Hank Aguirre played 10 seasons with the Tigers and had the best season for a lefty since Hal Newhouser. However, Aguirre’s tenure was more than one spectacular season. The valuable lefty performed as a starter and reliever. After retiring, he became a successful businessman and was active in the community. At one point, he made a pitch to buy the Tigers to save the team. Ownership rebuffed Aguirre, who died a couple years later. Despite this, Aguirre’s term in Detroit proved successful on and off the field.
Aguirre broke in with Cleveland in 1955. He appeared in 30 games and went 6-6 over three seasons. In 1958, the Indians traded the lefty and Jim Hegan to Detroit for Jay Porter and Hal Woodeshick. He wore a Tiger uniform until 1968.
The left-hander spent his first four Tiger seasons in the bullpen. He started nine games from 1958-1961 and saved 23. An injury limited him to three games in 1959. Otherwise, he appeared in 44, 37, and 45 games. In 1962, the Tigers decided to make Aguirre a starter.
One day, starter Don Mossi experienced arm problems. Tiger manager Bob Sheffing turned to Aguirre to fill in. His success led management to place him in the rotation. Aguirre started 22 games in 1962 and finished 16-8. He completed 11 games, tossed two shutouts, and led the league in WHIP (1.085) and hits per 9 innings (6.8). Aguirre also bested Sandy Koufax for the MLB ERA title when he posted a 2.21 earned run average. For his efforts, Aguirre made both All Star games and finished 17th in the MVP voting.
Aguirre put together the best season for a Tiger left-handed starter since Hal Newhouser in 1946. He remained a starter until 1966. From 1963-1966, the pitcher won 14, 5, 14, and 3 games. He never led the league in any statistical category, but proved a reliable starter until being roughed up in 1966. His ERA during this stretch finished at 3.67, 3.79, 3.59, and 3.82. He appeared in 31 games in 1967 and started only one. On April 3, 1968, the Tigers traded Aguirre to the Dodgers.
The pitcher played three more seasons with Los Angeles and the Cubs. He retired after 1970 and moved to coaching. For his career, Aguirre won 75 and lost 72 with a 3.25 ERA. Nine years after retiring, he established Mexican Industries in Detroit to supply parts to Volkswagon. Ernie Harwell called him “a real part of the Detroit community.” In December 1990, Aguirre organized investors hoping to buy the Detroit Tigers. He expressed concerned over the direction of the club under Tom Monaghan and was angry over Harwell’s firing. Monaghan ignored Aguirre’s entreaties and sold the club to Mike Illitch. Aguirre passed away in 1994.
Hank Aguirre came to Detroit in 1958, left for a brief detour, and returned. He remained a Detroiter until his death in 1994. As a Tiger, Aguirre finished 64-64, but experienced one of the best seasons in team history for a left handed pitcher. Afterward, he became a businessman, pillar of the community, and tried to save the Tigers from the Monaghan regime. Although not the greatest Tiger player of all time, Aguirre was a true Tiger.