(L to R) Tom Seats, Hal Newhouser and Archie McKain. Credit: Boston Public Library, Flickr Creative Commons http://goo.gl/qnxtUc
Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser had a slow start to his career before busting out in the mid-1940’s. By 1943 he was up to 144 strikeouts and then he blew away batters in back-to-back years, striking out 187 and 212 respectively in 1944 and 1945.
The Tigers had a pair of near-misses in 1944. The ballclub finished just one-game behind the St. Louis Browns for the AL Pennant. It was the first and only appearance in the World Series for the woeful American League franchise in St. Louis that would move to Baltimore and become the Orioles nine years later.
Up until 1944, Newhouser hadn’t won double-digits games in one season, but he just missed out on the mythical 30-win plateau, going 29-9. He pitched 300+ innings in both 1944 and 45, coincidentally winning the AL MVP in each season and the pitching Triple Crown in 1945.
Speaking of 1945, Hal pitched in relief in a late season game that clinched the Fall Classic trip. They would go on to beat the Chicago Cubs in seven games to capture the franchise’s second World Series title. Playing at Wrigley Field in Game 7, Newhouser threw a complete game in the 9-3 win.
His dominance through baseball continued into post-war times when all the stars had come back from overseas. He won another 26 games, posting a microscopic ERA of 1.94 in 1946. Hal just missed out on his third straight MVP award, finishing a close second to Ted Williams.
His number 16 is retired and displayed on the brick wall at Comerica Park along with his statue. Newhouser was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 1992 and passed away seven years later.