Detroit Tigers Information
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.
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Ty Cobb at bat in 1908 at Chicago's South Side ParkCobb 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.
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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.
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In Game 1, McLain was overshadowed by Cardinals' ace Bob Gibson, who struck out 17 Tigers in a 4-0 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--pitching on two days' rest--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.
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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.
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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 the late 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. (Note: At That Time, The Team with Home Field Advantage in the ALCS and NLCS, played the first two games on the road. This changed in 1985 when the format was changed from Best-Of-Five to Best-Of-Seven.)
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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.
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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, eclipsing the previous American League record of 116 losses. On August 30, 2003, the Tigers lost to the Chicago White Sox, putting them with the 1962 expansion New York Mets as the only modern MLB teams to lose 100 games before September. They avoided tying the 1962 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.
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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.