Detroit Tigers Firsts on the First of the Year

Credit: USA Today
Credit: USA Today /

Happy New Year, Tigers’ fans!

Today, as we recover from a hangover while alternating between naps and walks to the medicine cabinet, take solace in that fact that Opening Day is just 89 days away. If that number is too bloated for your mind to process, here’s a more manageable one: pitchers and catchers report in just about six weeks.

As today is the first of the year, let’s take a look at some of the notable firsts in Tigers’ history.

First (official) Opening Day

The Detroit baseball club (under various names) played several seasons in the National League before being demoting to the minor leagues in the 1890’s. In 1901, the new American League extended an invitation to the city of Detroit, then the 13th largest city in the country (population 285,704), for a return to the major leagues.

The game was delayed a day due to the unpredictable spring weather in Detroit, which hasn’t changed in 113 years. Some 10,000 fans showed up on Apr. 25, 1901 to see the Tigers trailing a forerunner of the Milwaukee Brewers 13-4 in the bottom of the ninth. Those who stayed (and weren’t yelling for the team to fire their manager) saw the team rally for an astonishing eight runs and win their first ever AL game, 14-13.

First Manager

George Stallings led the aforementioned 1901 team to a 74-61 record and a third place finish. He had been the manager since 1896, helping prepare the team for its return to the major league level before stepping down following the inaugural season.

First Triple Crown

Miguel Cabrera won the 2012 Triple Crown and may have earned another last season if injuries hasn’t hampered his final two months. His Triple Crown was only the second for the Tigers, the first one coming way back in 1909 by none other than Ty Cobb.

The 22-year-old Georgia Peach was in his third full season with the Tigers when he posted a .377 average, nine homers (dead ball era), and 107 RBIs. Cobb also led the league in runs scored (116), hits (216), steals (76), on-base percentage (.431), and slugging percentage (.517).

First time to 100

The Tigers won 100 games for the first time in 1915, finishing 100-54. They failed to win the pennant, finishing second to the eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox. They have won 100 or more games four other times (101 in 1934, 101 in 1961, 103 in 1968, and 104 in 1984).

Conversely, the franchise first hit the 100-loss mark in 1952 (50-104). They’d lose 100 or more five more times (102 in 1975, 103 in 1989, 109 in 1996, 106 in 2002, and 119 in 2003).

First time to a million

The Tigers drew 1,015,136 fans to Navin Field in 1924, marking the first time the club drew over a million fans in one season. The last season they drew under a million was 1964 (816,139).

The club drew over two million for the first time in the championship year of 1968 and eclipsed the three million mark for the first time in 2012 (and again in 2013).

First number retired

Detroit has been notoriously stingy in retiring players numbers. Many clamor for the team to retire the numbers worn by Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, but instead those numbers will be displayed on the field in 2014 with Ian Kinsler (#3) and Jose Iglesias (#1).

It is fitting that “Mr. Tiger,” Al Kaline, would be the first player to have his number retired by the franchise. Number 6 was officially retired on Aug. 17, 1980. Three years later, the club retired Charlie Gehringer‘s number two and Hank Greenberg‘s number five in a joint ceremony on June 12, 1983.

Other numbers retired include Hal Newhouser‘s number 16 (retired in 1997), Willie Horton‘s number 23 (2000), and Sparky Anderson‘s number 11 (2011). Jackie Robinson‘s number 47 was retired throughout baseball in 1997.

First no-hitter

George Mullin no-hit the St. Louis Browns on July 4, 1912. It would be 40 years before the next Tigers’ pitcher would duplicate this feat (Virgil Trucks threw a pair of no-nos in 1952).

First All-Star

Gehringer was selected as the lone Tigers’ representative in the first All-Star Game, held in Comiskey Park in 1933.

First MVP

Mickey Cochrane won the MVP in 1934. The Tigers have won 11 MVPs overall, including the last three straight.

First Cy Young winner

Denny McLain in 1968. The Tigers have won five Cy Young awards overall, including two of the last three.

First Home Night Game

The Tigers beat the Philadelphia Athletics 4-1 on June 15, 1948.