Since the inaugural season of play in 1894 as part of the Western League, the Detroit Tigers organization has had a lot of talent to put on the Ole’ English D. As the oldest team in the American League to not ever have changed its name or city, the Tigers own four World Series championships, 11 AL pennants, and six division titles.
The problem with choosing a Mount Rushmore of players from Detroit is that great players are sure to fall through the cracks. Guys like Hank Greenburg, Norm Cash, and Hal Newhouser are some of the greatest players of all time, even though they played in an entirely different era of baseball. Since there are only four coveted spots available, space is limited.
For our purposes, we are going to shorten the scope of our discussion to the post-war years (1945-present). It will shorten the list to players whose careers were not interrupted by World War II. Secondly, it represents an era of baseball that is more similar to what we see today with an emphasis on power hitting and pitching. It simply wouldn’t be fair to compare pitchers from the 1920s to today; the specialized pitchers of today have strict pitch counts and are constantly measured. Back in the day, guys used to be able to go out and throw 9 innings a few times a week, and that was after they had drank a few beers!
The following is a list of the four players I would place on my Mount Rushmore of baseball. Coaches are also eligible because players aren’t the only ones who bust their tails all summer long.
Infield: Miguel Cabrera, 3rd Base
In 2012, Miguel Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrezemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown in batting. Following on his success from 2012, he won the AL MVP award in 2013 while having a .348 batting average with 137 RBI. After winning his second consecutive MVP award, Cabrera joined Hank Greenburg and Hal Newhouser as the only Tigers to have ever won the award more than once. Not only is he a great hitter, he always plays the game with the enthusiasm of a 10 year old, which is a welcome sight to see in the locker room.
Outfield: Al Kaline, OF
At the ripe old age of 20, Al Kaline burst onto the baseball scene and never looked back as a member of the Detroit Tigers. In 1955, he became the youngest player to ever hit three home runs in a game and also became the youngest AL battle champion after hitting .340 with 20 home runs and 102 RBI. Kaline would go on to play for 22 seasons, all with Detroit and hit a career .297 with 399 home runs and 1583 RBI.
Kaline was an 18 time All Star, four time Golden Glove winner, and first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
Pitcher: Justin Verlander, SP
The second current Tiger on our list is one of baseball’s most dominating pitchers in the last decade. Justin Verlander has spent his entire career with the team, posting a 137-77 record with a 3.41 ERA. As the ace of the rotation, Verlander is also the team’s workhorse, throwing over 200 innings the last seven seasons in a row.
The hard work has paid off for Verlander as he has appeared in six All Star games so far in his career. In 2011, Verlander finished off the season winning the AL Cy Young and MVP awards; the first player since Roger Clemens in 1986 to do so.
Manager: Sparky Anderson
Sorry Jim Leyland, but Sparky’s unique style and on field accomplishments make him the greatest Tiger manager ever. In 1984, the Tigers began the season 35-5 and ended up winning the World Series. He was the first manager to ever win the World Series as both an NL and AL manager. Anderson went on to win two Manager of the Year awards with the Tigers and held the best record in the majors during the 1987 season. The tough love from Sparky was symbolic of the Detroit sports culture and is still what fans crave the most in the city.
Honorable Mention: Alan Trammell, SS
Alan Trammell played for the Tigers in 20 seasons, averaging .285 at the plate and knocking in 1,003 runs during his prolific career. Trammell made it to the All-Star game six times, won four Gold Gloves, and was named the 1984 World Series MVP. In the postseason, he shined as he hit .333 for in 13 career games and had an on-base percentage of .404. Currently, Trammell is seventh on the all-time list of double-plays turned with an amazing 1,307.