Although George Lerchen did not have a lengthy major-league career, he was born near the site of Navin Field in Detroit, made his major-league debut on Opening Day in Detroit and hit his only major-league home run as a member of the Tigers.
Lechen, a 1941 graduate of Detroit Western High School, spent seven seasons in the minor leagues with Detroit before he made his major-league debut in 1952 at the age of 29.
His minor-league career was interrupted after one year when he served with the Navy for three years during World War II. He showed signed of power in the minors as he reached double-digits in home runs five times, topping out with 26 for the Toledo Mud Hens in 1950. He also had 97 RBIs that season and hit .270.
Two years later, Lerchen made the Tigers out of spring training, and he saw immediate action. In front of an Opening Day crowd of 43,112 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit in 1952, Lerchen made his major-league debut in the bottom of the eighth inning. He pinch-hit for Neil Berry and flied out to center off Ned Garver.
Lerchen made three more pinch-hitting appearances in April and failed to get a hit. He made his first start on May 6, 1952, in Washington. Senators right-hander Connie Marrero retired the first 10 batters he faced, including Lerchen on strikes in the first inning, but Lerchen got even in the rematch three innings later with a home run to deep right field at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. It would be the only home run of his major-league career, and he finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk.
The homer earned Lerchen another start the following day, and he went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. He also started the third game of the series and was 1-for-5, giving him a three-game hitting streak. He appeared in seven more games with three starts but was just 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts. He was sent to Buffalo of the Class AAA International League to finish the season.
Prior to the 1953 season, the Cincinnati Reds purchased his contract from the Tigers. Lerchen appeared in 23 games for the Reds – all as a pinch-hitter – in 1953 and hit .294 with no home runs and five RBIs. He spent three more seasons in the minors with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies organization before he left the game. He finished with 117 home runs in 12 minor-league seasons.
Lerchen returned to Detroit and played softball for many years. He was inducted into the Metro Detroit ASA Softball Hall of Fame. He worked in construction and retired from the Kirco Realty Company. He died at age 91 on March 26, 2014, in Garden City, Mich.
Lerchen’s only major-league homer was lone highlight in Tigers game
For five innings on May 6, 1952, Washington Senators right-hander Connie Marrero was nearly perfect. He had held the Tigers to just one hit through five innings in his first start of the season. He came into the game 1-0 after throwing two impressive games, including a 3-1 victory over the powerful New York Yankees.
The only hit he allowed in the first five innings was a home run by George Lerchen, who was playing in just his fifth major-league game. Lerchen hit the ball just 320 feet, but it cleared a 30-foot wall in right field. Lerchen finished 1-for-3 that day with a walk and a strikeout and never hit another home run in the major leagues.
Marrero would run into a little trouble in later innings but went the distance with a six-hitter in Washington’s 5-2 victory over the Tigers at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. He went on to enjoy the best season of his major-league career, going 11-8 with a career-low 2.88 ERA.