .314 batting average. Kaline also won the batting title in 1955 with a .340 average, becoming the youngest player ever to do so; and he won ten Gold Glove Awards. He also had a strong throwing arm, once throwing two runners out at second base in the same inning from right field. Kaline was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
Norm Cash-Norm Cash played the bulk of his career as Detroit's first baseman, and hit 373 home runs as a member of the team from 1960 to 1974. In 1961, Cash had career highs in home runs (41), runs batted in (132), triples (8), and batting average (.361). One of Cash's most impressive statistics is that when he retired, he was fourth in American League history in career homers by a left-handed hitter, behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig. Cash was also a great fielder, leading the AL in assists three times and in fielding percentage twice. Like Kaline, Cash was an integral part of the 1968 championship team. He drowned in a fatal boating accident in 1986 at the age of 51.
Hank Greenberg-First baseman Greenberg played the bulk of his career in a Tigers uniform, from 1930 to 1946, belting 306 homers with the team. Greenberg hit 58 home runs in 1938, but his best overall season may have been the year prior, when Hank hit 40 homers with 183 RBI with a .340 batting average. Still, the 58-homer season was the most output in baseball between Babe Ruth's 60 in 1927 and Roger Maris' 61 in 1961. Greenberg also won the American League MVP Award in both 1935 and 1940, and led the team to two championships and four AL pennants during his tenure.
Willie Horton-Horton was an outfielder who played most of career with Detroit, from 1963 to 1977, after which he was traded to the Texas Rangers. Horton hit 262 home runs as a Tiger, including a career best of 36 in 1968, helping his team to a World Series title. He also hit 20 or more home runs seven times in his career, six of those with Detroit. Horton's first full season in the majors, 1965, may have been his best overall, as he clubbed 29 home runs with 104 RBI.
Cecil Fielder-First baseman/designated hitter Cecil Fielder only played for the Tigers for six-plus seasons (1990-1996), but was one of the most prolific sluggers in Detroit history over that time (245 home runs). Fielder led the American League in homers in both 1990 (51) and 1991 (44), and no major leaguer had more home runs during the period of 1990-1995. His best overall season was 1990, as along with the 51 long balls, Fielder also had 132 RBI. Often criticized for being overweight, no one could deny Fielder's power between the lines, and his likeable personality earned him the nickname "Big Daddy." Fielder's son, Prince, is a current member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Lou Whitaker-"Sweet" Lou Whitaker was a second baseman who played in Detroit for his whole career, belting 244 home runs during that time (1977-1995). Whitaker, along with shortstop Alan Trammell, had the longest running double play combination in major league history, but he was always a steady offensive player as well. In 1978, his first full season in the big leagues, Whitaker won the American League Rookie of the Year award. And his best power season was 1989 when he clubbed 28 homers and drove in 85 runs. Whitaker was a key part of the 1984 world championship team.
Rudy York-First baseman York carried a big stick, and during his majority time with the Tigers (1937 to 1945) hit 239 homers, including a career best of 35 in 1937. York also had stellar offensive output in 1940 (33 home runs, 134 RBI, .316 batting average) and 1938 (33 home runs, 127 RBI, .298 batting average). In 1943, York led the American League in homers with 34. York was part of the 1945 World Series champs, and his Tigers won the AL pennant in both 1940 and 1945. He was traded to Boston in 1946.
Lance Parrish-Catcher Lance Parrish began his career with the Tigers in 1977, and played for various teams before retiring in 1995. He was the cleanup hitter on the 1984 world championship team, and hit 212 home runs during his Detroit tenure. Parrish's best overall season was 1982 with 32 homers, 87 RBI and a .284 batting average; but his best home run output was 33 in the '84 championship year. Parrish was also an eight-time all-star and won three American League Gold Glove Awards.
Bill Freehan-Bill Freehan was the catcher who preceded Parrish in Detroit, playing for the Tigers from 1961 to 1976 (his only MLB team). During that time, Freehan hit 200 homers, including a career-best of 25 with 84 RBI in 1968, the year Detroit won it all. He was also the American League MVP runner-up that same year. Freehan also won five Gold Gloves during his career.
Kirk Gibson-Though Kirk Gibson is best known for hitting that game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series as a Dodger, the outfielder was also an integral part of the 1984 World Champion Tigers. Gibson's best overall season was 1985 when he hit 29 homers with 95 runs batted in while hitting .287. And though he never won an MVP award in the American League, he did win the National League MVP as a member of the Dodgers in 1988, and also won the ALCS MVP in 1984 when the Tigers won it all.
Honorable Mention: Dick McAuliffe, Bobby Higginson, Alan Trammell, Charlie Gehringer, Harry Heilmann, Tony Clark, Travis Fryman, Jim Northrop, Chet Lemon, Darrell Evans, Rocky Colavito