Detroit Tigers: The Tides of Victory

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Carlos Correa
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Carlos Correa /

After very successful attempts at a World Series title, the Detroit Tigers are once again rebuilding.  So far this spring Tiger Fans are optimistic. But how long does it take a team to build a competitive squad?

For the Detroit Tigers, there is no set format on what it takes to build a championship team.  The Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros have recently been successful in the capturing of a World Series title after a rebuilding process.

Multiple variables come into play. Besides a little luck, a team must have a blending of aged veterans, a core of young stars, good substitutes, and a great manager.  A late acquisition of a proven veteran also helps.

The ’68 Bengals fit this mold to a tee.

The 1968 World Champions

Prior to the ’68 championship, the Tigers had last won a World Series title in 1945.  The early fifties were dominated by the New York Yankees.  Any attempt to dethrone them was futile.

However, by the mid-1950’s, a sea of change was developing.  By 1963, a new tide of champions arrived. Led by Al Kaline, Norm Cash, and pitcher Earl Wilson, the Tigers had their wily veterans.  Beside being legitimate stars, they also mentored the club.

The ocean of stars that the team possessed team were young guns.  Players such as Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich, Bill Freehan, and Denny Mclain all made their major league debut in the mid-sixties. The cumulative age for pitchers was 26.8 and 28.2 for non-pitchers.

While Manager Mayo “Catfish” Smith won only one World Series (1968), he was a seasoned veteran of professional baseball.  He had a 38-year career while employed by three clubs.

In their pennant run of 1967, the Tigers acquired future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.   Mathews would stay with the team through the ’68 season and provide valuable leadership.

While some of Detroit’s players had been in the major leagues for nearly two decades, it took the Tigers three to five years to develop the bulk of the team.

The ’68 Tigers would go on to record a record of 103-59.  They would beat the St. Louis Cardinals and win the World Series.

The 1984 World Champions

Perhaps the most significant events that led to the Championship, in 1984, were the drafts of the late 1970’s.

Notable players such as Lou Whitaker and Dave Rozema were selected by the Tigers in the 1975 draft. But, in perhaps the best draft class of all time, the Detroit Tigers selected Alan Trammell, Dan Petry and Jack Morris in the 1976 draft class.

Kirk Gibson would be drafted the following year. Trammell and Morris were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2017. Momentum is growing for Whitaker’s selection by the era’s committee to the hall.

Milt Wilcox and Darrell Evans, both in their mid-thirties, played the leadership roles in the Detroit clubhouse. The average age for pitchers was 29.8 and 28.5 for non-pitchers.

While the drafts and leadership were important, this group of Tigers may not have captured the World Series title if it had not been for the brilliant leadership of manager Sparky Anderson.

Anderson was hired by the Detroit Tigers and managed the team from 1979-1995. Sparky had already won World Series championships while “skipper” of the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and 1976. He was the boss of the team, all members either complied or departed. The Skipper was not only a disciplinarian but he and his coaching staff were also teachers.

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In 1984 the Tigers would begin the year with a record of 35-5. They would go on to beat the San Diego Padres four games to one and take the World Series title. Even under Sparky’s leadership, it took the Tigers good seven-plus years to develop this winning formula.

2018 Detroit Tigers

While spring training game results have buoyed Detroit Tiger fans so far this year, it would take an effort of Titanic proportions for the team to win this year.