Kirk Gibson's home run in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series leads the list of top 10 iconic home runs of all time for the Detroit Tigers

Even in this day of home runs coming at a more frequent rate, when one comes at the right time, it can be shocking and electrifying to fans of the hitter’s team and a dagger to the heart for fans of the opposing team.

In their 119 seasons, the Detroit Tigers have hit 13,842 home runs. That’s the answer to a pretty good question, but the task here is even tougher: Which are the 10 most iconic home runs in the history of the Tigers?

The criteria here is simple yet open-ended. The home runs in the top 10 should be the most impactful and most remembered, although the most remembered isn’t as important because, well, who was around to see the home runs hit 100 years ago?

Anyway, disagreements are welcome, and any you think were omitted are welcome as well. There likely is one or two out there slipped past me, but here goes, in order from No. 10 to No. 1.

No. 10: Hoot Evers’ two-run, inside-the-park, walk-off home run to beat the New York Yankees on June 23, 1950, at Briggs Stadium, Detroit.

The first-place Tigers held a one-game lead over the second-place Yankees, who took a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning before Detroit scored eight times. But going into the bottom of the ninth inning, New York led 9-8.

After George Kell was retired on a foul pop-up, Vic Wertz doubled to center field. Hoot Evers drilled a 1-and-1 pitch to left center field. Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio chased the ball as it caromed off the 415-mark. DiMaggio fielded the ball and threw the relay to Yankees second baseman Billy Martin, but the throw was a bit off-target. Tigers third-base coach Dick Bartell waved Evers home, and he scored standing up to secure the Tigers’ 10-9 victory.

It was the 11th home run hit in the game by the two teams, breaking the previous major-league record of 10 home runs in one game.

No. 9: Cecil Fielder’s 50th home run of the season on October 3, 1990, at Yankee Stadium, New York.

Only one player had reached 50 home runs in a season since Willie Mays did it in 1965, and that was George Foster of the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. With one game to go, Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder had 49, the baseball world was watching, and the setting was the cathedral of baseball, Yankee Stadium.

Left-hander Steve Adkins was making his fifth major-league start (and final major-league appearance, as it turned out) for the New York, and a young lefty was the perfect remedy for Fielder, who had failed to hit No. 50 in his previous five games and 20 at-bats.

Fielder walked on a 3-and-1 pitch in the first inning and lined out to left field in the second inning as the Tigers built a 4-0 lead. In the fourth inning, Fielder came to bat with two out and Tony Phillips on first base and hit No. 50 on a 2-and-1 pitch from Adkins deep into the left-field stands at Yankee Stadium.

Fielder wasn’t finished. After striking out in the sixth, he hit No. 51 off Alan Mills.

No. 8: Gates Brown’s walk-off home run in the 14th inning to trigger a doubleheader sweep of the Boston Red Sox on August 11, 1968, at Tiger Stadium, Detroit.

The 1968 season was a magical one for the Tigers, who were known for their ability to come from behind and wins games, and one of those signature wins came from fan favorite Gates Brown.

The Red Sox, the defending American League champions, scored four runs in the top of  the first inning, and the Tigers chipped away with single runs in the third, sixth, seventh and eighth innings to tie it at 4-4. The Tigers had used five pitchers through nine innings and turned to starter Mickey Lolich to start the 10th inning.

The game stayed 4-4 through 13 innings, and the Tigers had two out with nobody on in the bottom of the 14th with Lolich due to bat. Tigers manager Mayo Smith sent Brown in to pinch-hit, and he ended it with a walk-off home run off Lee Stange.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Brown started in left field and hit clean-up. Boston took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Tigers staged another come-from-behind victory with a four-run rally for a 6-5 victory. Brown broke the tie with a one-out single to score Mickey Stanley from third base with the winning run.

No. 7: Larry Herndon’s second-inning home run to give Frank Tanana and the Tigers all the runs they needed to clinch tine American League East Division title on October 3, 1987, at Tiger Stadium, Detroit.

This one did not have the dramatics of the previous home runs, but it had a ton of importance.

With eight games left in the 1987 season, the Tigers were in second place and three and a half games behind the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays. When Toronto arrived in Detroit for a season-ending three game series, it had a one-game lead. The Tigers needed to win all three to secure the division title or win two out of three to force a tie-breaker.

The Tigers won the first two games, setting the stage for a possible clincher. Frank Tanana was on the mound for Detroit, and tough lefty Jimmy Key was pitching for the Blue Jays. With one out in the bottom of the second, Herndon gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with a solo home run, and that is how the game ended. Tanana pitched a six-hit shutout with three walks and nine strikeouts. Key hurled a three-hitter with eight strikeouts and three walks.

Key might have been a bit better than Tanana that day. Except for one pitch.

No. 6: Robert Fick’s home run off the roof in center field in the final game at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999.

There were a lot of questions and emotions surrounding prior to the final game at Tiger Stadium. One of the questions was the speculation on who would hit the last home run in the old ballpark.

There were several candidates. Luis Polonia of the Tigers hit a home run in the first inning, and Mark Quinn of the Kansas City Royals hit one in the second inning. Karim Garcia of the Tigers followed with a home run in the bottom of the sixth, and it began to look like he would be the guy.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Robert Fick, a rookie whose only time in the big leagues was a callup in September of 1998 and a callup in September of 1999, came to the plate with the bases loaded. A left-handed hitter, Fick drilled the first pitch from reliever Jeff Montgomery off the roof in right field for a grand slam and the final home run at Tiger Stadium.

The ballpark erupted and flashbulbs were popping all around the stadium as Fick circled the bases. He might have been one of the most unlikely Tigers to do it, but Fick actually was the most fitting player to hit the final home run.

The Tigers players wore the numbers of former players for the final game at Tiger Stadium. Fick was chosen to wear the No. 25 that belonged to Norm Cash, the player with the most home runs over the roof in Tiger Stadium history. Fick might not have joined Cash in that exclusive club that day, but he came close enough.

No. 5: Dave Bergman’s walk-off home run in 13-pitch at-bat on June 4, 1984, at Tiger Stadium, Detroit.

Dave Bergman proved that one home run can make an ordinary baseball player become immortalized in team history.

The 1984 Tigers got off to a 35-5 start and never were seriously threatened, although the Toronto Blue Jays had an excellent season and always were just close enough to keep the fans from feeling too comfortable.

On a Monday night before a national television audience, the Tigers and Blue Jays opened a three-game series in Detroit. Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb had Detroit shut out into the seventh before Howard Johnson hit a three-run home run to tie it at 3-3. The game stayed that way through nine innings, and Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez teamed to shut out the Blue Jays in the top of the 10th inning.

With two on and two out in the bottom of the 10th, Bergman came to bat against Roy Lee Jackson.

What happened next became a moment in Tigers history. Bergman fouled off the first five pitches and nine of the first 12. The seventh pitch, low and away but just off the corner, was close enough that it could have been called a third strike, but home-plate umpire Terry Cooney ruled it a ball.

“I caught a break on a 2-2 pitch that was a borderline strike or a ball, and to this day a lot of people say, ‘That was too close to take,’ and I say, ‘You’re right,’ but I still think it was outside,” Bergman said years later on and Oakland Press youtube video.

Bergman and Blue Jays catcher Buck Martinez had been chatting during the at-bat, and the clock was approaching midnight when Bergman asked Martinez, “Is there a curfew?”

“He just kind of snickered,” Bergman said in the Detroit Free Press. “It was getting near midnight. Somebody had to get a hit.”

On the 13th pitch, a slider broke over the plate and down toward Bergman’s feet, maybe 6 inches off the ground. Bergman swung and lifted the ball high and far into the right-field upper deck for a three-run home run. It was Bergman’s first home run for the Tigers, and it was the biggest of his career.

Mention the name Dave Bergman to any fan of the Tigers. This is the story they will tell.

No. 4: Vic Wertz’s walk-off home run to secure a no-hitter for Virgil Trucks on May 15, 1952, Briggs Stadium, Detroit.

It was a Thursday afternoon at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. The Tigers were off to a 7-17 start, and only 2,215 fans were in the stadium, although it’s likely many more said they were there years later.

Tigers pitcher Virgil Trucks was in a pitchers’ duel with Bob Porterfield of the Washington Senators. Porterfield took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Tigers third baseman George Kell broke it up with a two-out single.

Trucks took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, and he breezed through three Washington batters. He retired Jim Busby on a fly to center and Jackie Jenson on a grounder to first and ended the inning by striking out Mickey Vernon.

Trucks had pitched nine innings without allowing a hit, but the score remained 0-0. Porterfield started the bottom of the ninth by getting Kell to ground out to short, and Pat Mullin followed with a fly to deep center.

With two out and nobody on, Wertz homered to give the Tigers a 1-0 victory and secure the no-hitter for Trucks. Three months later, Trucks threw a no-hitter against the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium, and he remains the only Tigers pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season.

No. 3: Hank Greenberg’s pennant-clinching grand slam in the ninth inning of the regular-season finale on September 30, 1945, at Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis.

It all seemed so simple for the Tigers on the final day of the 1945 regular season. Just win one game out of two in St. Louis, and the American League pennant would fly in Detroit. The weather in St. Louis had been terrible, and a game scheduled for Saturday was postponed, forcing the Sunday finale to become a Sunday doubleheader.

“The base lines were deep in mud and the footing was very slippery,” W.J. McGoogan wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “

Meanwhile, the second-place Washington Senators had finished their season one week earlier. They were 87-67; the Tigers were 86-64 at the same point with four games remaining and needed two wins to clinch the pennant. Detroit split a doubleheader with Cleveland in the middle of the week, leaving the Tigers one victory shy of the pennant as they left for St. Louis.

The Detroit Free Press reported that storms had drenched the field for 10 straight days, and the temperature was 57 degrees. Rain delayed the start of the game by 50 minutes. The Tigers started 28-yeaer-old right-hander Virgil Trucks on the mound, and St. Louis countered with 34-year-old right-hander Nels Potter.

The game swayed back and forth. The Browns took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, and Detroit answered with single runs in the top of the fifth and sixth for a 2-1 lead. St. Louis then scored single runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth and took a 3-2 lead into the ninth.

Potter was still in the game for the Browns, and Hub Walker opened the ninth with a pinch-hit single. Skeeter Webb bunted in a sacrifice attempt, but Walker slogged through the mud and beat the throw to second. Red Borom ran for Walker, and Eddie Mayo sacrificed, moving Borom to third and Webb to second. With Doc Cramer up and first base open, he was intentionally walked to load the bases for Greenberg, whom the Browns hoped would ground into a game-ending double play.

Potter’s second pitch to Greenberg was a screwball, and Greenberg drilled it into the left field corner for a grand slam. But the work wasn’t done as the Browns were due up in the bottom of the ninth. Al Benton came on and pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save, and the Tigers had their first pennant since 1940. Hal Newhouser, who would win the American League MVP Award that season, was the winner in relief, moving his record to 25-9.

Greenberg described the grand slam in his autobiography, “Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life.’

“I took the first pitch form Nelson Potter for a ball. As he wound up on the next pitch, I could read his grip on the ball and I could tell he was going to throw a screwball. I swung and hit a line drive toward the corner of the left-field bleachers. I stood at the plate and watched the ball for fear the umpire would call it foul. It landed a few feet inside the foul pole for a grand slam. We won the game, and the pennant, and all the players charged the field when I reached home plate and they pounded me on the back and carried on like I was a hero. There was almost nobody in the stands to pay attention, and there were few newspapermen. Just the ballplayers giving me a hero’s welcome.:

With the pennant clinched and the weather poor, the second game of the doubleheader was cancelled, leaving the Tigers a game and a half ahead of Washington in the American League standings.

No. 2: Magglio Ordonez’s walk-off, pennant-clinching home run in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS on October 14, 2006, Comerica Park, Detroit.

It wasn’t a do-or-die situation.

It didn’t need to be.

The Tigers had won the first three games of the 2006 ALCS against the Oakland Athletics. They needed to win just one of the remaining four games for a spot in the World Series for the first time in 22 years. Nobody wanted to wait any longer.

Oakland had grabbed a 3-0 lead in Game 4, but the Tigers got close in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back run-scoring doubles by Curtis Granderson and Craig Monroe.

With Oakland leading 3-2, Ordonez led off the bottom of the sixth with a line-drive home run off Athletics starter Dan Haren to make it 3-3. It stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth.

Athletics closer Huston Street had retired four consecutive batters entering the bottom of the ninth. He retired the first two batters, and extra innings seemed likely. Then, Monroe singled, and Placido Polanco singled to put runners on first and second with two out.

A base hit might end it, but Ordonez did better. He smashed a 1-0 fastball in and just above the knees from Street deep into the stands in left field. Tigers fans jumped and yelled in celebration. Polanco, wearing a face-covering ski mask to help stay warm on the cold night, looked like he was on a pogo stick as he kept jumping up and down as he rounded the bases.

Street, whose father James was the quarterback at the University of Texas when it won the national championship in 1969, was able to find a sense of humor about it.

“I thought about tackling Ordonez, and then I saw that the lead runner had already crossed the plate, so it wouldn’t have mattered,” Street said in the Toledo Blade.

Ordonez, who hit fourth in the order most of the time in his first five seasons with the Tigers, was back in Detroit in 2016 for the 10-year celebration of the pennant-winning team. Obviously, the dramatic walk-off home run was a topic.

“People were going crazy,” Ordonez said in the Detroit Free Press. “You don’t think. You just enjoy it. Something you can’t describe. Just want to cross home plate and then celebrate. Polanco was jumping around.”

The date was October 14, 2006. On the same date in 1984, Kirk Gibson’s three-run home run to right field as the Tigers won the World Series with an 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres in Game 5 at Tiger Stadium

No. 1: Kirk Gibson’s second home run in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series on October 14, 1984 at Tiger Stadium, Detroit.

It didn’t end the World Series officially, but when Kirk Gibson belted his three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series, the San Diego Padres were a beaten team.

The Tigers led wire-to-wire in 1984, starting out with a 35-5 record and finishing with 104 wins and a 15-game lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays. Then they swept the Kansas City Royals in three games in the ALCS, and the first two were played in Kansas City.

Detroit opened the World Series on the road, too, and split the first two games. They returned to Tiger Stadium to open what had turned out to be a best-of-five the rest of the way. Detroit won Game 3 behind the pitching of Milt Wilcox, and in Game 4 Alan Trammell hit two home runs and Lance Parrish hit another to give the Tigers a 3-1 edge in the World Series.

On a late Sunday afternoon, the Tigers gave Dan Petry a 3-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to a two-run home run by Gibson. But the Padres weren’t through, and they battled back to tie it at 3-3. The Tigers took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Gibson scored from third on a sacrifice fly to short right field; a ball that should have been caught by right fielder Tony Gwynn, who lost it in the lights. Second baseman Alan Wiggins caught it, but his momentum was taking him away from the plate, and Gibson’s speed allowed him to score the go-ahead run.

Detroit added a run in the bottom of the seventh to make it 5-3, but San Diego got one back in the top of the eighth to cut the Tigers’ lead to one run. This were still tense in Tiger Stadium when Gibson came to bat with runners on second and third and one out.

The pitcher was Rich Gossage, who struck out Gibson years earlier and believed he could do it again. Padres manager Dick Williams wanted to walk Gibson, but Gossage pleaded his case, and Williams let him pitch to the left-handed slugger from Michigan State University.

Tigers manager Sparky Anderson smirked at what was happening on the mound, and Gibson flashed five fingers to his manager, requesting a bet that he would hit one out. Sparky, still smirking, agreed.

Gibson crushed Gossage’s second pitch into the upper deck in left field to score Marty Castillo and Lou Whitaker ahead of him and give the Tigers an 8-4 lead, and that’s how it ended.

The numerology in the final score was perfect. The Tigers won the 1984 World Series by the score of 8-4, and in the post-season, they were 7-1 for an .875 winning percentage – the same winning percentage they had with their 35-5 start.

Even stranger the home run isn’t even considered Gibson’s most iconic home run. That came in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series when he limped to the plate to hit a game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But in Tigers lore, Gibson’s home run in 1984 was the most iconic home run in franchise history.

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A throwback to 1999 when Tigers legend Al Kaline was the subject of a question-and-answer interview

In a photo I took, Al Kaline bats during an old-timer’s day at Tiger Stadium. The pudgy catcher is Earl Battey of the Minnesota Twins.

When I worked at The Jackson Citizen Patriot, I wrote a column called 2 ½ minutes. That’s how long it normally took to read it. The column was a question-and-answer format with a topical sports personality.

Just days before the final game at Tiger Stadium in September of 1999, Al Kaline agreed to be the subject of the column that would run the week of the final game. Really, there was nobody better than No. 6 to signify the closing of Tiger Stadium.

Here is the column, as it was written in 1999:

When the final out has been made at Tiger Stadium on Monday, Al Kaline should have first choice of what he wants to take home. He is the greatest living Tigers player, and he played in more games for the Tigers than any other player.

Ty Cobb may be the greatest Tigers player of all-time, but not many are still around who can remember seeing Cobb play. There will be many in attendance on Monday who witnessed Kaline’s brilliant career.

Question: How long did it take for the aura of Tiger Stadium to wear off when you first made it to the major leagues?

Kaline: First of all, I didn’t know how long I was going to be a part of the Tigers. As the years progressed and I started having good years and knew I was going to be here for a while, I started thinking, ‘Wow, Ty Cobb played in the same outfield I played in. Hank Greenberg hit a home run in the same spot that I did. Babe Ruth played here.’

Question: How much pressure was put on you for becoming the youngest player to win a batting title?

Kaline: The first year after that was a tough thing to live with because there were a lot of expectations and being compared to Cobb and people like that. It was a little bit difficult.

Question: How concerned were you in September of 1968 about your chances of playing in the World Series?

Kaline: I had missed six weeks of the season and (manager) Mayo Smith was in quite a difficult spot because the writers were starting to write, ‘Is Kaline going to play?’ I was getting to the age where maybe I would never get the chance again, and it turned out to be true. I had a conversation with Mayo, and I told him I thought it was only right that he played the guys that got him there. Then he made the comment to me that I should work out at third base and take some ground balls before I got back in the lineup. He was going to play me at third base in the World Series, but then Willie Horton got hurt and missed the last three or four weeks of the season. I went back out to right field, and I really had a great month, and that was when the decision was made to put (Mickey) Stanley at shortstop and keep me in the outfield.

Question: You drove in the winning run in Game 5 of the 1968 World Series. Was that your biggest moment in Tiger Stadium?

Kaline: It’s certainly one of them, although it wasn’t one of the hardest hit balls I ever hit here, but more people saw that than any other hit I had. I would say it was the most important hit I ever had here, getting a chance to get a big hit in the fifth game of the World Series.

Question: How did you feel in 1984 as a TV announcer when the Tigers won the World Series?

Kaline: I loved it. I loved working that season. When they got off to their great start of 35-5, it was a joy to be around those guys. When you win, it really creates a team atmosphere. It’s all for the team, and nobody cares about individuals. When you lose, everybody tends to think about individual things.

Question: If you had your choice of anything to take from Tiger Stadium, what would it be?

Kaline: I’ve been thinking a lot about it, but I haven’t made a decision. I would like to take home plate or my locker, and from what I understand, there are a lot of guys who want home plate, so I’d better get here the night before and dig it out.

Question: What about the No. 6 that is on the third deck that represents your retired uniform number?

Kaline: Oh wow. I hadn’t even thought about that. It’s so big, though, I don’t know where I would put it in my house.”

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Second baseman Charlie Gehringer leads mythical all-time Tigers team made up of players born in Michigan

In the 120-year history of the Detroit Tigers in the major leagues, 104 of the 1,701 players were born in Michigan. So, what would an all-time Tigers team made up of players born in Michigan look like?

It was a strange task. Some positions, like outfield, were rich in talent, and others, like shortstop, had less competition. Everyone was judged only on what each player did with for the Tigers, and when it was finished, it looked like a competitive team that is a little short on the infield (except second base).

Here’s the team:

Catcher-Bill Freehan (Detroit): A no-brainer. Freehan played 15 seasons with the Tigers and had 200 career home runs – 100 at home and 100 on the road. He won five Gold Glove Awards and was an 11-time all-star and, of course, the catcher on the 1968 World Series team.

First base-Rick Leach (Ann Arbor): First base was a surprisingly thin position, although there were many players who could fit there even though they were primarily outfielders. In fact, the only Michigan-born players to start at first base for the Tigers on Opening Day were outfielders Jim Northrup and Mickey Stanley. So, Leach gets the call. He played 159 of his 235 games for Detroit at first base but hit just .236 with seven home runs and 49 RBIs.

Second base-Charlie Gehringer (Fowlerville): No debate here. The player known as The Mechanical Man is in the Hall of Fame after a 19-year career. He won the American League MVP Award in 1937 and finished with 2,839 hits, a .320 batting average and an .884 OPS. Defensively, he led all American League second basemen in assists and fielding percentage seven times. Gehringer is a slam dunk and should be considered the best Michigan-born player for the Tigers.

Third base-Steve Boros (Flint): Another thin position, although Boros did start on the 1961 team that won 101 games, and he hit 16 home runs in 1962. Infield is the thinnest position for major-leaguers born in Michigan.

Shortstop-Neil Berry (Kalamazoo): Berry spent five seasons with the Tigers and started at shortstop on Opening Day twice (1948, 1952). He wasn’t much of a hitter – he hit .242 for the Tigers and did not have a home run in 971 at-bats). If Mayo Smith was putting this team together, he’d likely have Mickey Stanley at shortstop.

Left field-Charlie Maxwell (Lawton): In a five-year period from 1956-60, Maxwell hit 120 home runs for Detroit. He became known for hitting home runs in Sunday games, and he totaled 133 home runs, 455 RBIs and an OPS of .828.

Center field-Mickey Stanley (Grand Rapids): Stanley’s versatility and outstanding defense earns him the nod over Ron LeFlore. In his prime, Stanley was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, and he won four Gold Glove Awards. He also hit .248 with 117 home runs and 500 RBIs for the Tigers, and, of course, he moved to shortstop in the 1968 World Series to make room in the outfield for Al Kaline.

Right field-Jim Northrup (Breckenridge): Northrup was a fixture in the Tigers’ outfield for 11 years in the 1960s and 1970s and is known for hitting two grand slams in the same game and belting the key hit of the 1968 World Series: a triple off Bob Gibson in Game 7 to break the game open.

Designated hitter field-Kirk Gibson (Pontiac): Gibson is perfect at the designated hitter. He wasn’t there for his defense. It was his bat, his base running and overall positive influence with a give-it-your-all attitude that made Gibson a force in the majors. He hit 195 home runs for the Tigers in 12 seasons and had an OPS of .834. He will always be remembered for his two home runs in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series against the San Diego Padres.

Starting pitcher-Hal Newhouser (Detroit): When your ace pitcher is a Hall of Famer, you’re in a good spot. While Newhouser sometimes gets overlooked because some of his best seasons were during the war years when the talent was thinner, he won back-to-back American League MVP Awards in 1945-46 and was a four-time 20-game winner. He also was the winning pitcher in two games for the Tigers in the 1945 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, and he finished with a record of 200-148 for Detroit.

Starting pitcher-Frank Tanana (Detroit): It was in the middle of  his career when Tanana was acquired by the Tigers, but he delivered 96 wins in eight seasons and pitched a 1-0 shutout over the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League East Division title in 1987.

Starting pitcher-Dave Rozema (Grand Rapids): He burst on the scene in 1977 – one season after Mark Fidrych’s sensational rookie season – and was 15-7 with a 3.09 ERA and 15 complete games. While he never was able to duplicate that season, he finished 57-46 with the Tigers with a 3.38 ERA and 10 saves. He made 16 starts for the 1984 Tigers and finished the season 7-6 with a 3.74 ERA.

Starting pitcher-Steve Gromek (Hamtramck): Gromek spent the last five years of a 17-year career in Detroit and had a team-high 18 wins in 1954. He finished 45-41 for Detroit with a 3.77 ERA, and he also was used out of the bullpen on occasion and picked up seven saves.

Starting pitcher-Phil Regan (Otsego): Regan spent the first six seasons of a 13-year career in the majors with the Tigers in the early 1960s. Over a three-year stretch from 1961-63, Regan was 36-25, and his ERA decreased each season from 5.25 to 4.04 and 3.86. He finished his time in Detroit 42-44 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.378 WHIP.

Relief pitcher-Fred Gladding (Flat Rock): He was known as The Bear, and in seven seasons with the Tigers he appeared in 217 games, and only one of those came as a starter. He was at his best in the early 1960s, before gaudy save totals became the norm, and in his seven years with Detroit, Gladding was 26-11 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1,231 WHIP in 337 innings.

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Curtis Granderson might have been a better player than Lou Brock, but Granderson doesn't deserve the Hall of Fame

A few months ago, a baseball fan on Facebook complained that the stat, WAR, was flawed because it could not tell the difference between Lou Brock and Curtis Granderson.

I believe that supports WAR as a legitimate statistic.

Granderson, who started his career with the Tigers and was their center fielder on the 2006 American League championship team, retired today. And he might have been the better all-round player than Brock, the more historic player.

Granderson retired after 16 seasons and 2,057 games. His WAR was 47.3. Brock spent 19 seasons in the majors and played in 2,616 games, roughly 20 percent more than Granderson. Brock’s WAR was 45.3. So, yes, it’s far to say that WAR can’t tell the difference between Granderson and Brock.

That is where we, as humans, come in. No stats tell it all. They are tools to use to make a decision, and like it or not, WAR is one of those tools. It includes batting, base running and fielding, it adjusts for position and adjusts for the league. That is a solid stat – but not a perfect stat.

First, why the argument for Brock? That is easy, Brock did one thing better than any of his contemporaries. He stole bases at a record-breaking level. He led the National League in stolen bases eight times, topped by a major-league record 118 in 1974 when he was the runner-up in the voting for the National League MVP Award. He also led the league in caught stealing seven times.

Brock could hit, too. He finished with a .293 career batting average, and he had some pop in his bat with 149 home runs, although that wasn’t a difference-making ability. His career OPS of .753 was decent and above average, as his career OPS+ was 109 (100 is considered average), but it certainly is not an eye-popping number.

Defensively, despite his speed, Brock was not a solid outfielder. He led all National League left fielders in errors nine times and all NL outfielders in errors seven times. His career defensive WAR, which I believe has more flaws than regular WAR, was -16.0, but it is hard to overlook that damaging number for an outfielder.

To summarize Brock, he was a good hitter – better than a slap hitter but not a power guy – who did the most damage when he was on base, and he was not an asset in the field. That isn’t a Hall-of-Fame player … except for the impact he had on the game on the bases. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot by the Baseball Writers of America in 1985.

Granderson, on the other hand, likely will never make the Hall of Fame. And he shouldn’t. So, it’s a fair question: Why might he be considered the equal to or better than Brock? It goes back to Brock’s historical impact, which Granderson did not accomplish. Brock was a legendary base-stealer, Granderson was a very good player.

The most glaring difference between Granderson and Brock comes in the power category and batting average. Granderson hit 344 home runs – more than twice as many as Brock, who had many more at-bats – but hit just .249 (Brock hit .293). Granderson had the edge in OPS (.803 to Brock’s .753 and 114 OPS+ to Brock’s 109). Granderson topped 40 home runs and 100 RBIs in a season twice.

Why place more emphasis on OPS than batting average? I can’t take a stat seriously that gives the same weight to a single as it does a home run.

Granderson could run, too, but not to the level Brock did. Granderson had 153 career stolen bases, far short of the 938 by Brock, but we already have determined that Brock was the better base runner. However, it seems clear that Granderson was the more dangerous player with the bat in his hand.

Defensively, Granderson was never a contender to win a Gold Glove, but he was better than Brock. Granderson’s defensive WAR was 3.8 – far ahead of Brock’s -16.0 – and he was mainly a center fielder, a more challenging position than left field, which Brock played.

Maybe you still cling to Brock and the stolen bases. That’s fine, the impact Brock made in late 1960s and early 1970s was huge. It landed him in the Hall of Fame, and I think it’s a deserving honor.

But if I’m starting a baseball team today and have the option of Brock or Granderson, I would be tempted to take Granderson. I would be getting a guy who was more dangerous at the plate and was not somewhat of a defensive liability in the field, although I would be forfeiting a game-changing force on the base paths..

And if I had been voting for the Hall of Fame, I likely would have voted for Brock, and I would never vote for Granderson.

Confused? I can’t blame you.

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Cesar Gutierrez and his .218 batting average went 7-for-7 on a Sunday afternoon in Cleveland to become a part of Tigers lore

There were many home-run heroes for the Tigers in their 9-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the second game of a doubleheader on June 21, 1970, at Cleveland Stadium.

Jim Northrup hit two home runs and had five RBIs. Mickey Stanley broke a tie with a home run in the top of the 12th inning to give the Tigers a 9-8 lead. Al Kaline homered. And John Hiller combined with Tom Timmermann to shut out the Indians over the final five innings of the game.

But this is how Jim Hawkins began his game story in the Detroit Free Press: “Call Cooperstown. Rip up the record books. Retire No. 7. Cesar Gutierrez is now an immortal. Well, almost an immortal.”

The first time a major-league player went 7-for-7 was on June 10, 1892, when Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles did in in a 25-4 win in nine innings. Gutierrez was the first to go 7-for-7 in an extra-inning game, and five years later, Rennie Stennett of the Pirates went 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game.

The Tigers had one other seven-hit game. Rocky Colavito went 7-for-10 in a 22-inning game against the New York Yankees in 1962.

Gutierrez came into his big game hitting .218, and he had only played in two of the Tigers’ previous five games, including the first game of the doubleheader. He was hitting .249 after the game.

‘I was mad, I not playing,” Gutierrez said in the Detroit Free Press. “I mad because I don’t play the first game just because Cleveland pitch a right-hander. I don’t even eat after the first game because I afraid I get sick. I nervous, you know, I want to get some hits and do good so (manager Mayo Smith) play me some more.”

One move made by Smith helped Gutierrez get the seven hits. In his previous eight starts, Gutierrez had hit eighth in the batting order. For this game, Gutierrez hit second. The eighth spot in the order finished with six plate appearances in the game.

The rest of the Tigers celebrated the event. Catcher Bill Freehan, Gutierrez’s roommate on the road, promised to buy Gutierrez a steak dinner for every time he gets three hits in a game.

“I get two and a half steak dinners,” Gutierrez said in a loud enough voice that Freehan would hear it.

The Tigers also made up a song for their new Sultan of Swing. The melody is borrowed from “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”

“John E. Fetzer had a team, eee-yii-eee-yii-oh.

“And on his team he had Little Cesar, eee-yii-eee-yii-oh.

“With a base hit here, and a base hit there, here a hit, there a hit, everywhere a base hit.”

And then in the next game, Gutierrez went 0-for-5 against the Washington Senators.

Wait! What? They called him “Little Cesar” in the song? Future Tigers owner Mike Ilitch would have embraced that title.

HOW CESAR GUTIERREZ WENT 7-FOR-7

First inning: Single to right off Rick Austin

Third inning: Single to left off Rick Austin

Fifth inning: Infield single to shortstop off Dennis Higgins

Seventh inning: Double to left field off Dennis Higgins

Eighth inning: RBI single to right off Fred Lasher

Tenth inning: Infield single to shortstop off Dick Ellsworth

Twelfth inning: Single to center off Phil Hennigan

GUTIERREZ BEFORE AND AFTER THE 7-FOR-7 GAME

Prior to the 7-for-7 game, it took Gutierrez 48 at-bats to get seven hits.

After the 7-for-7 game, it took Gutierrez 37 at-bats to get seven hits.

 

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Beiker Graterol remains the only Tigers pitcher to appear in just one game for Detroit and give up more than two home runs

Beiker Graterol might have drawn the toughest assignment for a major-league debut in Tigers history.

After Bryce Florie went on the disabled list, the Tigers turned to Graterol, a 24-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, to start against the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in the home opener at Yankee Stadium in New York.

It was April 9, 1999, and history filled the stadium. They raised the banner to commemorate the 1998 World Series title. Hall-of-Fame catcher Yogi Berra threw out the first ball, and there was a pre-game moment of silence for one of the greatest Yankees of them all – Joe DiMaggio, who died a month earlier. Basketball great Michael Jordan was there, as was former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, And, of course, Mayor Rudy Guiliani was on hand.

And then, to make matters worse, star pitcher David Cone was on the mound for the Yankees, and the weather was terrible. The game began in a steady rain, and it was chilly. Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch had his throwing hand inside his uniform to keep it dry and warm in the first inning.

Welcome to the major leagues, Beiker Graterol. In the Tigers’ pregame telecast, analyst and former Tigers great Kirk Gibson called it “a reverse lock.”

“You wouldn’t think Beiker Graterol would line up too well against David Cone,” Gibson said. “The good thing is the Yankees haven’t seen him, either, so maybe Beiker Graterol will have an Opening Day in Yankee Stadium that he will never forget.”

Play-by-play man Josh Lewin said, “The mismatch really does sort of jump out at you. It’s kind of a Julia Roberts-Lyle Lovitt thing.”

After all the festivities and the Tigers failing to score in the top of the first inning, Graterol, who threw a four-seam fastball, a splitter and a slider, came out throwing strikes with catcher Brad Ausmus behind the plate. Knoblauch, the lead-off man, took two called strikes before he flied out to center. Graterol then retired future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter on a grounder to first. After walking Paul O’Neill, Graterol struck out Bernie Williams, the American League batting champion in 1998.

That was as good as it got. Tino Martinez hit a solo homer and Scott Brosius belted a two-run shot in the second inning, and Chili Davis hit a grand slam in the third. Graterol retired the Yankees in order in the fourth, but his day was done. The last batter he faced was Jeter, who flied out to right in that at-bat and was 0-for-2 with a walk against Graterol, who was left with a 15.75 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP in four innings.

Through the 2019 season, Graterol remained the only Tigers pitcher to appear in just one game for the franchise and allow three home runs. Two other pitchers, Gene Host in 1956 and Kevin Whalen in 2014, each gave up two home runs in their only game for the Tigers.

Graterol returned to the Toledo Mud Hens of the Class AAA International League and went 3-9 with a 5.83 ERA. The following season, Graterol pitched in the Mexican League. Fittingly, he played for the Mexico City Tigres.

“D” Tales: Beiker Graterol was the first pitcher to make his major-league debut as a starting pitcher against the Yankees in the home opener at Yankee Stadium since 1967. That was a lot different than the one in 1999.

That pitcher was Billy Rohr of the Boston Red Sox, and he took a no-hit bid into the ninth inning. After he retired Tom Tresh and Joe Pepitone, Elston Howard ruined the no-hit bid with a single to right. Rohr finished with a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory. It was the first of three career wins for Rohr, who finished his major-league career with a 3-3 record and a 5.64 ERA. It also was the only shutout of his career.

Howard, the American League MVP in 1963, was traded to the Red Sox four months later.

 

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Alan Trammell's 'ultimate grand slam' against the Yankees in 1988 was still unforgettable to him 26 years later

There has never been an “ultimate grand slam” that wasn’t thrilling.

What’s an “ultimate grand slam.” It is a grand slam hit with a team behind by three runs and in a walk-off situation. And for the first time in Tigers history, Alan Trammell did it on June 21, 1988.

In 2014, I was interviewing Trammell for another story. When we finished that topic, I felt I needed to bring up the “ultimate grand slam.” I wondered what he remembered about it. It turned out he remembered everything.

Here is the story:

On June 21, 1988, Alan Trammell did something that had never been done in franchise history.

He hit a walk-off grand slam with his team trailing by three runs. It has happened just nine other times in major-league history.

“Those are things you don’t forget,” Trammell said, nearly 26 years after the game, and he immediately rattled off the pitcher he victimized (Cecilio Guante) and the count (3-and-2).

It was a Tuesday night against the New York Yankees at Tiger Stadium with an announced crowd of 26,535. It is anyone’s guess as to how many left with the Yankees leading 6-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Those who left early probably did so in hopes of watching the Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

The Pistons lost that one. The Tigers made a memory.

Dave Bergman pinch-hit for Larry Herndon and singled to left to lead off the ninth, and Darrell Evans followed with a walk. Yankees manager Billy Martin then replaced right-hander Neil Allen with his closer, left-hander Dave Righetti, who gave up a single to Matt Nokes to load the bases with none out.

Righetti then retired Pat Sheridan on a liner to center and struck out Tom Brookens. However, Righetti issued back-to-back walks to Lou Whitaker and Luis Salazar as the Tigers cut the lead to 6-3 and still had the bases loaded. At that point, Martin brought in Guante, a right-hander who the night before had given up a walk-off home run to Brookens in the bottom of the 10th inning.

“I don’t know how many at-bats I had against (Guante), but he was tough on right-handers,” Trammell said. “He dropped down to the side, and he was more of an uncomfortable at-bat for a right-handed hitter. I’m sure the odds were that was the way to go, but unfortunately in this game, the odds don’t always work out.

“I’m sure it was the right matchup. I faced Righetti over the years, and I don’t know what my numbers were against him, but I’m sure it was a matchup thing – righty against righty.”

On Guante’s 3-and-2 pitch, Trammell homered off the facing of the upper deck in left field to win the game 7-6.

“The runners were moving, and I got a pitch that was in the middle of the plate,” Trammell said. “I’m sure (Guante) was just throwing a strike, and I happened to hit it out of the ballpark.”

While the walk-off grand slam has only happened 10 times, Trammell not only did it, he had it done against him two years earlier in Anaheim. Angels shortstop Dick Schofield hit one off Willie Hernandez to cap an eight-run rally in the ninth inning for a 13-12 victory.

Trammell’s memory of that day was as spot-on as it was for his walk-off grand slam.

“That wasn’t a good day,” he said. “We had a huge lead going into the ninth inning – we were up 12-5 – and we lost that game. If I’m not mistaken, that was 1986, and that was the year the Angels had a tremendous year and things were going well for them. The next night, Doug DeCinces hit a walk-off home run for them against us, so they had a good year and a good series.”

In fact, the walk-off home run by DeCinces was a two-run shot off Bill Campbell for a 5-4 victory.

But back to 1988 and the homer against the Yankees.

“We won three games in a row against the Yankees – all come from behind late wins,” Trammell said, “and after that three-game series, (owner) George (Steinbrenner) let Billy Martin go for the fifth time – and the last time.

“That was it. He never managed again after that.”

Once again, Trammell’s memory was spot-on. The night after his grand slam, the Tigers beat the Yankees in 10 innings to complete the sweep. Salazar delivered a game-winning single to score Brookens and end the managerial career of Martin, who was fired the next day and replaced by Lou Pinella.

Trammell, meanwhile, played eight more seasons with the Tigers and retired with 20 years in the big leagues – all with Detroit. That is something that is very special to Trammell.

“It got to a point where it meant a whole lot,” Trammell said of playing his entire career in Detroit. “When people say my name, I think that’s one of the first things that comes to mind is that I’m a guy who played with one team his whole career.”

Trammell played 2,293 games for the Tigers and hit .285 with 185 home runs and 1,003 RBIs. He finished second in the voting for the 1987 American League MVP Award, won four Gold Gloves at shortstop and three Silver Slugger Awards and was the MVP of the 1984 World Series.

He hit just 19 home runs in his first four seasons but had at least 13 in each season from 1983-88.

“As I matured and learned hitting, my strength was that I could use the whole field,” he said. “As I hit for power, I would hit the double down the line – I hit quite a few of them.

“I had a short stroke, and I wasn’t the strongest guy in the world, but as I matured I got a little bigger and learned the pitchers and their tendencies and how they were going to pitch me.

“Things worked out.”

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