Detroit Tigers History

Detroit Tigers: The forgotten season of 1972

jkramer
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 23: Relief pitcher Alex Wilson
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 23: Relief pitcher Alex Wilson /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 27: A baseball sits on the field before the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 27, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 27: A baseball sits on the field before the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 27, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

Post World Series Seasons

In the years following the championship, the Detroit Tigers struggled to repeat as a champion.

Under the management of Mayo Smith, the Tigers dipped to 4th place in 1970. Knowing that their stars were growing old, the Tigers made a change.

In 1971, the Detroit Tigers hired Billy Martin Immediately, the Tigers jumped back into contention. While, the majority of Tiger stars from the 1968 team remained, there were significant subtractions.

In 1970, the Tigers traded star pitcher Denny McClain to Washington. In exchange, the Tigers received Aurelio Rodriguez, Ed Brinkman and Joe Coleman.

The 1971 Detroit Tigers finished  91 – 71 in second place.

The 1972 Season

The season began under the pale of a players strike. By the time of resolution, a total of 86 games were lost. That fact would have significant ramifications.

Many of the Tigers’ stars were now aging. Al Kaline and Norm Cash were 37 and a total of 16 players were in their in their 30’s.

Billy Ball,’ Martin’s unique managing style, and pitching ultimately led the Tigers to a championship season.

The Tigers were well past their prime and had very few power hitters. Consequently, Martin instituted small ball. It was a form of baseball that became known as Billy Ball.

While Billy Ball produced a substantial run total, pitching was the key to success.

The regulars were led by Kaline, who had a .314 batting average, and Cash who had 22 home runs and 61 RBI. Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman led the team in wins. Lolich finished the season with 22 wins, struck out 259 batters and had an ERA of 2.50.

But it was the late season acquisition of Woody Fryman that carried the Tigers. While the Bengals were struggling to win games, Fryman had a 10 – 3 record and a 2.06 era in the last months of the season.

Oddly enough, the most significant reason the Tigers would win the division was the early season strike. The Tigers would play one more game than the Red Sox and finish a half game ahead.

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