Tigers All-Decade Series: 1960s

Al Kaline

The Tigers won their third World Series title in the 1960s. In 1968, the Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in game seven. Led by AL MVP and Cy Young Denny McLain and World Series MVP Mickey Lolich, the Tigers’ rotation led the Tigers to their ninth AL pennant and third world championship in the franchise’s history. The next, and most recent, time they would win the World Series wouldn’t be for another sixteen years in 1984.

C: Bill Freehan–Spending his entire fifteen-year career in Detroit, Freehan compiled 11 All-Star selections and also five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1965-1969. His career fielding percentage of .9933 was the all-time record until 2002. In 1967 when Detroit fell one game shy of the pennant, Freehan had his best season to date and finished in third place for the MVP. Because of his leadership, offensive and defensive skills, Freehan quietly led the Tigers to their third World Series title and placed second in the MVP to teammate Mickey Lolich in 1968.

1B: Norm Cash–Cash spent fifteen of seventeen seasons of his career with the Tigers from 1960-1974. In that span, Cash was a 5x All-Star and won the AL batting title in 1961. In 1961, when the Tigers scored the most runs in baseball, Cash placed fourth in the AL MVP voting. After 1961, he hit 30 or more home runs four separate times. He broke several Tigers’ defensive records at first base, surpassing Hank Greenberg and Rudy York’s stats.

2B: Jake Wood–Wood spent all but a couple months of his seven-year MLB career with Detroit. He was known for his speed on the basepaths, frequently among the leaders in stolen bases and triples during his career. In fact, in 1941, he led the Junior Circuit with 14 triples.

3B: Don Wert–A 1968 All-Star and 1965 “Tiger of the Year”, Don Wert spent eight seasons in the Motor City in his career. His game-winning hit at the end of the 1968 season clinched the Tigers the AL pennant. Next season, Wert started a triple play, while President Richard Nixon was in attendance. He spent the final year of his career, 1971, with the Washington Senators.

SS: Dick McAuliffe–Spending 14 of his 16 MLB seasons in Detroit, McAuliffe was a 3x All-Star and helped the Tigers win the World Series in ’68. In 1965, he was elected as the starting catcher of the All-Star team. In 1968, he led the league in runs scored and record 50 extra-base hits. He ended up finishing seventh in the MVP balloting, behind three Tigers teammates. He spent the final two seasons of his career, 1974-1975, with the Boston Red Sox.

LF: Willie Horton–Horton spent the first fourteen seasons of a brilliant career with the Tigers. He demonstrated tremendous power and a knack for driving in runs. He hit a career 36 HRs in 1968, propelling the Tigers to the Series win. He managed a fourth-place finish in that year’s MVP voting. Horton was a four-time All-Star and also a recipient of the AL’s Outstanding DH award in ’75. His #23 was later retired by the Detroit Tigers.

RF: Al Kaline–One of the greatest Tigers in history, “Mr. Tiger” Al Kaline spent his entire 22-year professional baseball career with the Tigers. He was a remarkable 18-time All-Star and a 10-time Gold Glove winner. Besides his World Series ring from 1968, Kaline also achieved the Roberto Clemente award in 1973 and the batting title in 1955. In 1974, Kaline became the 12th player ever to have 3000 hits. His #6 was retired by the Tigers and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

CF: Mickey Stanley–Stanley spent his entire 15 year career with Detroit, where he received four Gold Glove awards. Although being regarded as an excellent defensive center fielder, the Tigers eventually moved him to shortstop.

 

SP 1: Denny McLain–McLain had a brilliant 20-year career, 18 of which he spent with Detroit. He compiled 3 All-Star selections, 2 Cy Youngs (1968 and 1969), and an AL MVP title in 1968. He remains the last pitcher, one of eleven, to win 30 or more games in a single season when he went 31-6 in 1968. He became the first person in AL history to win the Cy Young and be so dominant to also garner MVP recognition.

SP 2: Mickey Lolich–Lolich, a 3x All-Star and the 1968 World Series MVP, spent thirteen years in Motown. He ended up getting the win in Game 7 of the ’68 World Series to go along with two others earlier in the series. In 1971, he was the runner-up to the Cy Young and finished third a year later. He remains third place on the all-time strikeout leaders for left-handers behind Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson.

SP 3: Earl Wilson–A pitcher of a no-hitter in ’62 and the AL wins leader in 1967, Earl Wilson spent the final five seasons of his career with Detroit. He had spent the first seven seasons with the Red Sox and a final two months with the Padres in 1970 before retiring. In ’62 when he pitched his no-no, Wilson helped his own cause by hitting a home run off the opposing starting pitcher, who also happened to have thrown a no-no earlier in the year.

RP: John Hiller–Hiller, who spent his entire 15-year career with Detroit, was the MLB saves leader in 1973 and hold the record for most wins by a relief pitcher in a season, set by Hiller in ’74 at 17 wins. His 38 saves were a club record until Todd Jones saved 42 in the 2000s.

 

It was a memorable decade for the Tigers. As they broke a drought and finally achieved their third World Series championship, 23 years after the second one and and 16 years before their latest one in 1984. Filled with Cy Youngs and MVPs, the Tigers’ 1960s were memorable for several seasons, but none bigger than the rise of Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline. He remains as one of the greatest Detroit Tigers players of all time.

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