Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Detroit Tigers Mt. Rushmore
In their 114 seasons, the Tigers have finished at or above .500 in 70 of those seasons, pretty impressive. But Detroit has only 16 postseason appearances to show for their winning ways. In 11 World Series, the Tigers have come out on the winning side four times. Three times in their history the Tigers have had a winning percentage over .600 and not made the postseason. Once came in 1915, a year the Tigers went 100-54 for their second-best winning percentage (.649) in history. The Tigers are one of only four of the original American League franchises to call the same city home for its entire history. And the Tigers are the only AL team to go by just one name; always known as the Tigers. There is no shortage of candidates for the Tigers’ Mt. Rushmore, but Ty Cobb may be the only lock.
While the Georgia Peach has taken personal hits over the years, there is no denying his production on the field. No one played the game harder or better or with more zeal than Cobb did during his era from 1905-26. He had 3,900 hits for the Tigers. No one has more for one team. Cobb sits atop the Tigers’ all-time lists in more categories than anyone else, and it’s not even close. Cobb finished his 22-year career in Detroit with a .368 batting average. For his entire career, which included two seasons with the Philadelphia A’s, he amassed 4,189 hits and 2,246 runs.
A Michigan man through–and-through, Gehringer spent his entire 19 seasons with the Tigers and finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting for seven consecutive seasons. He won the award in 1937 along with a batting title with a .371 average. He was a narrow runner-up to teammate Mickey Cochrane in 1934, although the second baseman had clearly superior numbers. Known for his quiet nature, it has been noted that he would say hello when he arrived at spring training and good-bye when the season ended and not much in between.
Hammerin’ Hank had a mercurial career with the Tigers in the years surrounding World War II. From 1934-46, Greenberg had just seven full seasons for Detroit, but full seasons they certainly were. In those campaigns in which he played a complete season, he averaged .322 with 40 home runs and 147 RBIs, with 43 doubles and 122 runs. He earned a couple of MVP trophies and finished third twice. He lost one season to a broken wrist after just 12 games, and three full seasons to military service, and in two more seasons he played briefly just prior to and after his service.
The rightfielder from Baltimore quietly put together a Hall of Fame career spent exclusively with the Tigers. Kaline reached the 3,000-hit plateau and missed 400 home runs by one. Kaline entered the league in 1953 as an 18-year-old having never suited up in the minor leagues. In his second full season, Kaline won the AL batting crown with a .340 average and earned the first of his two career runner-up finishes in MVP voting. Overall, he had nine top-10 MVP finishes. He made 15 All-Star teams and was honored with 10 Gold Gloves.
Ace Hal Newhouser had back-to-back MVP seasons in 1945-46 with a runner-up for the award the following season.
For three generations in Michigan, Tigers fans associated games with the voice of Ernie Harwell on the radio.
In 16 full seasons at the helm in Detroit, Sparky Anderson led his team to a winning record 11 times, including eight straight, the only Tigers manager with such a streak.
In 1968 the Tigers erased a three-games-to-one deficit in the World Series to defending champion St. Louis. It was lefthander Mickey Lolich whose heroics in Games 5 and 7 made that championship comeback possible.
While Miguel Cabrera may seem like an obvious choice, his career numbers in Detroit may not measure up to the greats above.
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