Motor City Bengals All-Time Detroit Tigers Team: Manager Sparky Anderson

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Oct 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) celebrates after scoring in the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics in game three of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Comerica Park. Oakland won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We’re nearing the finish line for Motor City Bengals All-Time Detroit Tigers team. This installment will be the last to feature a player (or in this case, players). Next week, in the final installment, we’ll name the All-Time Detroit Tigers manager.

We decided to combine two positions for this edition of the all-time team simply because a player that comes in during late innings to add a bit of pop to the lineup is a somewhat antiquated notion, at least where it concerns the American League and the DH.

So who is the Tigers All-Time designated hitter?

Victor Martinez

Tigers fans knew that when the Cleveland Indians came to Comerica Park, Victor Martinez was going to light them up. V-Mart signed as an amateur free agent with the Tribe in 1996, and made his major league debut in 2002, playing in a dozen games with a .281 average.

It wasn’t until 2004 that V-Mart ascended to full-time status in Cleveland as their starting catcher. His first full season saw him hit .283 with 23 homers and 98 RBIs and earn the first of four All-Star appearances.

Martinez was a fan favorite in Cleveland until being dealt to the Boston Red Sox near the trading deadline of 2009. He stayed in Boston for the 2010 season, but jumped to the Detroit Tigers before 2011.

The Tigers needed a DH. Through most of the DH-era, the Tigers lacked a dedicated DH who was productive. Usually the franchise used the position as a way to give older guys a rest out of the field. In 2010, the DH position was one of the weakest hitting positions in the entire lineup.

Martinez made an immediate impact, hitting .330 and driving in over 100 runs. He helped turn an underachieving team into a division winner by 15 games.

With expectations high for 2012, Tigers fans received a cruel blow when it was announced that Martinez tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the off-season. The potential loss of V-Mart caused the Tigers to offer Prince Fielder a contract he couldn’t refuse.

V-Mart missed the entire season and came back with a tremendous amount of rust through the first couple months of 2013, but went on a tear the rest of the season, ultimately finishing with a .301 average.

In 11 years, Victor, who has never played in a World Series, has a .303 career average with 1,480 hits, 157 homers, and 824 RBIs. He is a free agent after this season.

Gates Brown

In the years before the DH, Gates Brown (despite a .257 average) served the role of a guy that could sit on the bench for seven or eight innings, and then come in and get the key hit the Tigers needed.

His versatility endeared him to the Tigers and their fans, having played outfield, first base, and near the end of his career, DH.

Brown’s biggest asset was that of a pinch hitter. Over his career (which spanned from 1963 to 1975—all with Detroit), he notched 107 pinch hits, including 16 homers. His career defining moment may have come during the 1968 World Series where he hit .450.

Gator, as he was known by Detroit faithful, reformed his life after spending time in the Ohio State Reformatory for burglary. It was there that a prison guard encouraged the inmate to try baseball, and the rest is history.

Brown passed away last September at the age of 74.

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Tags: All-Time Tigers Team Detroit Tigers Featured Popular Sparky Anderson

  • louwhitaker

    I was never a huge Sparky fan. I felt that a truly great manager would have gotten more than one World Series win out of the 1980s Tigers and more than two out of the 1970s Big Red Machine. If I wanted to win one championship–just bring it home this season and to hell with the future–I would have to go with Billy Martin. What he did with the decrepit old ’72 team amounts to alchemy. Things always fell apart for him after he overstayed his welcome, but for a one season shot in the arm, his record is extraordinary.

  • Mark Goldberg

    Sparky’s .516 winning percentage in Detroit is far lower that that of Mayo Smith (.560), Billy Martin (.546), and even the not-so-great Jim Leyland (.540). He inherited a lot of talent from “Less” (Les) Moss and took a long time to win once with it. He certainly overstayed his welcome. He is a Hall of Famer as a result of what he did with a lot of talent in Cincinnati; he survived in Detroit on his Cincinnati reputation.

    Oh, and the greatest closer (fireman) in Tigers history was John Hiller.

  • Christian camlin

    You must be kidding with this list of players as the best Tigers ever.I will go with you on Greenberg,Gehringer &Trammel but that is where we part company.At third base I have Hall of Famer George Kell.Slightly better with the glove than Cabrera whom I would make my DH.& while Kaline was good Hall of Famer Sam Crawford was a monster in right field. He hit 309 life with 1535 RBI’s, 1391 Runs scored 458 doubles& the most triples of any player in the games history with 309.He led the league in runs scored once,In doubles once,In triples 6 times in homers once and in RBI’s 3 times& total bases twice.and he did this all in the dead ball era.If he had played with a live ball he’d probably haver added 300-500 more homeruns.Crawford was the muscleman who made sure that when Cobb got on base he scored. Kaline was very Good but Craword was better.Short schedules were the only reason he missed 3,000 hits by just 39.His first 5 seasons were all 140 or less games.& the rest were only 154 games long.Most of Kaline’s career he played 162 game schedules.just adding 22 games to his first 5 years Crawford would easily have picked up 39 more hits to get 3,000.

    I’ll go with you on Cobb in Center .367 says it all. But willie Horton in Left is a joke.How you picked Horton you could have gone with Harry Heilmann,Goose Goslin,Bobby Veach or Heinie Manush I don’t know.Veach is the only one of those 4 not already in the Hall of Fame.But Heimann stands out with a .342 lifetime batting average& 4 Batting titles.He Drove in 1537 RBI’s besting Crawford by 2 at the time.Heilmann played right but left would have been an easy switch for him.At Catcher Freehan should be in the Hall but played during a pitcher era that lowered his stats.And Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane’s number were inflated by the era he played n But .320 is .320..He led the A’s to 2 titles and then helped carry the Tigers to their first ever World title in 1935.I will agree that sparky should manage.And though I like Verlander He’d be my 5th starer from a Tigers all time rotation.My Aces would be Hall of Famers Don Newhauser& Jim Bunning.Then Probably Virgil Trucks& Either Mickey Lolich or Denny the Jailbird McClain.Then Verlander at 5 with probably McClain as swingman in the spot starter roll. and Hiller is my firemanWith willie Hernandez as my Closer.This is the best group I can find though other could be argued for.

    • Christian camlin

      Oops i said Don Newhauser but I meant his dad Hal Newhouser who is in the Hall.