A look back at the last time that each of the Detroit Tigers’ top ten home run hitters cleared the fence as Tigers.
(The stories of their first home runs as Detroit Tigers can be found here.)
Per Baseball-Reference.com, 627 players have hit a home run for the Detroit Tigers. For 121 of them, that first homer as a Tiger also turned out to be their last one. For others, like nine of the top ten home run hitters in franchise history, their last longballs in a Tigers uniform happened near the end of distinguished tenures in Detroit. There is also one legendary Tigers slugger on that top ten list who is waiting for Major League Baseball to return so that he can thrill fans by launching at least one more bomb.
Al Kaline (September 18, 1974)
Kaline, the Tigers’ full-time designated hitter that year, was chasing two career milestones in his farewell season: 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. On a Wednesday night in Boston, he crept closer to each. After a third-inning single and a seventh-inning double, his 2,996th hit landed in a net above Fenway Park’s Green Monster. Kaline’s two-run home run off Red Sox reliever Reggie Cleveland in the top of the ninth, his 13th of the season, cut a Red Sox lead down to 8-5. In the season finale, “Mr. Tiger” batted twice before asking manager Ralph Houk to take him out of the game, a decision that Kaline later called one of the worst of his life. After ending his career with 399 homers, he said he didn’t realize that hitting 400 would be considered such a big deal.
Norm Cash (August 1, 1974)
Odd as it may seem now, long-time catcher Bill Freehan had taken over as the Tigers’ regular first baseman that season. With Kaline locking down the DH role, Cash had been relegated to the bench. He started this game because Freehan was out with a pulled groin muscle. “Stormin’ Norman” stormed one last time. He led off the top of the second in Milwaukee by clobbering a pitch from the Brewers’ Jim Slaton into the right-field stands. It was his seventh of the season. That was the game’s only run until Cash’s single drove in Ben Oglivie in the ninth. The Tigers won 2-0. The home run was Cash’s 373rd as a Tiger and the 377th of his career. Six days later, with the Tigers committed to a youth movement, Cash was released.
Miguel Cabrera (September 29, 2019)
In Miggy’s case, it’s pretty likely that “last” home run only means “most recent”, not “final”. Cabrera last went deep in what is still the Tigers’ most recent game, the 2019 season finale. With two out in the top of the first, Cabrera added Ross Detwiler of the White Sox to the list of pitchers that he’s homered against. It was his 12th of the season, matching the total from his rookie year of 2003. Cabrera grounded out in his next at-bat and was later replaced in the lineup by Jeimer Candelario. The Tigers lost 5-3. Miggy currently sits at 339 home runs as a Tiger and needs 23 more to reach 500 for his career.
Hank Greenberg (September 26, 1946)
Greenberg’s first full season of baseball action since 1940 was a successful one. He went on a tear in September, hitting 16 homers, including two in front of a small Thursday afternoon crowd of 4,661 at Briggs Stadium. In the fourth, he sent “a tremendous clout” into the upper deck in left. His last homer as a Tiger was “a high drive” to left to begin the eighth. Led by “Hammerin’ Hank”, who also singled and scored the third run, the Tigers beat the St. Louis Browns 6-3. Greenberg, who finished with 44 homers, was the only major leaguer to hit at least 40 that year. Fans in Detroit were stunned the following January when Greenberg, a true hero to many, was sold to the Pirates. He departed as the Tigers’ all-time leader in home runs with 306, a record that Kaline broke in 1968. Greenberg hit 25 home runs in 1947, his only season in Pittsburgh.
Willie Horton (September 28, 1976)
Horton and Mark Fidrych became good friends in “The Year of the Bird” and remained close for the rest of Fidrych’s life. Horton even delivered one of the eulogies at Fidrych’s funeral. Two of Horton’s last important moments as a Tiger happened during games that “The Bird” started, including the last walk-off homer of his career in August. In this game, a doubleheader opener in Cleveland, Horton’s last round-tripper as a Tiger, off Jim Bibby, broke a scoreless tie in the fourth. It was his 14th of the year. With Fidrych on the mound, the Tigers cruised to a 4-0 win. “Willie The Wonder” left Detroit with 262 home runs and added 63 more with five other teams. He hit seven against Tigers pitching, including the 300th of his career, which Jack Morris served up in 1979.
Cecil Fielder (July 30, 1996)
The July 31 trade deadline was looming, and Randy Smith, the Tigers’ general manager, had let it be known that Fielder was available. Perhaps “Big Daddy” was determined to go out with a bang. He homered on July 27 and followed that with a two-homer game on July 28. In this game, a 12-9 win over the Angels, Fielder led off the bottom of the second with his 26th blast of the season. Michigander Jim Abbott was on the mound. It was Fielder 245th as a Tiger, and that moved him ahead of Lou Whitaker on Detroit’s all-time list. After the next day’s game, Smith traded him to the Yankees. Fielder hit two home runs against his old teammates when the Tigers visited Yankee Stadium in early August. He finished his career in 1998 with 319 bombs.
Lou Whitaker (September 13, 1995)
On this Wednesday afternoon at Tiger Stadium, a crowd of only 8,967 saw something special. Whitaker and Alan Trammell played together for the 1,915th time, setting an American League record for games played as teammates. The game’s best moment was yet to come. The Brewers led 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. With two on and one out, Whitaker hit the first pitch he saw from Mike Fetters into the right-field stands. Trammell said he knew it was gone as soon as he saw it leave Whitaker’s bat. After the 244th home run of his career, the fans wanted a curtain call from “Sweet Lou”, who obliged. Whitaker’s first big league homer in 1978 had also been a walk-off. His eight career walk-off home runs remain a Tigers record.
Rudy York (September 15, 1945)
The Tigers and the Washington Senators were locked in a tight pennant race with just over two weeks to go in the regular season. The Tigers took a half-game lead into the nation’s capital to begin a five-game series, which began with a doubleheader. Detroit won the opener 7-4. York helped to nail down the sweep when he homered off Mickey Haefner in the sixth inning of the nightcap. It was his 18th of the season. The Tigers had trailed 2-0 at the time and went on to win 7-3. York slumped in the World Series was traded to the Red Sox the following January. He hit 239 homers as a Tiger and added 38 in his final three seasons after leaving Detroit. At the time of the trade, only Greenberg had homered more as a Tiger, and York trailed by just 23.
Lance Parrish (July 25, 1986)
Parrish got a four-hit day started with a two-run single in the first inning. After Kirk Gibson led off the third with a home run, Parrish immediately followed up with one of his own. He said he hit a Dennis Leonard slider ‘that didn’t slide very far’. The Tigers beat the Royals 9-2. The homer was Parrish’s team-leading 22nd. The next day’s game would be his last as a Tiger. A sore back, triggered by two vertebrae rubbing against each other, sidelined him for the rest of the season. As a free agent in the offseason, he signed with the Phillies. Parrish finished with 212 homers as a Tiger and hit 112 more with the Phils and five other teams over the next nine seasons. He hit two of his final three home runs as a big leaguer in one game against the Tigers in 1995.
Bill Freehan (August 24, 1976)
The White Sox had taken a 2-0 lead over the Tigers in the top of the second inning. Freehan’s three-run bomb off Ken Brett in the bottom half, his fifth of the year, put the Tigers ahead. It was the 200th home run of his career. Although he also contributed a double, a walk, and a single in addition to scoring another run later in the game, Chicago prevailed 12-7. The Tigers went with a three-way split behind the plate that season. Freehan shared time with Bruce Kimm and Johnny Wockenfuss. His 15-year career in Detroit came to an end in December when he was released.