Imagine how thrilling it must feel to hit a home run in the major leagues. For one group of former Detroit Tigers, that thrill was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Through the end of the 2021 season, there have been 121 players who hit only one home run in a regular season game while wearing a Detroit Tigers uniform. Included in that group are 44 players whose lone home runs as Tigers turned out to be the only ones that they ever hit in their major league careers.
Bob Patrick’s gave Detroit a walk-off win at Briggs Stadium in 1942. Bill Roman’s happened at the original Yankee Stadium in his first big league at-bat in 1964. Jim Lentine’s led off a game for the visiting Tigers in Milwaukee in 1980. Most of these one-homer wonders didn’t play for the Tigers very long. Johnny Bassler, who had 2,770 plate appearances in seven seasons with the team (five as the starting catcher), was an exception.
Some were pitchers in the pre-DH era, like Paul Foytack and Phil Regan, who wouldn’t have been expected to hit a second home run. Of course, the same could be said for Jason Johnson, a pitcher who hit his only round-tripper in interleague play. Some of the guys in this group were prospects that didn’t quite pan out, like Wilkin Ramirez and Tony Giarratano.
Some of these players may be notable only to those who appreciate obscure Detroit Tigers trivia. Ed Mierkowicz was the last surviving member of the 1945 World Series champions. Al Shaw and Pete LePine were the first Tigers players born in England and Canada, respectively. George Quellich, whose big-league career began and ended in August 1931, is still the only Tiger whose surname begins with Q. If you like unique or quirky names that stand out on the all-time Detroit roster, Prince Oana and Coot Veal were also one-and-done home run hitters.
One former Tiger who went deep just once, Joe Siddall, deserves a tip of the cap for using a photo of himself behind the plate in home whites at Tiger Stadium as his current Twitter profile pic even though he is employed as a Toronto Blue Jays analyst. (Hopefully his Sportsnet colleagues don’t razz him too much for growing up as a Tigers fan in Windsor, Ontario.)
From the annals of Detroit Tigers history, here are some of the best stories about former players’ once-in-a-lifetime home runs. We’ll begin with a recent example and work our way back through time all the way to one of the franchise’s very first games. (There will also be a special honorable mention to wrap things up.)