The Detroit Tigers are an American professional baseball team based in Detroit. The Tigers compete in Major League Baseball as a member of the American League Central division. One of the AL’s eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Detroit as a member of the minor league Western League in 1894 and is the only Western League team still in its original city. They are also the oldest continuous one name, one city franchise in the AL.
Since their establishment as a major league franchise in 1901, the Tigers have won four World Series championships, 11 AL pennants, and four AL Central division championships. They also won division titles in 1972, 1984, and 1987 as a member of the AL East. Since 2000, the Tigers have played their home games at Comerica Park in Downtown Detroit.
The Tigers constructed Bennett Park at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue in Corktown and began playing there in 1896. In 1912, the team moved into Navin Field, which was built on the same location. It was expanded in 1938 and renamed Briggs Stadium. It was renamed Tiger Stadium in 1961 and the Tigers played there until 1999.
From 1901 to 2022, the Tigers overall win–loss record is 9,512–9,407. The franchise’s best winning percentage was.656 in 1934, while its worst was.265 in 2003.
Western League beginnings
The franchise was founded as a member of the reorganized Western League in 1894. They originally played at Boulevard Park, sometimes called League Park. It was located on East Lafayette, then called Champlain Street, between Helen and East Grand Boulevard, near Belle Isle. In 1895, owner George Vanderbeck decided to build Bennett Park at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues, which would remain the team’s base of operations for the next 104 seasons. The first game at The Corner was an exhibition on April 13, 1896. The team, now occasionally called the “Tigers,” beat a local semi-pro team, known as the Athletics, by a score of 30–3.
When the Western League renamed itself the American League for 1900, it was still a minor league, but the next year, it broke from the National Agreement and declared itself a major league, openly competing with the National League for players and for fans in four contested cities. For a while, there were rumors of the team relocating to Pittsburgh. However, these rumors were put to rest when the two leagues made peace in 1903 when they signed a new National Agreement.
First Major League season
The Tigers were established as a charter member of the now major league American League in 1901. They played their first game as a major league team at home against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 25, 1901, with an estimated 10,000 fans at Bennett Park. After entering the ninth inning behind 13–4, the team staged a dramatic comeback to win 14–13.
The Cobb era
In 1905, the team acquired 18-year-old Ty Cobb, a fearless player with a mean streak, who came to be regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. The addition of Cobb to an already talented team that included Sam Crawford, Hughie Jennings, Bill Donovan and George Mullin quickly yielded results.
1907 American League Champions
Behind the hitting of outfielders Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, and the pitching of Bill Donovan and Ed Killian, the Tigers went 92–58 to win the AL pennant in 1907 by 1.5 games over the Philadelphia Athletics. They moved on to their first World Series appearance against the Chicago Cubs.
Game 1 ended in a rare 3–3 tie, called due to darkness after 12 innings. Cobb hit.324, while Sam Crawford hit.311 with 7 home runs, which was enough to lead the league in the “dead ball” era.
The Cubs, however, would defeat the Tigers again in the 1908 World Series, this time in five games. This would be the Cubs’ last World Championship until 2016.
1909 American League Champions
In 1909, Detroit posted a 98–54 season, winning the AL pennant by 3.5 games over the Athletics. Ty Cobb won the batting triple crown in 1909, hitting.377 with 9 home runs and 107 RBIs. He also led the league with 76 stolen bases. Mullin’s 11–0 start in 1909 was a Tigers record for 104 years, finally being broken by Max Scherzer’s 13–0 start in 2013.
It was hoped that a new opponent in the 1909 Series, the Pittsburgh Pirates, would yield different results. The Tigers performed better in the Fall Classic, taking Pittsburgh to seven games, but they were blown out 8–0 in the decisive game at Bennett Park.
The Tigers dropped to third place in the American League in 1910 with an 86–68 record. They posted 89 wins in 1911 to finish second, but were still well behind a powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics team that won 101 games. The team sunk to a dismal sixth place in both the 1912 and 1913 seasons. A bright spot in 1912 was George Mullin pitching the franchise’s first no-hitter in a 7–0 win over the St. Louis Browns on July 4, his 32nd birthday.
Cobb went into the stands in a May 15, 1912, game to attack a fan that was abusing him, and was suspended. Three days later, the Tigers protested the suspension by fielding a team of replacement players against the Philadelphia Athletics. They lost 24–2. During this five-season stretch, Cobb posted batting averages of.383,.420,.409,.390 and.368, winning the AL batting title every year.
In 1915, the Tigers won a then-club record 100 games, but narrowly lost the AL pennant to the Boston Red Sox, who won 101 games. The 1915 Tigers were led by an outfield consisting of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and Bobby Veach that finished #1, #2, and #3 in RBIs and total bases. Cobb also set a stolen base record with 96 steals in 1915 that stood until 1962, when it was broken by Maury Wills. Baseball historian Bill James has ranked the 1915 Tigers outfield as the greatest in the history of baseball.
The Tigers dropped to third place in 1916 with an 87–67 record, and would remain mired in the middle of the AL standings the rest of the decade, never winning more than 80 games. In the late teens and into the 1920s, Cobb continued to be the marquee player, though he was pushed by budding star outfielder Harry Heilmann, who went on to hit.342 for his career.
Hughie Jennings left the Tigers after the 1920 season, having accumulated 1,131 wins as a manager. This stood as a Tiger record until 1992, when it was broken by Sparky Anderson. Cobb himself took over managerial duties in 1921, but during his six years at the helm, the Tigers topped out at 86 wins and never won a pennant.
In 1921, the Tigers amassed 1,724 hits and a team batting average of.316, the highest team hit total and batting average in AL history. That year, outfielders Harry Heilmann and Ty Cobb finished #1 and #2 in the American League batting race with batting averages of.394 and.389, respectively. The downfall of the 1921 Tigers, however, was the absence of good pitching. The team ERA was 4.40. Without pitching to support the offense, the 1921 Tigers finished in sixth place in the American League at 71–82, 27 games behind the New York Yankees.
On August 19, 1921, Cobb collected his 3,000th career hit off Elmer Myers of the Boston Red Sox. Aged 34 at the time, he is still the youngest player to reach that milestone, also reaching it in the fewest at-bats.
The Tigers continued to field good teams during Ty Cobb’s tenure as player-manager, finishing as high as second in 1923, but lack of quality pitching kept them from winning a pennant. Harry Heilmann hit.403 in 1923, becoming the last AL player to top.400 until Ted Williams hit.406 in 1941. In 1925, Heilmann collected six hits in a season-ending doubleheader to win the batting title, finishing at.393 to Tris Speaker’s.389.
Cobb announced his retirement in November 1926 after 22 seasons with the Tigers, though he would return to play two more seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics.
In 1927, Harry Heilmann flirted with a.400 batting average all year, eventually finishing at.398 and winning his fourth AL batting title.
Following the 1933 season, the Tigers added perhaps the final piece of the puzzle, acquiring catcher Mickey Cochrane from the Philadelphia Athletics to serve as player-manager. Schoolboy Rowe led a strong pitching staff, winning 16 straight decisions at one point of the season and finishing with a 24–8 record.
The Tigers would fall in the 1934 World Series in seven games to the “Gashouse Gang” St. Louis Cardinals. After winning a tight battle in Game 5 with a 3–1 decision over Dizzy Dean, Detroit took a 3–2 series lead, but would lose the next two games at Navin Field. The final game was marred by an ugly incident. After spiking Tigers third baseman Marv Owen in the sixth inning, Cardinals left fielder Joe Medwick had to be removed from the game for his own safety by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis after being pelted with debris from angry fans in the large temporary bleacher section in left field. Although they did not challenge the 1934 team’s 101 wins, their 93–58 record was good enough to give them the AL pennant by three games over the New York Yankees. Greenberg was named AL MVP after hitting.328 and leading the league in home runs, extra-base hits and RBIs. Incredibly, Greenberg’s RBI total was 48 higher than the next closest player.
The Tigers finally won their first World Series, defeating the Chicago Cubs, 4–2. Game 6 concluded with Goslin’s dramatic walk-off RBI single, scoring Cochrane for a 4–3 victory.
Despite being forecast to win the American League pennant again in 1936, the Tigers fell to a distant second place behind the New York Yankees both that season and in 1937. The team fell further down the standings with an 84–70 record in 1938 and an 81–73 record in 1939. Hank Greenberg nevertheless provided some excitement for Tigers fans in 1938 by challenging the single-season home run record held by Babe Ruth. He went into the season’s final weekend against the Cleveland Indians with 58 home runs, tied with Ji…
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