Our beloved Tigers are the elder statesmen of the Detroit professional sports teams. Founded in 1894, the Detroit Tigers are one of the original eight charter members of the American League (at that point it was called the Western League). We have appeared in the World Series 11 times, winning 4 Championships (1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984). We have also collected 11 American League pennants over our 117 year history.
From Ty Cobb to Hank Greenberg
The Detroit Tigers early years were successful led by Hall of Famer and baseball legend Ty Cobb. Cobb led the Tigers to the World Series three consecutive years in 1907, ’08 and ’09 losing twice to the Cubs and once to Pittsburgh. The Cobb era ended in the early 20’s, but the team continued on with competitive seasons. The 1930’s saw future Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer lead the team to back to back World Series appearances. We won the pennant in 1934, but lost the Series to the Cardinals. Finally in 1935, we beat the Cubbies to win our first World Championship. We again made another appearance in the Series in 1940, but lost to the Reds in a deciding 7th game. 1945 would bring our second World Championship when we defeated the Cubs. That year included Tiger greats such as Virgil Trucks, Hal Newhouser and Dizz Trout firing away on the mound.
Go Get ‘Em Tigers
For the next 20 years, the Detroit Tigers would be an average baseball club. It wasn’t until the 1968 season that we would roar again. In the early 60’s, the Tigers started to build their core nucleus for another championship run. in 1961 we on 101 games, but still finished 8 games behind ‘dem Yanks. In the 1960’s we started to add Denny McClain, Mickey Lolich, Mickey Stanley, Bill Freehan, Jim Northrup, Willie Horton, Gates Brown Stormin’ Norman Cash and Tiger legend Al Kaline. Mayo Smith coached the team and this all culminated to a Go Get ‘Em Tigers World Series victory in 1968 over the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson.
Building up to the Roar of ’84
The 1970’s would largely go unnoticed in team history except for the 1972 AL East Division Championship and Mark “The Bird” Fidrych’s rookie year in 1976 But, by the late 70’s the team started to turn the corner and add pieces that would be the Bless You Boys Roar of ’84. This era in Tigers history was managed by the great Sparky Andersen. The ’84 club saw a new owner in Domino’s Pizza Czar Tom Monaghan, Jack Morris throw a no hitter against the ChiSox, start 35-5, finish with 104 wins and take the World Series from the Padres. The ’84 Tigers included Morris, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, Alan Trammell Sweet Lou Whittaker, Lance Parrish, hometown hero Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon, Darrell Evans, current first base coach Tom Brookens, Senior Smoke Aurelio Lopez, Larry Herndon and the Cy Young and MVP relief man Willie Hernandez.
In 1987, the Detroit Tigers would win the AL East in a last week race with the Toronto Blue Jays. They would then lose the pennant to the Minnesota Twins, led by Kirby Puckett. The core nucleus began to break up after ’87 and into the 90’s, the Tigers would have memorable players play for them, but could never put another run into the playoffs. Some of the notable Tigers to wear the Olde English D at this time were Frank Tanana, Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton, Matt Nokes, Bil Gullickson, Mike Henneman, Bobby Higginson, Rob Deer and Travis Fryman. In 1992, the Tigers passed from pizza czar to pizza czar when Ann Arbor native Tom Monaghan sold the team to Detroit native and Little Ceasars Founder Mike Ilitch. The 90’s also brought the retirements of Sparky, Trammell and Whittaker. Kirk Gibson also returned home to play for the Tigers and then later retired.
The mid 90’s to mid 2000’s was very hard to watch as a Detroit Tiger’s fan. Randy Smith was the GM who assembled the teams with limited to no success. The Tigers perennial basement contenders and went through coach after coach to try to find the right chemistry. Smith was eventually dismissed and current GM Dave Dombrowski was charged with rebuilding the Tigers and restoring the roar.
The Dombrowski Era Begins
Dombrowski has had success rebuilding the Tigers. He has drafted well (Verlander, Granderson, Porcello), rebuilt our minor league teams to help infuse homegrown talent , found a good coach in Jim Leyland, made key trades at key points (Sheffield) and has had great success in the free agent market. He has brought stars here like Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez, Maglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Todd Jones, and Kenny Rogers. under Dombrowski’s watch, the Tigers made a World Series appearance in 2006, but eventually lost to the Cardinals.
To the people of Detroit and Michigan, the Tigers symbolize longevity. The Detroit Tigers have been around for a long time in the Motor City and their lore has been passed down for many generations. We have listened to legendary radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell call games for decades. We had one home in Tiger Stadium for over 104 years. The Tigers also symbolize rebirth in the form of spring and summer. Every year that the winter freezes us, we look forward to the de-thawing of spring, the return from Lakeland and the Boys of Summer leading us into the crisp fall nights.