Detroit Tigers

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 23:05

The History of the Detroit Tigers


With a name originating from the Detroit Light Guard military unit, the Detroit Tigers can be considered as one of the best Major League Baseball teams today. The long-standing history of the club is a proof of its effort not just to earn titles but also to perfect the sport. From its humble beginnings as a club under the minor Western League, the Detroit Tigers continues to sustain its position among the most outstanding major baseball teams in the American League today.

History of Detroit Tigers: the team's name

There were several theories about where the team's name came from. Although Richard Bak stated in his book, “A Place for Summer: A Narrative History of Tiger Stadium,” where the name “Tigers” was taken from, people thought that it originated from the orange stripes on the players' stockings. Also, some understood that the name came from the Princeton Tigers after a sportswriter used it to describe the baseball club's performance during its victory in 1901.

History of Detroit Tigers: the founding of the team

Before they became a charter member of the American League, the Detroit Tigers were known as the Detroit Wolverines. “Wolverines” is from the nickname of Michigan, “The Wolverine State.” The team was part of the National League from the year 1881 and up to 1888 and was also the first major league entry of the city into baseball.

Playing at their best in 1887, the Detroit Wolverines won the pennant of the National League as well as a World Series exhibition. The team competed against the St. Louis Browns, an American Association champion. With the 15 scheduled series games played during a ten-city tour, the Detroit Wolverines won 10 games and lost only five. Among the best players were Dan Brouthers, Hardy Richardson, Deacon White, Charlie Getzein, and Jack Rowe. Hailed as the 1887 National League batting champion, “Big Sam” Thompson is also one of the Hall of Famers from the Detroit Wolverines.

History of Detroit Tigers: a not too popular team

Despite a great year, the Detroit Wolverines were still not very popular and did not entice enough fans. These factors, plus the fact that Detroit is one of the smallest cities, proved enough for the Wolverines to be removed from the National League. The team was disbanded after the 1888 season and Detroit was assigned to the inferior status of being in the minor baseball league.

A club was formed to represent Detroit in the minor baseball league and to continue the professional baseball history of the city. The club was placed under the International League in 1889 and played very well even to the point of winning the league championship. But, because the league was disbanded a couple or so years after, the team itself was also disbanded.

Afterwards, a re-operation of the old Northwestern League was attempted in 1891. However, the league was dissolved, causing a brief break for Detroit in professional baseball. Until finally, in the 1894 season, the Western League was revived and the city, once again, got a chance to have a representative in the minor baseball league.

The Detroit baseball club played in different locations, one being in Boulevard Park or League Park. It is situated at the corner of Helen (close to Belle Isle) and of East Lafayette. Then, through the efforts of owner George Vanderbeck in 1895, a new Bennett Park was built at the corner of Trumbull and Michigan Avenues. Bennett park became the home of the Detroit club until 1911.

Called as “Tigers” for the first time, the Detroit team beat the local semi-pro Athletics on April 13, 1896. The game was an exhibition and the score was 30-3. Then, on April 28 of the same year, the Columbus Senators also lost to the Detroit Tigers by a 17-2 score. The game, as it took place in Bennett Park, was the Tigers' first as a Western League club.

History of Detroit Tigers: a few of the best and worst years for the Detroit Tigers

1905 was one of the best years for the major baseball club, with Ty Cobb as the one of the greatest batters in baseball history. Cobb, along with several other talented players such as Sam Crawford, George Mullin, Bill Donovan, and Hughie Jennings, led the Tigers to win its first American League pennant in the year 1907. However, the Tigers were slumped by the Chicago Cubs starting from the 1907 Fall Classic and by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1909 Series. The Tigers were unable to improve since.

To help the team, Cobb took on the position of manager for six years starting 1921, but was unable to get the Tigers a record more notable than 86-68. The cause of the Tigers' inability to get out of its low position was the lack of good pitching. Without anyone to fill in the excellent pitcher's role, the Tigers ranked sixth in the 1921 American League.

In 1934, the Detroit baseball club lost the World Series to the Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals in an ugly game. During that season, Joe “Ducky” Medwick of the Cardinals spiked baseman Marv Owen of the Tigers. Medwick was taken out of the field after being attacked by angry Tiger fans with garbage and fruits. The Tigers held on to its position and improved during the following year when they beat the Cubs in four out of six games during the 1935 World Series.

Since then, the Tigers went up to the middle of the American League ranking. In fact, the team won the pennant once again in 1940, despite losing to the Cincinnati Reds during the World Series. In addition, even the World War II and the absence of several best players did not affect the performance of the Tigers' in the 1945 World Series. Playing against the Cubs, the Tigers earned the championship title.

Keeping an inconsistent performance, the Tigers' American League rank descended once again during most of the 1950s. Those were the years when players needed to adjust to the fielding of various African-American players like Tiger's Ozzie Virgil, Sr. It was only until 1961 that the Tigers climbed back up the ranks.

After a series of tight play against the New York Yankees, the California Angels, and the Boston Red Sox without managers, the team found World Series glory in 1968. With much help from starter Denny McLain, the team took the title from the Baltimore Orioles with a 103-59 record. In addition, the team won again the pennant that year and McLain was voted as MVP of the American League.

The Tigers, after 1968, continued to face extreme ups and downs. Trades of the best but aging veterans was also gambled as a way to improve the Tigers' performance. Finally, in 1984 and against the San Diego Padres, the Tigers won the World Series, having a .642 percentage from 104 wins and 58 losses.

History of Detroit Tigers: the Tigers during 2007 and 2008

During the 2007 season, 2,712,393 tickets were sold to Tiger fans in Comerica Park. The record broke that of 1984 in Tiger Stadium when 2,704,794 tickets were sold. The Tigers drew more and more fans despite its inability to clinch playoff competitions.

Unfortunately, however, the Tigers were unable to implement a more effective approach in 2008. Even with great efforts to boost up its rank, the Tigers failed to win against the Chicago White Sox. On September 30th, playing against the Chicago White Sox, the Tigers finished with a score of 8-2.

While unpredictable performance is what describes the playing history of the Tigers, there are still many years to come for the team to make great improvements. After all, new Tigers are yet to sign their contracts. Who knows, perhaps 2009 is the start of a consecutive winning streak for this Detroit major baseball league team.