Tiger history extends to the 19th century. As a result, the Tigers have enjoyed tremendous successes and spectacular failures. In 2013, the Tigers mark several anniversaries. Some are historic while others are infamous. The following are some anniversaries in Tiger history.
Five years ago: Justin Verlander experienced the only poor season of his career. In 2008, Verlander finished 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA. He led the league in losses, posted a career worst in WHIP (1.403), runs allowed (119), earned runs (108), and walks (87). Luckily, the year proved an aberration. The following season, Verlander bounced back with a league-leading 19 wins.
Ten years ago: Detroit lost 119 games and threatened the 1962 Mets record for mediocrity. The expansion Mets lost 120 games. It appeared inevitable heading into the season’s final week. The Tigers avoided infamy by winning five of six to close the year. Three years later, they won the pennant.
Twenty years ago: Detroit finished 85-77 in third place. Cecil Fielder led the team with 30 home runs and 117 RBI. Travis Fryman hit .300 and added 22 long balls and drove in 97. Mike Moore, John Doherty, David Wells, and Bill Gullickson combined for 51 wins against 38 losses and Mike Henneman saved 24. The franchise did not finish above .500 again for 13 long years.
Twenty-five years ago: Sparky Anderson positioned the Tigers for back-to-back AL East titles in 1988. On September 1, Detroit led the division by a game. Unfortunately, they struggled down the stretch and finished 13-16 for the month. At one point, the team fell into fourth place. Detroit rallied with a 9-3 run to close the season, but had been buried by mid-September. The Tigers finished 1 game behind first place Boston and did not seriously contend again until 2006.
Thirty years ago: George Kell was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Tiger. Kell joined Detroit in 1946 and essentially stayed with the franchise until 1996. As a player, Kell hit .325 with a .824 OPS. He batted .340 or better twice and bested Ted Williams for the 1949 batting title. As a broadcaster, Kell brought a laid back southern style to the booth. Tiger fans loved him.
Fifty years ago: Al Kaline enjoyed a fine season hitting .312 with 27 home runs and 101 RBI. It would mark the final 100 RBI campaign for Kaline. However, he continued to place at a high level for the remainder of the decade. The 1963 Tigers finished 79-83 in fifth place.
Seventy-five years ago: In 1937, Hank Greenberg challenged the AL RBI record. He fell one short of Lou Gehrig’s mark. The following season, Greenberg chased the Babe. Ruth hit 60 homers in 1927 and the Tiger slugger blasted 58 in 1938. Although falling two short of Ruth, Hammerin’ Hank set a record for right handed batters and the Tiger home run mark. Detroit finished 84-70 in fourth place.
Ninety years ago: Harry Heilmann won four batting crowns in 17 major league seasons. His titles came in odd years during the twenties. Heilmann posted his first in 1921. Two years later, the Tiger hit a career best .403 to lead the league. He also scored 121 runs, slapped 211 hits, belted 44 doubles, had 11 triples, hit 18 home runs, drove in 115, and finished with a 1.113 OPS. Heilmann won two more batting titles in 1925 and 1927. The second place 1923 Tigers won 83 games against 71 losses and missed the pennant by 16 games.
100 years ago: Ty Cobb hit over .400 in 1911 and 1912. He slumped to .390 in 1913. In many respects, it was an off year for the Georgia Peach. He managed to play in only 122 games and did not post his normally ridiculous numbers. Despite this, he qualified for, and won, the batting title and finished 20th in the MVP balloting. Without Cobb for over 30 games, the Tigers landed in 6th place and 21 games under .500.
110 years ago: The Tigers joined the American League in 1901. Detroit fielded mediocre teams with comparable talent until 1903. That season, management lured Sam Crawford from the National League. Crawford played with Detroit until 1917. In his first Tiger season, he hit .335 with 184 hits, 23 doubles, 4 home runs, 89 RBI, and a .855 OPS. Wahoo Sam also led the league with 25 triples. He retired baseball’s all-time triple champion with 309. Despite the addition of a Hall of Fame player, Detroit finished under .500. The franchise became contenders a couple years later with the addition of Ty Cobb and solid pitching.