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2 hours ago, LouisvilleLipp said:

Y4L, you are to be commended for creating these bios.  I enjoy reading them.


You're welcome. And if you can think of someone just let me know. Just be sure to check the list of completed players and if you do check the list that is in alphabetical order. It's easier that way.

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Ed Figueroa




The New York Yankees won three straight American League pennants from 1976 to 1978, becoming World Series champions in the latter two years. Yet even devoted fans might have trouble recalling which pitcher got the most victories for the Bronx Bombers over this period. It wasn’t Catfish Hunter or Ron Guidry — it was Ed Figueroa, the only native of Puerto Rico (as of 2017) to have a 20-win season.


Figueroa relied on a good sinking fastball and a variety of breaking pitches. As Guidry described him, “Figgy was a good pitcher. He wasn’t an overpowering guy. He was always around the plate. He wasn’t flashy, wasn’t dominant, wasn’t a strikeout guy. He just won.”


Unfortunately, elbow problems ended his run of success after just four seasons.


Although he started the 1975 season at Salt Lake, Figueroa said in 2008 that it still might have been his best year overall. Crediting Angels pitching coach Billy Muffett, he became a sinker/slider pitcher. Figueroa told Phil Pepe, “I’d say those two pitches, plus the confidence I gained by pitching regularly at California, enabled me to have a winning season.” He was 16-13 with a 2.91 ERA for a team that “was one of the worst in baseball. . .We had no hitting.”  That season, he earned the nickname “Señor Stopper” – 15 of his wins came after the Angels had lost. Figueroa actually had a better year than Nolan Ryan in ’75, but teammate Frank Tanana emerged to lead the league in strikeouts.


On December 11, 1975, Yankees general manager Gabe Paul made another in his sequence of brilliant trades that helped lift the team back to pennant-winning status. He sent Bobby Bonds to the Angels and received both Mickey Rivers and Figueroa in return. The headline in the Los Angeles Times said “Angel Offense: More Security With Bonds” – but the Christian Science Monitor rightly observed, “The Yankees, in terms of youth and potential, got a lot from California for Bonds.” Bonds had a disappointing, injury-marred 1976, and though 1977 might have been his career year, he was traded again that December. Meanwhile, Rivers and Figueroa were vital parts of the Yankees’ 1976-78 run. Plus, while Paul said he hated to let Bonds go, the deal also allowed him to trade Doc Medich and obtain another key cog: Willie Randolph.


The Bonds swap was not received well in New York. As Phil Pepe wrote in 1977, “Remember the flak that was stirred? Remember how people criticized the deal? Figueroa was a tough sell to Yankee fans and know-nothing television critics.” But the club liked how well he had pitched against key divisional rivals Baltimore and Boston. “He’s going to be one of the best pitchers in baseball in the next few years,” predicted Gabe Paul and George Steinbrenner. They were right.


Figueroa (sporting a fierce-looking mustache by then, as did many of his Yankee teammates) won a club-high 19 games in 1976. He might have reached the 20-win plateau two years earlier than he eventually did, but he missed a couple of turns in August with a stiff elbow, lost his last two decisions, and then a rainout canceled his last start of the season. Right around that time, the Christian Science Monitor said, “When it comes to using only the corners of home plate, Ed Figueroa is a craftsman.”


Figueroa’s postseason record was not impressive. He was 0-2, 8.10 in four starts in the AL Championship Series of 1976-78, all against the Kansas City Royals. In Game Five of the 1976 ALCS, though, he pitched seven steady innings and left with a 6-3 lead. Grant Jackson then gave up a game-tying homer to George Brett (who hit an astounding .610 against Figueroa in his career during the regular season and .592 overall). An inning later, Chris Chambliss brought New York the pennant with his memorable homer off Mark Littell. In the 1976 World Series, Figueroa went eight innings and allowed five runs as the Cincinnati Reds completed their sweep in Game Four.


For reaching the 20-win milestone in 1978, Figueroa got a hero’s welcome in Puerto Rico. He threw out the first ball to open the PRWL season (although he did not play that winter and the next two). Governor Carlos Romero Barceló held a luncheon in Figueroa’s honor, and former Governor Luis Muñóz Marín invited the pitcher to his home.


However, Figueroa was never effective again in the majors after 1978. Author Bruce Markusen summed it up well in 2008: “Over a four-year span, he averaged 248 innings per season, a substantial workload that became exacerbated by an awkward motion. In his wind-up, Figueroa tucked his left leg and left arm in toward his mid-section; by the time he put himself in position to deliver the pitch, he was throwing the ball across his body. It was a fun delivery to imitate (as I know well from hours of throwing a ball up against a boulder outside of my house), but it sure did appear to put extra stress on the arm and shoulder. Figueroa’s arm problems began in 1979; by 1981, he was fully cooked.”


In his eight season career Figueroa had an 80 - 67 record with a 3.51 ERA. He started 179 games and completed 63 of them and had 12 shutouts. He struck out 571 hitters and walked 443 in 1,309 2/3 innings of work.



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Norm Cash






Norm Cash came to Detroit in exchange for outfielder Steve Demeter. Detroit general manager Rick Ferrell was dumbfounded when Frank Lane, his Cleveland counterpart, offered Cash for Demeter, unsure if he meant “cold cash or Norm Cash?”  While Demeter’s career with the Indians consisted of merely four games, Cash became a fixture at first base in Detroit for 15 years. Lane was not through making controversial trades with the Tigers. Five days later, he sent Rocky Colavito to Michigan for Harvey Kuenn, and later in 1960, the two clubs swapped managers, Joe Gordon for Jimmie Dykes.


Cash’s teammates took an immediate liking to him. A comedian both on the field and in the clubhouse, he once tried to call time after being picked off first base. In another instance, Cash was stranded on second base during a thunderstorm. Once play resumed, however, he returned to third base. The umpire was baffled.


“What are you doing over there?”


“I stole third,” he answered.


“When did that happen?”


“During the rain.”


After a respectable 1960 season in which he batted .286 with 18 home runs, Cash captured the baseball world by storm in 1961. Although playing in the shadow of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Cash posted one of the most outstanding offensive single season records in American League history. Stormin’ Norman led the junior circuit with 193 hits and a .361 batting average. Number 25 also established personal marks of 41 home runs, 132 RBIs, and eight triples. Even more astounding, he hit .388 on the road! Facing Washington’s Joe McClain on June 11, Cash became the first Detroit player to clear the Tiger Stadium roof, hitting a home run that landed on Trumbull Avenue. Another against Boston’s Don Schwall struck a police tow truck. He was equally skilled at first base, fielding a sterling .993 as he caught dozens of long foul balls before they could fly into the stands. With Kaline’s .324 batting average and Colavito’s .290 complementing Cash in the lineup, the Tigers, led by Frank Lary and his 23 victories, challenged the Yankees for the American League pennant. The Bengals came within a game and a half of the Bronx Bombers on September 1 before retracting to finish eight behind in the standings with 101 victories.


Was Norm Cash destined to become a one-year wonder? Even at the time, he knew his ’61 season was a freak, saying that everything he hit seemed to drop in, even when he didn’t make good contact. After Frank Lary injured his leg on Opening Day and Al Kaline broke his shoulder during a nationally televised game in May, it became clear that the Tigers would not again challenge the Yankees in 1962. The season was equally disappointing for Cash, who batted only .243 for the season. The 118 points shaved from his average remains a record of futility among batting champs. Cash ultimately found his swing, batting .342 in an autumn exhibition trip to Japan, but by that point, the regular season was long over. Still the 1962 season was far from a write-off for the affable Texan. Cash hit 39 home runs, including three more roof shots, as the league runner-up to Harmon Killebrew’s 48. His .993 fielding percentage was identical to his 1961 average.


Cash never again cracked the .300 plateau. Years later, when Mickey Lolich asked why, he replied that “Jim Campbell pays me to hit home runs.” Indeed, Cash’s 373 home runs for the Tigers remains second only to Al Kaline’s 399 among aggregate team records. However, it soon became evident that other factors besides the maturation of expansion pitching compromised Stormin’ Norman’s batting average. Cheating in baseball was as much an issue in 1961 as it remains today, and Sonny Eliot remembers why Norm Cash called that season “the Year of the Quick Bat.”


Cash was nothing if not consistent for the balance of the 1960s. He was the only American League hitter to slug 20 or better home runs each year from 1961 to 1969. In 1964, he set a record among Detroit first baseman by fielding an outstanding .997. On July 9, 1965, Stormin’ Norman hit an inside-the-park home run against the A’s at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City. The blast must have ignited Cash’s non-corked bat, as he decimated American League pitching with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs in 78 games after the All-Star break. His second-half exploits earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors, and in 1966, he was invited to the All-Star Game. Cash, once again, led junior circuit first basemen in fielding with a .997 percentage.


Stormin’ Norman proved to be the exception on the 1968 Tigers as he was fighting an early season slump. On July 27, the 6-foot-0 Cash was barely hitting his weight, batting .195 on a team cruising to its first American League pennant in 23 years. In dramatic fashion, he hit a torrid .333 in his last 54 games to finish the season at .263. Included in his 12 home runs and 33 RBIs in August and September was a three-run blast against Oakland on September 14. The winning pitcher of the 5-4 decision was Denny McLain, his 30th of the season. Cash led Tigers batsmen in the World Series, hitting .385 against Cardinals pitching. Setting a dubious October record as Bob Gibson’s 16th strikeout in Game One, he redeemed himself the following afternoon, homering off Nellie Briles in an 8-1 complete-game victory for Mickey Lolich. Facing elimination in Game Six, Cash enjoyed another productive day at the plate, accounting for two of the 13 Detroit runs, tying the Series at three games. This set the stage for an historic Game Seven. The Tigers were unfazed at the prospect of facing a pitcher who specialized in winning Game Sevens, Bob Gibson. In the clubhouse after practice, manager Mayo Smith encouraged his players that Gibson “can be beat, he’s not Superman!” To this, Cash chimed “Oh yeah? Just a little while ago, I saw him changing in a phone booth!” Tigers hitters proved to be Kryptonite with two outs and no score in the seventh inning. Cash ignited a Detroit rally with a single off Gibson, and later put the Tigers ahead as the first runner to score on Jim Northrup’s triple. The final score was 4-1, and the Detroit Tigers were world champions.


After being relegated to pinch hitting in 1970, Cash enjoyed a renaissance season playing in the Renaissance City in 1971. So torrid was his first half that spectators across Major League ballparks voted him to start the All-Star Game on July 13. Played in Detroit, it drew 53,559 spectators. American League manager Earl Weaver, however, took exception to Cash’s assignment, as he was not the reigning MVP playing for the defending World Champions. Boog Powell, Weaver’s first baseman in Baltimore, could claim both. Accordingly, Weaver, scrapped Cash from the lineup and replaced him with Powell. The roster move was not kindly received by the Detroit faithful. After public address announcer Joe Gentile introduced the National League All-Stars were announced, he began to present the American League. Starting with Weaver! Again, a cloud of boos rained over Tiger Stadium. Although Rod Carew was the next to be announced, the Twins’ second baseman did not take his place when called. Carew was apprehended by Cash and Bobby Murcer to prevent him from leaving the dugout, thereby prolonging the catcalls. Only after a prolonged interval did Carew emerge, breaking up the hecklers.


When the dust cleared on the 1971 season, the Tigers had won 91 games, but finished 10 games behind Earl Weaver and the Orioles. Stormin’ Norman clubbed 32 round trippers — one shy of Bill Melton’s league lead — while driving in 91 runs, batting a respectable .283. His offensive record was enough to win his second American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. It would have surprised nobody to hear Cash proclaim, after accepting the honor, that he hoped he would win the award again next year. Cash was, however, named to the All-Star team once again in 1972, his fourth and final trip to the midsummer classic. is offensive output may have retracted, but the Tigers vaulted ahead in the standings to win their first American League East Division title.


The 1974 season was a transitional one for the Tigers and their personnel. For only the second time in franchise history, Detroit finished the season in last place. Stormin’ Norman no longer held the nomenclatural monopoly when youthful infielder Ron Cash joined the Tigers in spring training. Equipment manager John Hand wanted to change the name on Norm’s uniform, but the first baseman refused. Cash exclaimed in disgust, “If the people can’t tell the difference between me and the other guy, something’s the matter!” He became even more incensed when he received a telephone call from the general manager on August 7. Batting only .228 with 12 home runs and 12 RBIs, Cash was released. “I thought at least they’d let me finish out the year. Campbell just called and said I didn’t have to show up at the park.”


Norm Cash was a player who knew his baseball career would not last forever. As a player, his offseason occupations included banking, ranching, and auctioning hogs. In the early 1970s, Cash hosted a local variety show in Detroit called “The Norm Cash Show.” In 1976, he teamed with former October archrival Bob Gibson as broadcasters for ABC Monday Night Baseball. Although Cash continued to display his brand of humor, it was not appreciated by all. On-air remarks such as equating entertainment in Baltimore with going “down to the street and [watching] hubcaps rust” earned Cash his dismissal from the network. In 1978, he made his film debut with a cameo appearance in One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story. In a scene filmed at Lakeland, Cash was standing with Kaline, Freehan, and Northrup to watch LeFlore in first spring training after accepting his release from Jackson State Prison. When the others marveled at his speed, Cash chimed in with “He can’t be too fast, the cops caught him.”


Cash died at the young age of 51 on October 11, 1986 when after having dinner he went to the dock to check on his boat. Unable to navigate the slippery pier in cowboy boots, he fell into the water and could not pull himself out. The next morning, he was found floating in 15 feet of water in St. James Bay. Norman Dalton Cash was pronounced dead the next day.


Perhaps the most vocal and outward posthumous tribute to Norm Cash in the final hours of the ballpark whose first base he called home from the Eisenhower to the Nixon administration. A sellout crowd of 43,556 jammed Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999 for the final game against the Kansas City Royals. Several Tigers switched uniform numbers to pay homage to players who passed before them. Paying tribute to Ty Cobb, Gabe Kapler did not wear any number at all. Rookie Rob Fick switching his number 18 for 25 to honor Norm Cash. Only Fick went one step further. The Tigers enjoyed a comfortable 4-2 eighth-inning lead when Fick crushed a Jeff Montgomery fastball for a grand slam home run. In true Norm Cash fashion, the ball nearly cleared the right field roof. Tom Stanton reports in The Final Season, a diary which paints Tiger Stadium as a metaphor for the bond between fathers and sons, that Fick “looked up in the sky and thought of my dad,” who passed away the year before. “I know that he had something to do with all this.”


So did Norm Cash.



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Willie Horton




A standout on the sandlots of Detroit, Willie Horton became the first black superstar for his hometown Tigers and spent parts of 15 seasons with the team. A tremendously powerful right-handed slugger, Horton was one of the strongest men in the game and launched 325 homers in his career. Extremely popular in Detroit, Horton worked in the Tigers front office after his playing career, where he helped bridge relations between the club and the African American community.


Called up by the Tigers at the tail end of the ’63 season, Horton came through in his first two pinch-hit at-bats and finished the season with a 6-for-10 stretch against the Orioles. Willie made a name for himself during spring training in 1964 when he led the team in home runs and drove in 18 runners. On Easter Sunday, he clubbed a ninth-inning, pinch-hit homer more than 420 feet to deep center field to win the first game of a doubleheader, and hit another game-winning homer in the second game. His play—and his weight—caught the attention of manager Charlie Dressen. The Tigers skipper stripped more than 20 pounds from Horton’s frame during the spring, after the youngster reported weighing 222 pounds.


“He looks like a natural hitter to me,” Dressen said. “Willie throws good, and he can run.”


His spring heroics earned Willie a spot on the Tigers’ roster, and he began the season platooning with veteran Bill Bruton in left field. But Horton struggled, especially against off-speed pitches, and slumped to an 8-for-59 start (.136 with no home runs). In mid-May, the Tigers shipped Horton to Triple A Syracuse, where Willie felt more comfortable playing every day, slugging 28 homers and batting .288 with 99 RBI for the Chiefs. His efforts earned him another late-season call-up to Detroit. In his final game of the season, Horton clubbed a home run against Milt Pappas in Baltimore.


While playing winter ball in Puerto Rico in early 1965, Horton received tragic news. Both of his parents were killed in a New Year’s Day car accident in Albion, Michigan. Horton quickly flew home to attend the services. The youngest child, Horton had been particularly close to his father, who had been in the stands at Tiger Stadium when his son hit his first major league home run, victimizing Robin Roberts.


Overcoming the death of his parents, Horton lost his usual off-season weight during the spring and made the big league club. “Whatever I do this year, I’m doing for my dad and mother,” Willie said. He began the 1965 season as Detroit’s fourth outfielder. But his hot-hitting quickly won him the left field job from Jim Northrup and earned him a spot on the American League All-Star team. In 143 games, the 22-year-old batted .273 with 29 homers and 104 RBI, finishing eighth in Most Valuable Player Award voting. During an East Coast road trip to Washington and Boston in May, Horton socked six homers in four games, each of the blasts traveling more than 400 feet. “Willie the Wonder” had arrived on the big-league scene.


Having established that he could hit right-handed pitching well enough to be in the lineup on a daily basis, Horton was entrenched in the starting lineup for Detroit in 1966. Once again he put up big offensive numbers, driving in 100 runs on the strength of 27 home runs. An ankle problem hampered him in 1967, but Willie still managed 19 homers and 67 RBI in 122 games. With the Tigers battling into the final weekend in a four-team race for the pennant, Horton hit homers in the first inning of the first games of doubleheaders on the last two days of the season to help defeat the Angels. However, Detroit lost the flag by one game.


That season, Horton thrust himself into the Detroit riots, fleeing Tiger Stadium in uniform to address the irate crowds in the streets of fire. Showing tremendous courage, Horton pled with Detroiters to calm the violence, but his efforts were in vain, and the city burned for nearly a week.


Horton was the most consistent bat in the Tigers’ lineup in the magical 1968 season. In a season dominated by brilliant pitching performances, Horton’s .285 average was fourth in the league, and his 36 homers were second to Frank Howard’s 44. In the World Series against the Cardinals however, it was Willie’s right arm that won him eternal fame with Detroit rooters. In the fifth inning of Game 5, with Detroit trailing 3–2 and St. Louis threatening to extend its lead, Lou Brock tried to score standing up on Julian Javier’s single to left field. Horton fielded the ball and fired a one-hopper to home plate. Freehan caught the ball and tagged Brock to swing the momentum in Detroit’s favor. The Tigers came back to win the game, 5–3, and captured the final two games to win the title. Horton batted .304 with six runs scored and three extra-base hits in the Series victory.


In contrast with the previous season, 1969 was filled with disappointment for Horton. Mired in a 4-for-35 slump on May 15, Willie left the team midgame and disappeared for four days due to “personal pressures.” When he came back, he had lost more than $1,300 in pay and was admonished by Detroit General Manager Jim Campbell. On June 28 in Baltimore, Horton pulled up at second base on a double and tore thigh muscle in his right leg. The injury forced him to miss 10 games and relegated him to the bench for seven more. He played the final weeks of the season with a sore right hand. Nonetheless, Horton still managed 91 RBI and 28 home runs.


Detroit returned to the postseason in 1972 while Willie suffered one of his most frustrating seasons, hitting .231 with 11 homers in 108 games. He reported to spring training overweight and fought hard to shed the pounds, but never got on track, and suffered foot and shoulder ailments that hampered his effectiveness.


Following that disappointment, Horton arrived at spring training in 1973 in good shape and focused on a return to form. He did just that, hitting .316 in 111 games, spending much of the season among the batting leaders in the league. Now 30 years old, Horton continued to have troubles with his legs, especially after the All-Star break, which limited his playing time. “By the fourth inning my legs are so stiff the way it is that I can hardly move,” Willie said. Horton also injured his wrist when he ran into a wall chasing a fly ball, but he credited his new roommate, veteran slugger Frank Howard, with helping him have one of his better seasons. He was also helped by a new daily exercise regimen that involved a broom handle Willie called “the wand.”


Yet despite the broom handle, his nagging legs bothered Horton again in 1974, and in early July, after nearly a month without hitting a homer, he was shut down and underwent knee surgery. Even though he had been unable to run very well all season, Horton had managed to hit .298 with 47 RBI in 72 games. In April he was involved in a bizarre incident at Fenway Park when he lofted a high foul fly directly over home plate that struck a pigeon. The bird landed at the feet of Red Sox catcher Bob Montgomery. On the next pitch, Willie singled.


With the retirement of Al Kaline following the 1974 campaign, Horton was now an elder on the club. Having always been sensitive to his status in the clubhouse, Horton aimed to have a big 1975 and boost his salary into the $100,000 mark that Kaline had received. Spurred by that possibility, Horton stayed healthy all season for the first time in six years. Manager Ralph Houk helped the situation by using Horton exclusively as a designated hitter. Horton played in 159 games and set career marks at that time for hits and at-bats. His 92 RBI were 32 more than any other Tiger, and his 25 homers were nearly double that of any of his teammates. He was named DH on The Sporting News’ AL All-Star team. Though he was not sure at first if he would like being a DH, Horton warmed to the role as the season wore on.


Horton’s tenure with his hometown team came to an end early in the 1977 season. After going 1-for-4 in left field on opening day against the Kansas City Royals, he sat on the bench until he was traded to the Rangers five days later. With a backlog of outfielders and Staub at DH, the Tigers shipped their slugger to Texas for reliever Steve Foucault. Willie packed his bats and his helmet (he wore the same helmet throughout his career, having it painted when he changed teams) and joined his new club. It began an odyssey for Horton that took him to six different teams in three seasons.


In the off-season, Horton tested the free agent market for the first time and received his long-sought-after two-year deal—with the Mariners. In Seattle, as a veteran on an expansion club, Willie found a comfortable environment and enjoyed playing for manager Darrell Johnson, who inserted Horton’s name in the lineup every day. Willie rewarded Johnson’s confidence, slugging 29 homers with 106 RBI, a career best, and earning American League Comeback Player of the Year honors. Seattle fans fell in love with 36-year-old Horton, dubbing him the “Ancient Mariner.”


Facing his former Tigers team June 5, 1979, Horton belted a ball at the Kingdome in Seattle that disappeared in the roof in left-center field. Initially ruled a home run—the 300th of his career—it was changed to a single when it was determined that it had struck a speaker. The next game, Horton hit his for-real 300th homer off Detroit’s Jack Morris.


With a two-year extension in his pocket, Horton got off to a dreadful start in 1980, and without a home run to his credit and his average languishing below .200, he sat for two three-game stretches during May. Later he spent two stints on the disabled list with a hand injury. He finished his 18th season with a .221 average and just eight home runs. He entered the off-season knowing he would have to fight for a job on the Mariners, but that didn’t matter on December 12, when he was dealt to the Rangers as part of an 11-player trade. After spring training in 1981, Horton was released by Texas.


In 2000, he was brought back into the Tigers organization by owner Mike Ilitch as a special adviser, and he still serves the team’s front office today. A bronze statue of Horton taking a mighty swing is located at Comerica Park beyond the left-field stands, and Willie is the only non-Hall of Famer to receive that recognition. His uniform number 23 was also retired by the club.


On September 27, 1999, the final game was played at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. As part of the postgame festivities, former Tigers ran onto the field in uniform and took their positions. When Horton ran into left field, he was greeted with a tremendous ovation from fans who appreciated his 15 seasons and 262 home runs wearing the Detroit uniform. Willie Horton, the slugger who starred for the 1968 World Champions, the little kid from the streets of Detroit, the teenager who belted a homer nearly out of the ballpark, the strong man who shattered bats with brute strength, broke down and cried like a baby.



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Hal Trosky




Hal Trosky played first base for the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox in the 1930s and 1940s. His career reached its apex in 1936, when he led the American League in runs batted in with 162, yet he has largely been consigned to historical obscurity. This anonymity is not only due to the reality that his career overlapped a triumvirate of Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and Lou Gehrig, a triumvirate of future Hall of Fame first basemen who held a virtual lock on the position on the American League All Star teams of the mid-’30s, but also because, at what should have been the peak of his career, Trosky was sidelined with two years of severe migraine headaches, pain so debilitating that he became unable to take the field for days in a row.


In 1934, Trosky’s first full year in the major leagues, he was little short of spectacular. He played every inning of all 154 games, hit .330 with 35 home runs, drove in 142 runs, and posted a slugging percentage of .598. He finished seventh in balloting for American League Most Valuable Player. (Triple Crown winner Lou Gehrig could muster no better than fifth place as the award went to Mickey Cochrane, catcher-manager of the pennant-winning Detroit Tigers.)


The 1935 season proved to be something of a sophomore slump for Trosky, marked by an almost 60-point drop in batting average and a commensurate drop in home runs, from 35 to 26. When mired in a September slump that year, a stretch in which he had exactly one hit in 40 at-bats, coach Steve O’Neill, his former manager at Toledo, suggested that Trosky try hitting from the right side against the Senators. The next day, in the opener of a doubleheader in Washington, Hal came up in the first inning and took a right-handed stance. He stunned his teammates by smoking an Orlin Rogers curve for a single. After a left-handed out in the fifth, he hit from the right side again in the eighth inning and knocked a Leon Pettit pitch into the distant reaches of Griffith Stadium’s left-field bleachers for his 23rd home run of the year. Overall in the two games, Trosky punched five hits in ten at-bats. Three singles and a home run came from the right side, and one long double from the left. It proved to be the last time he would try switch-hitting.


The 1934 model Hal Trosky returned for the ’36 campaign. Trosky put together a 28-game hitting streak and broke his own team record for home runs in a single season when he hit number 36 against the Senators. Although the AL pennant went to the Yankees, it was a memorable season for Trosky, as he led the league in RBIs (162) and total bases (405). His RBI total over his first three seasons was greater than the totals amassed by Gehrig, Foxx, or Greenberg over their first three years.


The years from 1937 to 1939 were relatively stable for both player and team. Rather than succumb to the hyperbole and inflated expectations that followed his 1936 season, Trosky chose to focus on improving his fielding. After achieving the rather dubious distinction of leading American League first basemen in errors in 1934 and 1936, he worked diligently to improve his footwork around the base. Along with the subsequent decline in errors, he sought a better approach at the plate, and elevated his batting average to .334 in 1938 and .335 in 1939. Naturally his home-run totals declined, but he found that he could still drive in more than 100 runs per season by putting a higher percentage of balls into play. Trosky and the Indians continued to win, but were competing with a Yankee juggernaut that dwarfed the rest of the league.


By 1939 the Indians had named Hal team captain. Trosky agreed not only for the extra $500 stipend, but because he felt that he could serve as a buffer between some of the less experienced players and their acerbic manager, Oscar Vitt.


In midseason Trosky lifted himself from the lineup and let understudy Oscar Grimes play a few games at first. Trosky never admitted it to the team, but there were times when his head absolutely throbbed. The season ended with Trosky recording only 448 at-bats, the first season since his 1933 overture that he appeared in fewer than 150 games. It was becoming difficult for him to bring the necessary intensity to the park each day. He was only 26 years old when the season ended, but the pain from the headaches sapped his vigor.


On August 11, 1940, in St. Louis, Trosky became the 17th major-league player to clout 200 home runs. He finished the season batting.295. His 93 RBIs marked his first full major-league season in which he failed to drive in at least 100 runs. He hit 39 doubles and a team-leading 25 home runs. The headaches hit hard again in August and September, but Hal loathed missing any game in the tight pennant race. The Indians finished second, one game behind Detroit.


Trosky’s migraines proved too much for him in 1941. They were striking with no notice and leaving a wake of debilitating agony. For a hitter who made a living off fastballs, he was powerless against a blurry white apparition that he said sometimes looked “like a bunch of white feathers.” He played less and less. The migraines were now almost unbearable. On August 11 Cleveland began a seven-game road trip without their slugger. Trosky was left home with Oscar Grimes assuming first-base duties.


The Indians finished in a tie for fourth place with the Tigers as Trosky drove in only 51 runs in 310 at-bats. In February 1942 he told reporter Gayle Hayes that he wouldn’t be playing baseball that year. It was, he was quoted, “for the best interest of the Cleveland club and for myself that I stay out of baseball. … I have visited various doctors in the larger cities in the United States and they have not helped me. If, after resting this year, I find that I am better, perhaps I’ll try to be reinstated. If I don’t get better, then my major-league career is over.”


Trosky passed 1942 and 1943 on his farm in Iowa. He devoured news of the war, farmed, and despite some interest from the Yankees, waited for a call from the draft board. He was evidently a decent farmer, averaging production of over 90 bushels of corn per acre in a time before the advent of modern farming technology. But he wanted to contribute on the front lines.


Trosky worked out for the White Sox and in November the Indians, perhaps willing to remove a piece of the Crybabies incident and aware that he was not the offensive force he had been earlier, sold his contract to Chicago for $45,000. As if an echo of Cleveland’s judgment, the Army officially declared Hal Trosky 4-F, unsuitable for military service, in March 1944, due entirely to his history of migraines. Despite a treatment protocol of vitamin shots, the Army wasn’t willing to take a chance on a compromised recruit.


Migraines notwithstanding, Trosky managed ten home runs in 1944, which was enough to lead his team in that category. Including his 1944 season, Hal led his teams seven times in home runs. According to the SABR Home Run Encyclopedia, Trosky homered in nine different parks and off 112 different pitchers during his career; his most frequent victims were Tommy Bridges and Bump Hadley. Of his 228 home runs, 106 were hit on the road, and 122 at home. No one but Earl Averill hit more at Cleveland’s League Park.


Trosky had a career .302 batting average, with a high of .343 in 1936. He hit 228 career home runs and had 1,012 RBIs. He had 1,561 career hits. His 216 HRs with the Indians ranks him fifth on the team's all-time list.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Mariano Rivera




The call on January 22, 2019, came from Jack O’Connell of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Everyone surrounding Mariano Rivera at his home in New Rochelle, New York, knew the call was coming. Rivera picked up the phone. As Nathan Macorbiski recounted in Yankees Magazine, “Rivera’s reaction was barely detectable to the naked eye. As a player, he stood on baseball’s grandest stage, performing solo under the most intense pressure possible, and, win or lose, was always in complete control. His demeanor as the phone rang was no different; if his heart were racing, only he and God knew it.” But upon hearing that his selection to the Hall of Fame was unanimous, even the normally stoic Yankee closer let down his guard and broke into the biggest of smiles.


Rivera, in 19 major league seasons, became the all-time leader in saves. He recorded 652 in the regular season plus another 42 in postseason action — converting a superior 89% of his save opportunities at both levels of competition. And he did it essentially relying on one pitch.


In 1997, he had been promoted to the closer role after being a dominant setup man when the Yankees won the World Series in 1996. On Monday, June 23, 1997, Yankee reliever Ramiro Mendoza halted a pregame catch with Rivera in Detroit out of anxiety, because he had to constantly move his glove to catch practice tosses.


When Rivera began warming up in the bullpen that evening, coach Mike Borzello was receiving his tosses. Like Mendoza, he could not anticipate the location of the pitch. He even thought that the ball may have been scuffed, but when he used another ball, the action was the same. That evening, Rivera entered the game in the ninth inning and recorded his 23rd save of the season. Over the coming days and weeks, Rivera worked with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and the result was a refinement of the cutting action on the ball. As Rivera wrote in The Closer, “As we tinker, I continue to pitch in games (he saved each of the three games in the Detroit series), and the more I throw this new pitch, the more I begin to get command of it. I am starting to throw it for strikes. And this is how my cut fastball, or cutter, is born. It is as if it dropped straight from the heavens.”


Acclaimed Yankee historian Marty Appel added that Rivera’s work was defined by “fielding his position with precision, and calmly walking off after the final out. Hitters knew what to expect, with his (two-seam) fastball setting up his rising cutter, leaving them, lefty or righty, flailing away or making weak contact. He turned games into eight-inning affairs for Yankee opponents.”


His effectiveness, dependability, and longevity amply demonstrated Rivera to be one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He spent his full 19-year career in Yankee pinstripes, always doing his job with businesslike efficiency. He shattered the major league records for games finished (952) as well as total number of regular season and postseason saves. He was named to 13 All-Star teams and was a five-time World Series champion. And not only that, few players would be as respected by opponents as the humble Rivera.


Rivera struck out 1,173 opponents during regular season competition. He holds the all-time record for relief appearances by a Yankee with 1,105. He ranks fourth in major-league pitching appearances with 1,115, a record for right-handed pitchers. In seven World Series between 1996 and 2009, Rivera collected 11 saves and sported a 0.99 ERA. He recorded 42 saves in postseason play with an ERA of 0.70—both major league records. His 141 postseason innings are the equivalent of two seasons of work for a reliever. In postseason play, Rivera allowed only two homers, surrendered 21 walks (1.3 per nine innings), of which four were intentional, and struck out 110 batters (7.0 per nine innings).


Rivera’s 2.209 ERA at the 1,000-inning threshold ranks him 13th all-time. Of the 12 men ahead of him, only Walter Johnson pitched as recently as 90 years prior to Rivera’s last pitch. He pitched more than one full inning in 199 out of his 652 career saves to rank 11th in career “long saves.” 31 of his 42 postseason saves were long saves, putting him atop the list in this category as well.


In 19 seasons, Rivera posted a record 652 saves with a win-loss mark of 82-60. His career ERA of 2.21 ranks No. 1 among all pitchers who started their careers in the Live Ball Era (post 1919), and his 952 games finished also rank first all time.


On January 22, 2019, Mariano Rivera was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first appearance on the ballot. Quite in keeping with his peerless career, and as the pitcher who forever defined the role as “closer,” he became the first member of the HOF to be elected unanimously. He received votes on all 425 ballots cast by members of the BBWAA.



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Bill Freehan




Widely regarded as one of the game’s best defensive catchers and the best catcher in the American League during his prime, Bill Freehan was a fierce competitor and a committed leader on the diamond. Described by sportswriter Arnold Hano as “a thinking man’s catcher” and “an elemental ballplayer,” the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Freehan displayed “an unusual blend of brawn and brains.” Freehan is in select company with Charlie Bennett, Mickey Cochrane, Lance Parrish, and Ivan Rodriguez as one of the most popular and talented backstops in Detroit baseball history.


Brought up to the Tigers again in 1963 after a brief appearance in 1961, Freehan got on base nine straight times, managing three home runs, one triple, three doubles, two singles, and three walks in 15 plate appearances. Over the remainder of his rookie season, the 21-year-old receiver committed only two errors in 73 games behind the plate, although he hit only .243. “I wanted to hit well,” Freehan said. “I just never put that ahead of my primary responsibility. The catcher has to be the captain of the field. I felt if I did my job behind the plate, I was contributing to the team in the best way I could.” Always a perfectionist, one Tigers front-office man said, “Bill’s biggest trouble is that he thinks he never should have a bad day.”


The next year marked Freehan’s arrival as the dominant catcher in the American League. A right-handed hitter who crowded the plate, Freehan became the first Detroit catcher to hit .300 since Mickey Cochrane batted .319 in 1935. At the time of his first all-star selection in 1964, Freehan had caught fewer than 200 major league games, but over the course of the season, the Detroit backstop demonstrated that he deserved to be an all-star. Freehan committed only seven errors in 141 games—catching the final 56 games of the season and logging a stretch of 517 consecutive innings behind the plate—with a .993 fielding percentage, and he belted 18 home runs with 80 RBI. More importantly, during the 1964 campaign, Freehan became the team’s “spiritual leader,” according to writer Jim Sargent. Manager Charlie Dressen noted that even a veteran pitcher like Dave Wickersham was willing to let the young catcher call the game. “He suddenly grew up,” Dressen remarked, “and his pitchers have confidence in him now. So do the other players. Quick-like, the Tigers had a leader.” Arnold Hano noted that Freehan “leads the way sergeants lead, not second lieutenants. He leads by example.” General Manager Jim Campbell said, “We put the full load on Freehan’s shoulders and he didn’t stumble.”


Although Freehan caught 129 games in 1965, he was frequently dinged up by injuries. In spring training, Freehan suffered a severe muscle spasm in his lower back while rounding second base, the injury putting him on the bench for three weeks. On May 29, a foul tip off the bat of Cleveland’s Max Alvis injured his throwing hand and, on June 25, a pitch deflected off Minnesota rookie Sandy Valdespino struck Freehan’s bare hand in the exact spot as the foul tip. While he avoided the disabled list, Freehan only hit a meager .234 in both 1965 and 1966. Still primarily known for his defensive prowess and his game-calling skills, Freehan won the first of five consecutive Gold Gloves in 1965 and, on June 15, 1965, he set a record by making 19 putouts in a single game—thanks in large part to Denny McLain’s 15 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of relief work.


At the beginning of the 1967 season, Freehan experimented with moving closer to the plate on the advice of new manager Mayo Smith and batting coach Wally Moses, and his hitting improved. Although he was hit by pitches 20 times that year, he hit .282 with 20 home runs and 74 RBI. It was an exceptional season, as Freehan caught 138 games with only six passed balls and eight errors, and he played in 155 games; no other catcher in the majors led his team in games played. Moreover, much to the consternation of Smith and the Tigers, Freehan caught all 15 innings of the 1967 All-Star Game in Anaheim. On September 10, Freehan was hit by a pitch in the third inning of the first game of a doubleheader, spoiling Joel Horlen’s otherwise-perfect game.


During the Tigers’ 1968 championship season, Freehan caught 155 regular-season games and all seven World Series games. In the regular season, he set career-high marks with 25 home runs, 73 runs scored, and 84 RBI, and he was hit by pitches 24 times. Bothered that he was hitless in the first five games of the World Series, Freehan shrugged, “You’ve got to understand that you’re facing Bob Gibson in three of those games. That’s not a joy for anybody.” In the first five games of the World Series, the Cardinals tested Freehan’s arm, stealing 11 bases in 16 attempts, but he managed to corral the running game in Games Six and Seven.


Freehan’s role in one of the most controversial plays in World Series history is familiar to most Tigers fans. The Cardinals led 3–2 when speedster Lou Brock tried to score from second on Julian Javier’s single to left field. Freehan caught Willie Horton’s perfect one-hop throw and blocked the plate, and Brock, who decided not to slide, was tagged out. “I’ve got to thank [University of Michigan football coach] Bump Elliott if I block the plate well,” Freehan said. Writing about the play, the Los Angeles Herald’s Milton Richman said, “What makes [Freehan] so extraordinary is that he plants his two big feet firmly in the ground, doesn’t bother giving the base runner barreling down on him from third base so much as a sidelong glance and plain refuses to budge even when said base runner hits him at midship like a torpedo. For that he has the respect of ballplayers everywhere. “They know they don’t make catchers like Freehan anymore.” White Sox manager Eddie Stanky added, “On any close play at the plate, it’s like running into a freight train.”


Freehan also caught Tim McCarver’s foul popup near the first-base dugout to secure the final out in Game Seven. The sight of Mickey Lolich leaping into Freehan’s arms will always be an iconic image in Detroit baseball lore. “When Lolich jumps on you, well, he’s not a small man,” Freehan said. “But it was a great feeling!” Finishing the World Series 2-for-24 with a double, Freehan observed, “I know I wasn’t very successful in hitting, but I’ve got the same World Series ring as everybody else.” Remarkably, Freehan was the only AL player to finish among the top three in MVP voting in both 1967 and 1968.


Freehan made a strong comeback from the surgery in 1971. Under Billy Martin, the Tigers bounced back into second place, and Freehan topped AL catchers with a .277 batting average, 21 home runs, and 71 RBI, while he caught 144 games, more than anyone else in the league. Freehan had the opportunity to start the All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium in place of the injured Ray Fosse, and had a three-homer game in a 12–11 loss to Boston that August 9.


He split time at catcher and first base under new manager Ralph Houk. With his poor showing the previous season and with the rise of Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk as the league’s premier catchers, Freehan felt he had to reestablish himself, but only two months into the season, the American League’s all-star catcher for the past 10 years was shifted to first base. In the Tigers’ biggest offensive bonanza of the year, Freehan belted a grand slam and drove in seven runs against the Yankees on September 8, 1974. Although his offensive production improved from the previous year—he hit .297 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI in 1974—Freehan was the cornerstone of a December deal that would have sent him with Mickey Stanley—“remains of a bygone era,” according to Detroit sportswriter Jim Hawkins—to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Bob Boone. As Freehan was preparing his family for the move to Philadelphia, the deal was nixed by the Phillies at the last minute.


Nevertheless, after the trade failed, Freehan could see the writing on the wall. Going into spring training in 1975, Houk tabbed Freehan as the Tigers’ starting catcher, unless “one of these other guys proves he’s better than Bill is.” At age 34, Freehan caught 113 games, hitting .246 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI, and he returned to the All-Star Game for the eleventh time. But over the winter, the Tigers traded for Milt May, putting Freehan in a reserve role for the first time in his career. May caught only six games before being sidelined for the season with a broken ankle. Freehan, as part of a backstop triumvirate, caught 61 games in 1976 as did Bruce Kimm (John Wockenfuss was behind the plate in 59 contests), and on December 12, 1976, the Tigers gave Freehan his unconditional release.


A driven leader and the best catcher in the American League for almost a decade, Freehan was an intelligent and durable backstop who caught more than 100 games for nine consecutive seasons. He won five Gold Gloves, was selected for 11 All-Star teams and played in eight All-Star games, retiring with a .262 lifetime batting average, 758 RBI, and 200 home runs (100 at home and 100 on the road). When he retired, Freehan held the major league career records for most chances (10,714) and putouts (9,941), and highest fielding average for a catcher (.993).



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