The 10 Greatest Seasons In Detroit Tigers History
In the wake of one of the darkest moments in Tigers history, I'm thinking this fan base could use a little reflection on years when the organization actually had success.
Five of the seasons on the list occurred before or during the end of World War II, nine of them before the Berlin Wall was torn down. This organization has plenty of history though; just not a lot of good history recently.
Feel free to share your thoughts. As always, I ask all criticism be constructive.
Without further ado, the 10 greatest seasons in the long history of the Detroit Tigers.
No. 10 - 1915
Finish: 2nd in American League (2.5 behind BOS)
The team's .649 win percentage is the second highest in team history, and baseball historian Bill James ranked the outfield of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford (both pictured above with Joe Jackson), and Bobby Veach the greatest outfield of all time. Hooks Dauss and Harry Koveleski both won at least 20 games.
No. 9 - 1909
Finish: Lost World Series to Pittsburgh in seven games
For the third straight year, the Tigers made the World Series and like the years before, lost. The team had a great year nonetheless.
Many personal accomplishments stand out such as Ty Cobb winning the triple crown and George Mullin leading the league in wins with 29.
No. 8 - 1961
Finish: 2nd in American League (8 behind NYY)
Though overshadowed by a powerhouse Yankees team, the Tigers of 1961 were pretty beastly themselves.
It was the year of Norm Cash, who won the AL batting title with a .361 average, Al Kaline finishing second in the race with a .324 average. Rocky Colavito was a force in the middle of the Tiger lineup, hitting 45 home runs and driving in 140.
No. 7 - 2006
Finish: Lost World Series to St. Louis in five games
The lone year on this list I'm sure you all remember. The beauty of 2006 was how unexpected it was. Kenny Rogers and Justin Verlander both won 17 games, and the team received numerous surprising offensive performances from players including Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge. Manager Jim Leyland pushed all the right buttons in his first season with the team.
Magglio Ordonez's home run to clinch the AL pennant is far and away the greatest moment in Tigers history in my lifetime. I can tell you exactly where I was and who I was with when it happened.
Unfortunately, the year ended on quite the horrific note as the team very literally threw away the World Series against a Cardinal team they had no business losing to. For most people (myself not being one of them), the World Series collapse was not enough to spoil an otherwise magical year.
No. 6 - 1945
Finish: Won World Series against Chicago Cubs in seven games
Though several of the team's stars didn't even join the team until midseason due to service in World War II, the fact of the matter is that the team won its second World Series.
Hank Greenberg returned after four years of service in the military on July 1, and hit a home run before 47,700 fans in his first game back.
Hal Newhouser won his second consecutive MVP award, winning the pitching triple crown.
The team beat the Chicago Cubs (who haven't been back to the Series since) in the World Series. Newhouser won the deciding seventh game.
Complimented by the euphoria of World War II ending, it's safe to say 1945 was a good year for a lot of Tigers fans.
No. 5 - 1934
Finish: Lost World Series to St. Louis in seven games
Sparked by the MVP season of player/manager Mickey Cochrane, the Tigers made their first World Series appearance in 25 years where they lost in seven hard-fought games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Along with Cochrane, the lineup boasted three future Hall-of-Famers in Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, and Goose Goslin. Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe were a potent duo at the top of the Tigers rotation, each winning at least 20 games.
The series loss to the Cardinals marked an end to the days of frustration for Tigers fans, as the organization would win its first World Series the next season.
No. 4 - 1987
Finish: Lost ALCS to Minnesota in five games
In 1987, the Tigers enjoyed about as satisfying and thrilling a season as a team can have without actually winning the World Series.
After an 11-19 start, the team started clicking from there on after.
Doyle Alexander was acquired in August in the most hotly debated move in the organization's history. Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA for the Tigers, and was vital to the team's success. As for Atlanta, they got 20-year-old minor league pitcher John Smoltz. 214 wins and 154 saves later, I'd think the Braves would be satisfied with the trade.
Alan Trammell had the season of his career and was straight up robbed of the AL MVP award.
The end-season showdown with the Blue Jays, where the Tigers overtook them for first, is remembered to this day. Unfortunately, the Tigers would be upset in the ALCS by the eventual champion Minnesota Twins.
No matter, Tigers fans were treated to an incredibly exhilarating season.
No. 3 - 1935
Finish: Won World Series against Chicago Cubs in six games
The wait was finally over, as in 1935, the Detroit Tigers won the first of their four World Series championships.
Fielding largely the same club that had lost in the Series the year prior to the St. Louis Cardinals, the team obviously built off the experience they gained.
Hall-of-Famers Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer had phenomenal seasons, Greenberg driving in 170 runs and Gehringer boasting the fifth best average in the league.
Tommy Bridges, Elden Auker, and Schoolboy Rowe formed a formidable trio in the Tiger rotation.
Boasting four Hall-of-Famers and in general, several of the greatest players ever to don the Olde English D, the 1935 Tigers are undoubtedly a team to remember.
No. 2 - 1968
Finish: Won World Series against St. Louis in seven games
People who think sports can't touch people's hearts don't know the story of this team.
In the wake of the devastating riots of 1967 (from whence the city of Detroit has never fully healed), the 1968 Detroit Tigers brought the city together for one magical ride and helped everyone forget their troubles, if only for a short while.
Denny McClain had arguably the greatest pitching season in Tigers history, winning 31 games with an ERA of 1.80.
Jim Northrup, Bill Freehan, and Willie Horton all had superb seasons, making up for Al Kaline missing part of the year with a broken arm.
The 1968 World Series vs. St. Louis was one for the ages, which started with the Tigers being manhandled by Bob Gibson in Game One. The Tigers would lose two of the next three to fall behind 3-1 in the series.
Willie Horton's throw-out of Lou Brock in Game Five was the turning point of the series, as the Tigers would win the last three games of the series (the last two in St. Louis), earning the Tigers their first World Series in 23 years.
No one who watched them will ever forget this team, and the generations of Tigers fans who didn't get to see them play must at least appreciate what they did for the city of Detroit in its hour of greatest need.
No. 1 - 1984
Finish: Won World Series against San Diego in five games
Each organization has that one year, the one that stands out, the one that will be remembered forever. The Yankees have 1927 (among others), the Pirates 1960, the Twins 1991, the Diamondbacks 2001, and so on.
1984 is that year for the Detroit Tigers. It was a year of magic from start to finish this city had never seen before, and has not seen since.
Jack Morris' no-hitter before a national audience was a warning to the baseball world to stay out of this team's way. Sparky Anderson's squad set a major league record with their 35-5 start, and led their division wire to wire.
Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish had monster offensive years, the double-play combination of Whitaker and Trammell was steady as ever, and Morris, Dan Petry, and Milt Wilcox won 19, 18, and 17 games, respectively.
The team steamrolled through the playoffs, handling the Royals and Padres with amazing ease. Kirk Gibson's home run in Game Five of the World Series is one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.
For one year, it truly was the Tigers and everybody else. You don't know what I'd give to have been able to see these guys play. Unfortunately, we'll probably never see a team like this ever again. Simply a team for the ages.