- 1 Franchise history
- 2 Quick facts
- 3 Baseball Hall of Famers
- 4 Current roster
- 5 Minor league affiliations
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
The early years
The Detroit Tigers played their first game as a major league team in the American League on April 25, 1901 at Bennett Park in front of 10,000 fans against the Milwaukee Brewers. After trailing 13-4 entering the ninth inning, the team staged a dramatic comeback to win the game 14-13. The Tigers originally played in the minor Western League.
There are various legends about how the Tigers got their nickname. One has to do with the orange stripes they wore on their black stockings. Another has to do with a sportswriter equating that 1901 Detroit club's opening day victory to the ferocity of his alma mater, the Princeton Tigers.
However, the truth is revealed in Richard Bak's 1998 book, A Place for Summer: A Narrative History of Tiger Stadium. In the 19th century, the city of Detroit had a military unit called the Detroit Light Guard, who were known as "The Tigers." They had played a significant role in certain Civil War battles and also in the recently-fought Spanish-American War. The ballclub received permission from the Light Guard to use their trademark, and from that day forth the ballclub was officially the Tigers.
That 1901 team eventually finished third in the eight team league. Eleven years later, an elegant stadium was constructed on the site of Bennett Park and named Navin Field. In 1961, Briggs Stadium, as it was then known, was renamed Tiger Stadium. Tiger Stadium was used by the Tigers until the end of the 1999 season. Since 2000, the Tigers have played in Comerica Park.
The Cobb era
In 1905, the team acquired Ty Cobb, a fearless player with a mean streak, who would be considered one of the greatest of all-time. The addition of Cobb to an already talented team that included Sam Crawford, Hughie Jennings, Bill Donovan, and George Mullin quickly yielded results, as the Tigers won their first American League pennant in 1907.
Cobb and the Tigers disappointed in the 1907 Fall Classic against the Chicago Cubs. With the exception of Game 1, which ended in a rare tie, the Tigers failed to score more than one run in any game and lost four straight. The Cubs would deny Detroit the title again in '08, holding Detroit to a .209 batting average for the series, which the Cubs again won in five games. It was hoped that a new opponent in the 1909 Series, Pittsburgh, would yield different results, but the Bengals were blown out 8-0 in the decisive seventh game at Forbes Field.
In the teens and twenties, Cobb remained the marquee player on many Tigers teams that would remain mired in the middle of the American League. Cobb himself took over managerial duties in 1921, but during six years at the helm, his Tigers never had a record better than 86-68.
The Tigers break through
The Tiger teams of the 1930s were consistently among the league's best with "Black Mike" Mickey Cochrane behind the plate, Hank Greenberg, one of the greatest Jewish baseball players of all time, at first, and Charlie Gehringer, "The Mechanical Man" at second. They would be denied again in the 1934 World Series in seven games by the Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals. Again, when the chips were down in the deciding game, Detroit folded, giving up seven third-inning runs and losing Game Seven 11-0 at Navin Field (Tiger Stadium). The game was marred by an ugly incident. After spiking Tiger third baseman Marv Owen in the sixth inning, the Cardinals' Joe "Ducky" Medwick had to be removed from the game for his own safety by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis after being pelted with fruit and garbage from angry fans in the large temporary bleacher section in left field.
The Tigers finally reached the Promised Land the following year, defeating the Cubs 4 games to 2 to win the 1935 World Series, which concluded with Goose Goslin's dramatic walk-off single, scoring Cochrane to seal the victory.
The Tigers returned to the middle of the American League in the late 30's and World War II era before the timely return of Hank Greenberg from the military helped the Tigers to the 1945 American League pennant. With Virgil Trucks and Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser on the mound and Greenberg leading the Tiger bats, Detroit responded in a Game 7 for the first time, staking Newhouser to a 5-0 lead before he threw a pitch en route to a 9-3 victory over the Cubs. Because many baseball stars had not yet returned from the military, some baseball scholars have deemed the '45 Series to be among the worst-played contests in Series history. Prior to the Series, Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown was asked who he liked, and he answered, "I don't think either one of them can win it!" But the Cubs had no answer to Greenberg, and the Series went Detroit's way.
Glory in '68
The 1968 title, which occurred one year after the 1967 race riots ravaged Detroit, is thought to have helped to heal citywide tensions. The Tigers easily won the American League with many dramatic, come-from-behind victories during the regular season. In the "year of the pitcher", the controversial Denny McLain became the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean in 1934 to win 30 games with a 31-6 record.
In Game 1, McLain was overshadowed by Cardinals' ace Bob Gibson, who struck out 17 Tigers in a 3-0 shutout. The Tiger bats won the day in the second game, in St. Louis. Lolich held St. Louis to a single run on six hits and added a home run in his own cause. The Tigers lost badly in Games 3 and 4 at Tiger Stadium, 7-3 and 10-1. In Game 4, some accounts accused Tigers manager Mayo Smith of stalling in hopes that the game would be washed out by an approaching storm. With their backs against the wall, Lolich took the mound again in Game 5. The Tigers were eight outs away from elimination before a two-run single from Al Kaline and another RBI safety by Norm Cash gave Detroit a 5-3 lead they would not relinquish. As the series returned to St. Louis, McLain pitched on two days' rest. Any concerns about the Tigers' ace having a sore arm were quickly laid to rest. The Tigers scored 10 runs in the third inning, including a grand slam from Jim Northrup, in a 13-1 laugher. The deciding Game 7 pitted Lolich against Gibson, and the Tigers struck first. Jim Northrup's triple scored Norm Cash and Willie Horton to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Catcher Bill Freehan added a double to give Lolich a 3-0 lead with nine outs to go. Don Wert's RBI single in the ninth added an insurance run, and a ninth-inning solo shot from Mike Shannon of St. Louis was the Cards' only response. Tim McCarver, the next batter, popped up to Freehan in foul territory and the Tigers were Champions of baseball again.
A slow decline
Detroit finished second to the dominant Baltimore Orioles, who won 109 games, in defense of their '68 title. After that, time slowly dismantled the Tigers. Smith was let go after the 1970 season, to be replaced by Billy Martin. After a second-place finish in 1971, the Tigers captured the American League East title in 1972. Oddities of the schedule due to an early-season strike allowed the Tigers to win the division by just 1/2 game... just as they had in 1908.
In Game 1 of the ALCS in Oakland, Lolich, the hero of '68, took the hill and went nine innings. and Al Kaline hit a solo homer to break a 1-1 tie in the 11th inning, only to be charged with an error on Gonzalo Marquez's game-tying single that allowed Gene Tenace to score the winning run. Blue Moon Odom shut down Detroit 5-0 in Game 2. As the series returned to Detroit, the Tigers caught their stride. Joe Coleman held the A's scoreless on seven hits in Game 3, a 3-0 Tiger victory. In Game 4, the Tigers got revenge for the opener. Two Oakland runs in the top of the 10th put the Tigers down to their last three outs, but Detroit pushed two runs across the plate to tie the game before Jim Northrup came through in the clutch again. His single off Dave Hamilton scored Gates Brown and evened the series. A first-inning run on a Gene Tenace passed ball gave Detroit an early lead in the deciding Game 5 in Oakland, but Reggie Jackson's steal of home in the 2nd tied it up. A Gene Tenace single to left gave Oakland a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, and thanks to four innings of scoreless relief from Vida Blue they took it all the way to the World Series.
Martin didn't survive the '73 season, and the Tigers spent much of the next decade in the middle or lower ranks of the AL East. Tiger fans were provided a glimmer of hope when rookie phenom Mark Fidrych made his debut in 1976. Fidrych, known as "the Bird," was a crazy character known for talking to the baseball. During one game against the Yankees, Graig Nettles responded to Fidrych's antics by talking to his bat. After making an out, he later lamented that his Japanese-made bat didn't understand him. Sadly, those Tigers finished next to last and arm troubles ruined Fidrych's career.
The Bless You Boys
From 1979 to 1995, the team was managed by the colorful, eccentric George "Sparky" Anderson, one of baseball's winningest managers. When Sparky came on board, he made the bold move of predicting a pennant winner within 5 years. He proved to be as good as his word.
The 1984 team started out at a record 35-5 pace (including Jack Morris throwing a no-hitter early in the season against the Chicago White Sox), and cruised to a franchise-record 104 victories. That team featured the great double play combination of shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker; the duo would play together a record 19 seasons. The team also included Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon, Larry Herndon, Morris, Dan Petry, Dave Rozema, the late Aurelio Lopez and relief ace Willie Hernandez, who won the 1984 American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player.
The Tigers faced the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series, which would prove to be no contest. In Game 1, Alan Trammell, Lance Parrish and Larry Herndon went deep to crush the Royals 8-1 at Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium). In Game 2, the Tigers scored twice in the 11th inning when Johnny Grubb doubled off Royals closer Dan Quisenberry en route to a 5-3 victory. The Tigers completed the sweep at Tiger Stadium in Game 3. Marty Castillo's third-inning RBI fielder's choice would be all the help Detroit would need. Milt Wilcox outdueled Charlie Leibrandt and after Hernandez got Darryl Motley to pop up to third, the Tigers were returning to the Fall Classic.
In the NLCS, a San Diego rally from 2-0 down prevented a fourth Cubs-Tigers series and meant the Tigers would open the 1984 World Series against the San Diego Padres in Trammell's home town. In Game 1, Larry Herndon hit a two-run dinger that gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead. Morris pitched a complete game with 2 runs on 8 hits, and Detroit took first blood. The Padres evened the series the next night despite pitcher Ed Whitson being chased after two-thirds of an inning after giving up three runs on five Tiger hits. Tiger starter Dan Petry didn't last long either, exiting the game after four and one-third innings when light-hitting veteran Kurt Bevacqua's three-run homer gave San Diego a 5-3 lead they would hold onto. When the series returned to the Motor City, the Tigers took charge. In Game 3, a two-out rally in the second inning led to four runs and the yanking of Padre starter Tim Lollar after one and two-thirds innings. The Padres, plagued by poor starting pitching throughout the series, never recovered and lost 5-2. Eric Show continued the parade of bad outings in Game 4, getting bounced after two and two-thirds innings after giving up home runs to Trammell in his first two at-bats. Trammell's homers held up with the help of another Morris complete game, and the Tigers held a commanding lead.
In Game 5, Gibson's two-run shot in the first inning would be the beginning of another early end for the Padres' starter Mark Thurmond. Though the Padres would pull back even, chasing Dan Petry in the fourth inning in the process, the Tigers retook the lead on a Rusty Kuntz sacrifice fly, doubled it on a solo homer by Parrish and then sealed the victory by Gibson's three-run homer off Goose Gossage in the eighth.
A "Sounds of the Game" video was made during the Series by MLB Productions and played on TV a number of times since then. When Gibson came to bat, in a situation that might call for Gossage to pitch around him, Anderson was seen and heard yelling to Gibson, "He don't want to walk you!" and making a swing-the-bat gesture. As Anderson had suspected, Gossage came in with a fast one, and Gibson was ready. He "swung from the heels", and launched it into Tiger Stadium's right field upper deck.
In 1987, The Tigers made a historic rally. Detroit was three and a half games out of first with a week to play. The Tigers chased down the Toronto Blue Jays to win what would be their last American League Eastern Division Championship. The Tigers and Blue Jays squared off in seven nail-biting games during the final two weeks of the season; all seven games were decided by one run, and in the first six of the seven games, the winning run scored in the final inning of play. The Tigers dropped three in a row to the Blue Jays before winning a dramatic extra-inning showdown. After a series against the Baltimore Orioles, the Tigers returned home to sweep the Blue Jays. The Tigers clinched the division in a 1-0 Sunday Afternoon win, pitched by Frank Tanana and won on a home run by outfielder Larry Herndon. Unfortunately, they lost the ALCS to the Minnesota Twins in five games.
Tigers declawed - the Randy Smith era
The Tigers last winning season came in 1993, and only twice since then have they even finished within 5 games of .500 (1997 and 2000). In 1996, the Tigers lost a then-team record 109 games. In 2003, the Tigers shattered that mark of futility, by losing a remarkable 119 games. They avoided tying the 1962 expansion New York Mets' modern record for losses in one season (120) by winning five of their last six games of the season. They did this when they faced the Minnesota Twins in their final series, as the Twins had already clinched the Central Division and were resting their starters.
The man whom many Detroiters blame for the performance of the recent Tigers is former General Manager Randy Smith. Under Smith, the Tigers squandered numerous high draft picks on toolsy, but unskilled players. Smith amassed a dismal trading record, trading quality players such as Luis Gonzalez and Phil Nevin for spare parts. Smith's most controversial move as GM backfired heavily; in an effort to lure a big-name player, he sent Frank Catalanotto, one time All-Star Justin Thompson, top prospect Gabe Kapler and future relief ace Francisco Cordero to the Texas Rangers for disgruntled and injury-prone outfielder Juan Gonzalez, plus two role players. Gonzalez played only 115 games in a Tigers uniform before suffering a season-ending injury, and he left the team as a free agent in the offseason. Smith had previous ties to the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres, with whom there were a number of questionable trades.
Furthermore, Smith hamstrung the franchise by signing mediocre players to lucrative long-term contracts, forcing the team to devote a significant portion of their payroll to players who had long outlived their usefulness. Examples of such long-term signings include Dean Palmer, Damion Easley, and Bobby Higginson.
After the Tigers began 0-6, Ilitch fired Smith in early 2002. Dave Dombrowski, the GM whose Florida Marlins won the 1997 World Series was hired to right the ship. In July 2005, ESPN.com listed Randy Smith as "The most hated man" among Tigers fans.
Stabilization and recovery
In 2000, the team left legendary Tiger Stadium, then tied with Fenway Park as the oldest active baseball stadium, in favor of the new Comerica Park. The argument over Tiger Stadium lasted over a decade, with team management reportedly reviewing options to move to the Detroit suburbs. This speculation was quieted by the purchase of the team to Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and the Little Caesars pizza franchise. Many longtime fans complained that the "CoPa" lacked the charm of its predecessor, while others saw it as a necessary replacement of an aging facility.
Under Dombrowski, the Tigers have shown a willingness to go and try to be a player on the free agent market. In 2004, the team signed or traded for several talented but high-risk veterans, such as Iván Rodríguez, Ugueth Urbina, Rondell White, and Carlos Guillén, and the gamble paid off. The '04 Tigers had a 29-game improvement over the previous season, one of the greatest improvements in baseball history. In fact, it was the biggest turnaround in the AL since Baltimore's 33-game improvement from 1988 to 1989. However, it was not enough to avoid an 11th consecutive losing season. On August 30, 2003, the the Tigers lost to the Chicago White Sox, putting them with the 1962 New York Mets as the only modern MLB teams to lose 100 games before September.
In 2005, the Tigers spent a large sum for two prized free agents, Magglio Ordóñez and Troy Percival. Recently the Tigers traded pitcher Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez to the Philadelphia Phillies for Plácido Polanco (and signed him for 4 years). The Tigers stayed on the fringes of contention for the American League wild card for the first four months of the season, but injuries and a lack of player unity doomed them to another losing record and cost Trammell his job.
On October 3, 2005, the Tigers fired Trammell after three seasons in which he failed to maintain continuous improvement, despite numerous free agent acquisitions. The 2005 Tigers ended the season in a tail spin and finished 71-91. The MVP of Detroit's 1984 World Series team had one year left on his contract. Detroit lost an AL-record 119 games in his first season as manager in 2003, then improved to 72-90 in 2004 following a wave of free agent acquisitions during the off-season.  On October 4, Jim Leyland replaced Trammell as the Tigers manager.
- Founded: 1893, in the minor Western League. In 1900 that league was renamed the American League, and it became a major league in 1901. Detroit is the only charter member of the Western League to have remained in its original city.
- Home ballpark: Comerica Park
- Former ballparks: Tiger Stadium, Bennett Park
- Mascot: Paws
- Uniform colors: Home: Navy Blue Old English "D" on white uniform. Navy is used as an accent color. Road: Detroit script in navy blue outlined in orange and white on a gray background. Navy, orange and white are used as accent colors.
- Logo design: An Old English font "D" with a roaring tiger walking through it, but that logo has been seen less in recent years. The Old English "D" without the Tiger appears on the home jersey while another version of the Old English "D" is present on the home cap (white "D" on navy blue) and road cap (orange "D" on navy blue).
- Playoff appearances (11): 1907, 1908, 1909, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1945, 1968, 1972, 1984, 1987
Minor league affiliations
- AAA: Toledo Mudhens, International League
- AA: Erie SeaWolves, Eastern League
- Advanced A: Lakeland Tigers, Florida State League
- A: West Michigan Whitecaps, Midwest League
- Short A: Oneonta Tigers, New York-Penn League
- Rookie: GCL Tigers, Gulf Coast League
- Tigers award winners and league leaders
- Tigers statistical records and milestone achievements
- Tigers players of note
- Tigers broadcasters and media
- Tigers managers and ownership
- Detroit Tigers official web site
- Tigers Talk - Excellent fan site
- Tigers Central and Tigers History - Excellent fan site
- Motown Sports - Excellent fan site
- Detroit Tigers Web Blog