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History of the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Team Photo
The Detroit Tigers were charter members of the American League in 1901, playing (and winning) their first game on April 25. The Tigers are one of only four teams from that inaugural AL season to still be playing in the same city. The origins of the Tigers nickname is not clear. They either got it because of the orange "tiger-like" stripes on their socks, or because of the famous Detroit Light Guard military unit who fought with distinction in the U.S. Civil War and the Spanish/American War, and were known as the "Fighting Tigers."

Detroit moved into a new ballpark named Navin Field in 1912 and played in that venue for 88 seasons though 1999. In the early twentieth century the team fielded one of the best hitting teams in the game behind stars Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, both eventually Hall of Famers. Cobb, who later managed the Tigers and played his final game for Detroit in 1926, was regarded by most experts as the greatest player of the first half of the century. The Tigers won pennants in 1907-08-09, though they failed to win the World Series in any of those seasons.

Prior to the 1934 season the team acquired catcher/manager Mickey Cochrane, a significant move in franchise history. Cochrane coalesced a talented team and led them to pennants in each of his first two seasons, winning the team's first World Series title in 1935. That team featured Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Goose Goslin, and pitchers Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe. The team captured a flag again in 1940, though they suffered a disappointing loss in seven games in the Fall Classic.

The 1945 campaign was one of the mos thrilling in Detroit history. Greenberg returned mid-season from service in World War II and hit a pennant-winning grand slam. The veteran team, which was led by pitching ace Hal Newhouser, defeated the Cubs in the World Series for their second championship.

Detroit was the last American League team to install lights, at Briggs Stadium (formerly Navin Field), in 1948. The franchise struggled in the 1950s, rebuilding around younger players but never able to compete with the better teams in the league. The era did produce right fielder Al Kaline, who played for the team for 22 seasons and won a batting title at the young age of 20 in 1955. Kaline became the most popular player in team history.

The Tigers finally integrated in 1958, eleven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. As a late adopter of black and Latino players, Detroit had to catch up with pther teams in the league. By the mid-1960s they had the core of the team that would challenge for pennants from the late 1960s into the early 1970s. The 1968 Tigers galvanized the city of Detroit one year after riots nearly tore the city apart. The team won 103 games and came from behind to win the World Series in seven games.

After a division title in 1972, the team aged quickly and sunk to the bottom of the standings, while watching the exit of Kaline, and older stars. But a fruitful farm system populated the team with talent by the late 1970s and set the franchise on the course for a great decade in the 1980s. Manager Sparky Anderson arrived in 1979 and guided the team to the best record in baseball in the next decade, winning 90 games three times. In 1984 the team got out to a record 35-5 start and set a franchise mark with 104 victories. They easily dispatched the Royals and Padres in the postseason to win the World Series for the fourth time in team history. Stars on that team included home grown talent Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Dan Petry, Alan Trammell, and Lou Whitaker. essentially the same group won 98 games and a division title three years later.

The team boasted sluggers like Cecil Fielder and Travis Fryman in the 1990s but could not compete again as the Sparky Anderson years came to a close. A series of managers followed, but Detroit fell on hard times, finishing with a losing record for 12 straight seasons. In 2003, four years after leaving Tiger Stadium for their new home in Comerica Park, they lost 119 games and hit rock bottom. Jim Leyland arrived in 2006 an turned things around, winning an unlikely pennant behind a younger team. For the next decade the Tigers were competitive nearly every season, advancing to the League Championship Series three times and winning two pennants. Pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer teamed with Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Pudge Rodriguez to give the team star power in this era of great Detroit baseball. From 2011-14, the team won four straight division titles.

Greatest Moments in Detroit Tigers History

Magglio Ordonez Pennant-Winning Home Run

By the Numbers

Alan Trammell was #3, Jose Iglesias is wearing Lou Whitaker's #1, and Miguel Cabrera is wearing Mickey Stanley's #24. Who wore your favorite number?

Batting Champions

No team has won as many batting titles as the Tigers. Can you name each of the eleven Detroit batters to have captured a batting crown?

Greatest Tiger Managers

Brad Ausmus follows in the footsteps of several great Tiger managers, including Hughie Jennings, Jim "Smoky" Leyland, and Sparky Anderson.

Search Tiger Players

Today's Birthdays

Joe Nathan ... born in 1974
Dick Bartell ... born in 1907
Harry Rice ... born in 1901

Detroit Athletic Company