Best Detroit Tigers Debut Number 6 – Denny McLain
There has never been any debate about Denny McLain’s pure talent. Unfortunately his decision-making, personality, and work ethic kept him from fully realizing his Hall-of-Fame potential. He certainly showed flashes of it in the late 1960s, but his skill was on display from the moment he first saw a big-league field.
McLain was just 19 when he made his MLB debut against the White Sox on September 21, 1963. He briefly flashed some nerves, walking leadoff man Mike Hershberger, but he then he promptly picked off Hersheberger and struck out the next two batters to end the inning. He gave up a run in the top of the 5th, but then came to the plate in the bottom half and hit a home run in just his second big-league at-bat. It ended up being the only home run of his career.
The Tigers took a 3-1 lead into the 8th, but Chicago tied it after some sloppy defense. Then in the bottom of the frame Norm Cash put the Tigers up 4-3 with a solo home run. McLain came out for the 9th and retired the lineup in order, striking out the final two batters he faced. His final line: 9IP, 7H, 3R (1ER), 4BB, 8K, and 1-for-3 at the plate with a HR. The 8 strikeouts remains tied for the most by a Detroit Tigers pitcher in his first game, and he’s one of two starting pitchers in MLB history to throw a complete game and hit a home run in his debut.