- 1968 Detroit Tigers season
MLB yearly infobox-pre1969
name = Detroit Tigers
season = 1968
1968 World SeriesChampions
1968 American League Champions
current league = American League
y1 = 1901
ballpark = Tiger Stadium
y4 = 1912
y5 = 1901
George Kell, Larry Osterman)
Ernie Harwell, Gene Osborn)|
Detroit Tigerswon the 1968 World Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals4 games to 3. The 1968 baseball season, known as the "Year of the Pitcher," was the Tigers' 68th since they entered the American Leaguein 1901 and their third World Series championship. Detroit pitcher Denny McLainwon the Cy Young Award and was named the American League's Most Valuable Player after winning 31 games. Mickey Lolichwon three games in the 1968 World Series.
Pitching: McLain, Lolich, Wilson and Sparma
Denny McLainhad a remarkable season in 1968, as he went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA, was an All-Star, won the Cy Young Award, won the AL Most Valuable Player Award, and won Game 6 of the World Series. He is the only pitcher since 1934 to win 30 games in a season. Beleaguered by legal and financial troubles in later years, McLain was at his best in 1968. McLain's 1968 World Seriesperformance was not as stellar, as he lost Games 1 and 4 to NL Cy Young Award winner, Bob Gibson. McLain did, however, win the crucial Game 6 on just two days' rest, holding the Cardinals to one run in a 13-1 victory.
The Tigers' #2 starter,
Mickey Lolich, is is best known for his performance in the 1968 World Series, when he allowed just five runs in three complete games, winning all three including the final and decisive game. Lolich also helped himself at the plate in Game 2 when he hit the first and only home run of his 16-year career. Lolich was given the World Series MVP Awardfor his performance. During the regular season, Lolich went 17-9 with 197 strikeouts and a 3.19 ERA.
Earl Wilson was the team's #3 pitcher, going 13-12 for the season. Known as one of the best power hitters of all time among major league pitchers, Wilson hit 7 home runs in just 88 at bats in 1968. Wilson's at bat to home run ratio of 12.57 was higher than any player in the major leagues in 1968 -- higher even than home run leaders Frank Howard and Willie Horton. Wilson was the losing pitcher in Game 3 of the World Series, allowing 10 baserunners and 3 earned runs in 4-1/3 innings pitched.
The Tigers #4 starter,
Joe Sparma, was the starting quarterback of the undefeated 1961 Ohio State football team. In 1968, Sparma lost his spot in the rotation after a run-in with manager Mayo Smith. Sparma was pulled from a game and made critical comments about Smith to sportswriter Joe Falls. When Falls asked Smith for a response, Smith said he "didn't want to get into a spitting contest with a skunk." (Joe Falls, "Joe Falls 50 Years of Sports Writing" (Sports Publishing 1997), p. 159.) Smith refused to start Sparma for several weeks afterward. When Sparma finally got another start on September 17, 1968, he pitched a 1-run complete game against the Yankees to clinch the pennant. The Sparma-Smith feud continued, and Sparma pitched only 1/3 of an inning in the 1968 World Series, giving up 2 earned runs for a 54.00 ERA in postseason play.
The Tigers' bullpen in 1968 included
Pat Dobson, John Hiller, Daryl Patterson, and Fred Lasher.
Catcher: Bill Freehan
Catcher Bill Freehanposted career highs with 25 home runs (5th in the AL) and 84 RBIs (6th in the AL) and broke his own records with 971 putouts and 1050 total chances, marks which remained AL records until Dan Wilson topped them with the 1997 Seattle Mariners. Proving his toughness and dedication to winning, Freehan allowed himself to be hit by a pitch 24 times in 1968 -- at that time an American League record. Freehan was the starting catcher for the American League All Star team in 1968 (and every other year from 1966-1972) and finished second in the 1968 American League Most Valuable Player voting, behind Denny McLain.
Infield: Cash, McAuliffe, Oyler and Wert
First baseman Norm Cash, known as "Stormin' Norman," was one of the most popular players on the team. In 1968, he hit .268 with 25 home runs despite being limited to 127 games. In the 1968 World Series, Cash hit .385 (10-for-26). Cash singled to start a 3-run rally in the 7th inning of Game 7. The rally broke a scoreless tie in a pitching duel between Mickey Lolichand Bob Gibson. Second baseman Dick McAuliffehad a .344 on base percentage, led the AL with 95 runs scored, and showed power with 50 extra base hits. He also tied a major league record by going the entire 1968 season without grounding into a double play. McAuliffe also improved defensively in 1968, reducing his error total from 28 in 1967 to nine in 1968. He finished No. 7 in the 1968 AL MVP voting. On August 22, 1968, McAuliffe was involved in a brawl in which he drove his knee into pitcher Tommy John's shoulder after almost being hit in the head by a pitch. McAuliffe played well in the 1968 World Series, with 5 runs, 6 hits, 4 walks, 3 RBIs, and a home run. Shortstop Ray Oylermanaged only 29 hits (21 of them singles) in 1968 for a career-low batting average of .135. However, his glove remained valuable as he had a .977 fielding percentage -- 15 points above the league average for shortstops. Late in the season, and in the World Series, Oyler was replaced at shortstop by outfielder Mickey Stanleyin a historic gamble by manager Mayo Smith. In the offseason, Oyler was drafted by the expansion Seattle Pilots. A radio DJ in Seattle organized a half-mocking, half-serious "Ray Oyler Fan Club" in 1969, and Oyler hit a game-winning home run in the 9th inning of the first game for the Pilots' franchise. Third baseman Don Wertwas hit in the head by a pitch that shattered his batting helmet on June 26, 1968. [ [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Don_Wert_1938&page=chronology The Ballplayers - Don Wert | BaseballLibrary.com ] ] He was carried off on a stretcher, spent two nights in the hospital, missed several games, and was never the same hitter again. [ [http://www.detroit-tigers-baseball-history.com/1968-detroit-tigers.html The 1968-Detroit-Tigers... Baseball's Last Pure Champion ] ] He had never hit lower than .257 in five prior seasons, but his 1968 batting average dropped to a career-low .200. Wert was selected for the American League All Star Team in 1968 and is remembered for his 9th inning, game-winning hit on September 17 to clinch the American League pennant. Ernie Harwelldescribed the scene as follows in his radio broadcast of the game:
*cquote|"This big crowd here ready to break loose. Three men on, two men out. Game tied, 1-1, in the ninth inning. McDaniel checkin' his sign with
Jake Gibbs. The tall right-hander ready to go to work again, and the windup, and the pitch...He swings, a line shot, base hit, right field, the Tigers win it! Here comes Kaline to score and it's all over! Don Wertsingles, the Tigers mob Don, Kaline has scored...The fans are streaming on the field...And the Tigers have won their first pennant since nineteen hundred and forty-five! Let's listen to the bedlam here at Tiger Stadium!"
Outfield: Kaline, Northrup, Horton and Stanley
Left fielderWillie Horton led the way among the outfielders in 1968. He finished second in the American League behind Frank Howard in home runs (36), slugging percentage (.543), and total bases (278). In a year in which the league batting average was .230, Horton's .285 average was good for fourth in the AL, and he also finished fourth in the AL MVP voting. In the World Series, Horton batted .304 and had a solo home run to give the Tigers an early lead in Game 2. He also made a pivotal defensive play in the fifth inning of Game 5. When Lou Brocktried to score from second base on a single to left field, Brock was tagged out on a throw from Horton that hit Bill Freehan's glove on the fly. Horton also played an important intangible role as the only African American position position player to start for the team. Mickey Stanleycovered center field for the 1968 Tigers, won a Gold Glove Awardat the position and led all American League outfielders with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Prior to 1968, Stanley had been used mostly as a backup outfielder, but an injury to Al Kalineexpanded his playing time, as Jim Northrup moved to right field to sub for Kaline. When shortstop Ray Oylerwent "0 for August," and his batting average fell to .135, manager Mayo Smithmade one of the most talked-about managerial moves in baseball history, moving Stanley to shortstop for the last 9 games of the regular season and for all 7 games of the 1968 World Series. The move also allowed Smith to play both Kaline and Northrup in the outfield. Stanley had not played the shortstop position before the 1968 season, but was a talented athlete with a good glove. Though Stanley made 2 errors in the 1968 World Series, neither error led to a run being scored. In its "The End of the Century" series, ESPNrated Mayo Smith's decision to move Stanley to shortstop for the 1968 World Seriesas one of the 10 greatest coaching decisions of the 20th Century in any sport. [ [http://espn.go.com/endofcentury/s/other/coaches.html ESPN.com - ENDOFCENTURY - ESPN.com's 10 key coaching decisions ] ]
Jim Northrup was the Tigers' right fielder for most of the 1968 season, and was among the American League leaders with 90 RBIs (3rd in the AL), 57 extra base hits (4th in the AL), 259 total bases (5th in the AL), and 29 doubles (5th in the AL). Northrup also hit five grand slams during the 1968 season. Het hit two in consecutive at bats on June 24, 1968 [ [http://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/feats11.shtml 2 Grand Slams In 1 Game by Baseball Almanac ] ] , and then hit another five days later, becoming the first major league player to hit three grand slams in a single week. [ [http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_grsl.shtml Grand Slam Records ] ] Northrup’s fifth grand slam came in Game 6 of the World Series. Northrup also had the Series-clinching hit in Game 7 off Cardinals ace
Bob Gibson. After Gibson held the Tigers scoreless through the first six innings, Northrup hit a triple over center fielder Curt Flood’s head, driving in Norm Cashand Willie Horton. In the 7-game series, Northrup had a .536 slugging percentage, with 8 RBIs, 7 hits, 4 runs scored, and 2 home runs. Northrup placed 13th in the 1968 AL MVP voting.
The only future Hall of Fame member who played regularly for the 1968 Tigers was
Al Kaline. (Hall of Famer Eddie Mathewsplayed in 31 games for the 1968 Tigers.) However, Kaline broke his arm after being hit by a pitch in May and missed part of the season. He played 70 games at his usual spot in right field and another 22 games at first base. His .287 batting average would have placed him 4th in the league, but he did not have enough at bats to qualify. Kaline excelled in his only World Series appearance by batting .379 with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs.
The Pinch-hitter: Gates Brown
Gates Brownalso had a huge year for the Tigers in 1968. Signed by the Tigers while serving time in an Ohio prison, Brown led the team with a .370 batting average (34-for-92) and .685 slugging percentage in the "year of the pitcher" when the league batting average was only .230. He also led the American League in pinch hits and came off the bench with clutch hits to spark a number of dramatic ninth inning come-back victories. On August 11, 1968, Brown had clutch, game-winning hits in the 9th inning of both games of a double-header against the Red Sox.
Players ranking among top 100 of all time at position
The following members of the 1968 Tigers have been ranked among the Top 100 of all time at their position in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract:
Bill Freehan: 12th best catcher of all time
Norm Cash: 20th best first baseman of all time
Dick McAuliffe: 22nd best second baseman of all time
Eddie Mathews: 3rd best third baseman of all time (Mathews appeared in only six games at third base for the 1968 Tigers)
* Willie Horton: 55th best left fielder of all time
Al Kaline: 11th best right fielder of all time
Mickey Lolich: 72nd best pitcher of all time
After losing the 1967 American League pennant by one game to the Red Sox, the Tigers got off to a 9-1 start in 1968. By April 29, they were 12-4. On May 10, the Tigers moved into first place and remained there for the rest of the season. The Orioles stayed close through much of the season, but the Tigers wound up winning the pennant with a 12-game lead over Baltimore. The Tigers finished with a record of 103-59 and outscored their opponents 671 to 492. The 1968 Tigers also won the season series against all nine league opponents‚ the first team to accomplish that since the 1955 Dodgers.
The 1968 Tigers developed a reputation for dramatic comebacks, often with winning late inning home runs. The Tigers led the major leagues with 185 home runs in 1968. They won 40 games from the 7th inning forward, and won 30 games in their last at bat. In each game, there seemed to be a new hero, with even light hitting
Don Wertand Ray Oylerproviding clutch hits to win ballgames. The 1968 Tigers were also known for their esprit de corps. The starting lineup had been intact since 1965, and several of those starters had grown up in Michigan as Detroit Tigers fans: Willie Horton in Detroit's inner city, Bill Freehanin suburban Royal Oak, Jim Northrup in a small town 25 miles west of Saginaw, and Mickey Stanleyfrom the west of the state in Grand Rapids.
The 1968 Tigers' winning percentage ranks as the 5th best in team history, as follows:
* April 9: Opening Day in Major League Baseball is postponed for the funeral of
Martin Luther King, Jr.
* April 10: The Tigers lose to the Red Sox on Opening Day in Detroit. Detroit pitcher
Earl Wilsonhits a home run but allows 5 earned runs in 5 innings.
* April 11: The Tigers get their first win, 4-3, over the Red Sox, as
Dick McAuliffe, Bill Freehanand Gates Brownhit home runs.
* April 21:
Denny McLainwins his first game, 2-1, in the second game of a double-header. After losing on Opening Day, the Tigers have won 9 straight games.
* April 27: The Tigers shut out the Yankees, 7-0, behind a 5-hitter by
Denny McLain. Dick McAuliffeand Jim Northrup hit home runs off Jim Bouton.
* April 29:
Mickey Lolichgets his first win of the season, 2-1, over the A's. Don Wertgoes 3-for-4, and the Tigers are 12-4 in their first 16 games.
* May 6: The Tigers lose to the Orioles, 4-0. Baltimore's
Dave Leonhardthrows a one-hitter, and the Tigers have only 23 at bats in the game, as the Orioles turn 3 double plays, and Mickey Stanley, Jim Northrup, and Al Kalineare all caught stealing.
* May 10: The Tigers win their 3rd straight game, 12-1, over the Senators, to move past the Orioles into first place. Detroit will remain in first place for the rest of the season.
Denny McLaingets the win, and Al Kaline, Don Wertand Bill Freehanhit home runs.
* May 17: Detroit leads 2-1 going into the 9th inning. Frank Howard hits a 2-run home run in the top of the 9th to put the Senators in the lead, but Jim Northrup hits a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th. The Tigers win, 7-3.
* May 19: Detroit rookie
Les Cainthrows 6-2/3 scoreless innings for his first major league win. The Tigers beat the Senators, 7-0, as Eddie Mathews, Al Kaline, and Dick McAuliffehit home runs. Kaline's home run is his 307th as a Tiger, making him the all-time leader in home runs by a Detroit Tiger.
* May 25: The Tigers beat the A's 2-1 behind
Denny McLain, but Al Kaline's arm is broken when he is hit by a pitch. Kaline is out of action until June 30.
* May 26: A's pitcher
Jack Akerbeans Jim Northrup on the batting helmet, and a 15-minute fight erupts. The A's win‚ 7-6.
* May 31:
Mickey Lolichshuts out the Yankees on a 1-hitter in front of 31,115 fans on a Friday night in Detroit. Willie Horton hits a home run in the 7th inning for the game's only run.
* June 5:
Robert F. Kennedyis assassinated in Los Angeles. Denny McLainwins his 9th game in Boston.
* June 14: The Tigers beat the White Sox, 6-5, in the 14th inning. Pitcher
Earl Wilsonhits a home run in the 2nd inning, and shortstop Don Wertwins it with a home run in the 14th inning.
* June 15: Chicago's
Tommy Johnhits 4 Detroit batters: Willie Horton (twice), Don Wertand Ray Oyler. The Tigers lose, 7-4. ("See also August 22")
* June 24: Jim Northrup hits grand slams in consecutive at bats in the 5th and 6th innings. Shortstop
Don Wertis hit in the head by a pitch that shatters his batting helmet. Wert is carried off the field on a stretcher and spends two nights in the hospital. The Tigers beat the Indians, 14-3.
* June 29: Jim Northrup hits his 3rd grand slam of the week in a 5-2 victory over Chicago.
Denny McLainnotches his 14th win. The Tigers are 22 games over .500 at 48-26.
* July 4: There are fireworks on the 4th of July, as the Tigers and Angels combine for 8 home runs. The Tigers win, 13-10.
* July 5: Detroit beats Oakland, 8-5.
Bill Freehanhits 2 home runs and tallies 6 RBIs.
* July 7:
Denny McLainbeats the A's, 7-6. Al Kalinehits a 3-run home run to help the Tigers sweep the A's in the second game of a double-header. At the All Star break, McLain is 14-2, and the Tigers lead the AL by 9-1/2 games.
* July 26: Detroit beats Baltimore, 4-1, but
Earl Wilsonleaves the game after 5 innings with a strained knee. Daryl Pattersoncomes into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out, and strikes out the side.
* July 27:
Denny McLainpitches a 3-hit, shutout over the Orioles for his 20th win. Norm Cashhas 4 hits, and Willie Horton hits 2 home runs. The Tigers win, 9-0.
* August 8: Detroit scores 13 runs to beat the Indians, 14-1.
Bill Freehanhits 2 home runs, walks twice, and drives in 4 runs. McLain wins his 23rd.
* August 11:
Gates Browngets clutch hits to win both games of a double-header against the Red Sox. Gates has a pinch-hit home run in the 14th inning of the opener for a 5-4 win. In the second game, he has a single to drive home the winning run, as the Tigers score 4 runs in the 9th inning.
* August 12: The Tigers beat the Indians, 6-3, and the team is now 75-42.
* August 16:
Denny McLainbeats the Red Sox at Fenway Parkfor his 25th win. He is 16-0 on the road. Bill Freehanis hit by pitches in 3 consecutive at bats.
* August 22: After hitting 4 Tigers in a game earlier in the year, Chicago pitcher
Tommy Johnnarrowly misses Dick McAuliffe's head. After another brush back pitch, words are exchanged, and McAuliffe charges the mound. McAuliffe knees John in the shoulder, resulting in a season-ending injury to John. McAuliffe is supsended for five games.
* August 23: The Tigers lose to the Yankees, 2-1, in the first game of a double-header. In the second game, the score is tied 3-3 after 19 innings.
Lindy McDanielretires 21 straight Tiger batters‚ six on strikeouts.
* August 25: After taking a 5-0 lead, the Tigers lose to the Yankees‚ 6-5. The winning pitcher for the Yankees is ...
Rocky Colavito. The former Tiger slugger pitches 2-2/3 innings in relief and retires Al Kalineand Willie Horton. Adding to the insult, Colavito scores the winning run in the 8th inning.
* August 26: The Tigers beat the White Sox, 3-0, at
County Stadiumin Milwaukee, where the White Sox have temporarily relocated during the violence-plagued Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Earl Wilsonis hit by a pitch in the 2nd inning with the bases loaded to drive in the first run.
* August 27: The Tiger lose to the White Sox, 2-1, at Comiskey Park. Violence escalates in the streets of Chicago.
* August 28: Back in Detroit,
Denny McLainwins his 26th game. That night in Chicago, police clash with thousands of anti-war demonstrators. Mayor Daley is criticized for strong-arm tactics.
* August 30: In the first game of a 3-game series with second place Baltimore, the Tigers win 9-1 in front of 53,575 fans at Tiger Stadium. In one of the best performances of the year by any Tiger player,
Earl Wilsonpitches a 4-hitter, goes 2-for-4 at the plate, hits his 5th home run of the year, and collects 4 RBIs.
* September 1: Almost 42,000 fans are on hand at Tiger Stadium as
Denny McLainwins his 27th game, beating the Orioles 7-3. The Tigers have a triple play in the 3rd inning, McLain to Tom Matchickto Norm Cash. Jim Northrup is 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs.
* September 6: The Tigers beat the Twins, 8-3, and
Denny McLaingets win number 28. Rookie Graig Nettleshits his first major league home run off McLain. Willie Horton hits his 32nd home run and has 5 RBIs.
* September 14: In front of 33,688 fans on a Saturday in Detroit, with
Denny McLainseeking his 30th win, Reggie Jacksonhits a home run in the 4th inning to put the A's on top. Norm Cashresponds with a 3-run home run in the 4th. Reggie Jacksonhits his second home run of the day in the 6th inning to put the A’s back in the lead. In the bottom of the 9th inning, Al Kalinepinch hits for McLain. Kaline draws a walk and later scores on a fielding error. Willie Horton then drives in Mickey Stanleyfor the winning run. Denny McLainstrikes out 10 batters and beats the A’s, 5-4, to becomes the first 30-game winner since Dizzy Deanin 1934.
* September 15: The Tigers destroy the A’s , 13-0.
Mickey Lolichgoes the distance, allowing only 3 hits. Jim Northrup and Bill Freehanhit two home runs each.
* September 17: The Tigers beat the Yankees, 2-1, to clinch the American League pennant.
Joe Sparmathrows a complete game and gives up 5 hits. Don Werthas the pennant-clinching hit in the bottom of the 9th inning, driving in Al Kaline. Many of the 46,512 fans on hand storm the field in celebration of the Tigers’ first pennant in 23 years.
* September 19:
Denny McLainwins his 31st game against the Yankees. In the 8th inning, with the Tigers safely in the lead, McLain calls catcher Jim Priceto the mound and tells him to inform Mickey Mantlethat he's throwing nothing but fastballs. McLain tosses up a fat one, and Mantle hits a home run to move into 3rd place on the all-time home run list. Mantle tips his cap to McLain as he rounds third base. Joe Pepitone‚ the next batter‚ signals where he would like the ball‚ and McLain "dusts" him.
* September 21: The Tigers win their 11th straight game, a 4-3 victory over the Senators. The team is now 47 games over .500 with a record of 101-54.
* September 28: Seeking his 32nd win‚ Denny McLain pitches 7 scoreless innings against Washington and leaves with a 1-0 lead, but the Senators score 2 in the 9th to win‚ 2-1.
* September 29: The Senators lose the final game of the regular season, 3-2. The Tigers finish the season with a record of 103-59.
"Note: Pos. = Positions; G = Games played; AB = At Bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting Average; HR = Home Runs; RBI = Runs Batted In"
1968 World Seriesfeatured the Detroit Tigersand the St. Louis Cardinals, with the Tigers winning in seven games for their third championship in seven World Series appearances. In Game 1, the Cardinals' ace Bob Gibsonthrew a shutout, striking out 17 batters, as St. Louis won 4-0. Gibson's 17 strikeouts is still the record in a World Series game. The only positive the Tigers could take away from Game 1 was the fact that Mickey Stanley, having moved from center field to shortstop at the end of the season, handled five chances without an error.
In Game 2,
Mickey Lolichhit a home run and pitched the first of his three complete game victories, as Detroit won, 8-1. Norm Cashand Willie Horton both homered, and perennial Gold Glove winner, Al Kaline, made two sensational catches in right field.
The Cardinals followed with wins in Games 3 and 4, including another victory by
Bob Gibsonover Denny McLainin Game 4. Lou Brockstole three bases in Game 3 and had six steals in the first three games. In Game 4, McLain pitched poorly, giving up six runs in three innings. Game 4 also saw one of the most bizarre strategic battles in World Series history. The Cardinals led 4-0 in the third inning, when the game was delayed by rain for over an hour. When play resumed, the Tigers began to stall, hoping to have the game called before it became official. The Cardinals responded by intentionally trying to make outs to move the game forward. As a result of the tactics, Game 4 of the 1968 was criticized as one of the worst games in World Series history.
After Game 4, with the Cardinals up 3 games to 1, a Detroit team that had made dramatic comebacks all year was forced to make its biggest comeback yet.
Game 5 began with the unconventional, soulful singing of the national anthem by
Jose Feliciano, drawing boos from some Detroit fans. When the game got underway, the Cardinals immediately scored three runs in the first inning off Mickey Lolich. In the fifth inning, Lou Brockdoubled, and the Cardinals had a chance to break the game open, but Brock tried to score from second base on a single to left field. Brock was out in a collision with Bill Freehanat home plate, as Willie Horton's throw hit Bill Freehan's glove on the fly, and Brock elected not to slide. In the 7th inning, the Cardinals led, 3-2. Mickey Lolichled off for the Tigers in the 7th inning with a bloop single, and the Tigers loaded the bases for Al Kalineto slap a single into right field, driving in two runs. Cash drove in another run, and the Tigers led, 5-3, which proved to be the final score. Mickey Lolichpitched his second complete game victory.
In Game 6,
Mayo Smithpassed over Earl Wilsonand elected to start Denny McLainon two days' rest. McLain held the Cardinals to one run, and the Tigers scored 13 times. The Tigers scored ten runs in the 3rd inning, capped by Jim Northrup's grand slam.
Game 7 was a pitching duel between
Bob Gibsonand Mickey Lolich, pitching on only two days' rest. In a pre-game pep talk, Mayo Smithtold his team that Gibson was not Superman, prompting Norm Cashto ask: "What was he doing in a telephone booth changing his clothes?" (Detroit Free Press, April 26, 1988) The game was scoreless after six innings, as the two pitchers dominated. In the 7th inning, the Tigers broke through on a triple by Jim Northrupthat went over center fielder Curt Flood’s head, driving in Norm Cashand Willie Horton. Curt Floodinitially misread Northrup's hit, taking a step in, and then slipping as he chased the ball over his head. Flood was tagged a “goat” for having misplayed the ball. The Tigers won Game 7 by a score of 4-1. Mickey Lolich, who pitched three complete game victories, was named the MVP of the World Series. On the plane ride back to Detroit after Game 7 of the World Series, Lolich turned to newspaper columnist, Pete Waldmeir, and said: "I guess I'm an unlikely hero. Pot belly. Big ears. Just a guy who shows up every day and gets the job done as best as he knows how." (Joe Falls, "Detroit Tigers" (1975), p. 93) But it was precisely those "average man" qualities that made Lolich one of the most popular sports figures in a working man's city. As the Detroit Newsput it, "He didn't act like a big shot superstar, he was one of us." [ [http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=12&category=sports detnews.com | Michigan History ] ]
The Tigers' role in healing a city
The 1968 baseball season occurred in a year of upheaval. The
Tet Offensiveearlier in the year increased opposition to the Vietnam War. The City of Detroit had suffered through one of the worst riots in American history during the summer of 1967. Less than a week before Opening Day, Martin Luther King, Jr.was assassinated in Memphis, triggering civil unrest in 60 American cities. The assassination of Robert Kennedyfollowed in June. And in late August, the Tigers played a series in Chicago, as Chicago police had violent confrontations with thousands of anti-war protesters during the Democratic National Convention. Yet, through the summer of 1968, the people of Detroit were united by their passion for the Tigers and the calming radio voice of Tigers broadcaster, Ernie Harwell. When the Tigers won the World Series, the headline in the Detroit Free Pressread: "WE WIN!" The headline told the story. Amidst all the turmoil, the people of Detroit came together behind their baseball team.In a column published on October 11, 1968, Detroit's senior baseball writer, Joe Falls, described the impact of the Tigers championship on the city.
*cquote|"My town, as you know, had the worst riot in our nation's history in the summer of 1967, and it left scars which may never fully heal. . . . And so, as 1968 dawned and we all started thinking ahead to the hot summer nights in Detroit, the mood of our city was taut. It was apprehensive. . . . But then something started happening in the middle of 1968. You could pull up to a light at the corner of Clairmount and 12th, which was the hub of last year's riot, and the guy in the next car would have his radio turned up: ' .... McLain looks in for the sign, he's set -- here's the pitch' ... It was a year when an entire community, an entire city, was caught up in a wild, wonderful frenzy."
Even the Governor of Michigan,
George Romney, credited the Tigers with helping calm the city. In a letter to owner, John Fetzer, Romney wrote: "The deepest meaning of this victory extends beyond the sports pages, radio broadcasts, and the telecasts that have consumed our attention for several months. This championship occurred when all of us in Detroit and Michigan needed a great lift. At a time of unusual tensions, when many good men lost their perspective toward others, the Tigers set an example of what human relations should really be." (Dan Ewald, "John Fetzer: On A Handshake"," p. 151)
Award winners and league leaders
Gold Glove Awardas catcher
* AL hit by pitch leader (24)
* AL innings at catcher leader (1180.1)
* AL leader in assists at catcher (971)
* AL leader in double plays at catcher (15)
* AL leader in runners caught stealing (38)
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award Mickey Lolich
Babe Ruth Award
World Series Most Valuable Player Dick McAuliffe
* AL runs scored leader (95)
* AL leader in innings at second base (1277.2)
* American League Most Valuable Player
* American League
Cy Young Award
* AL wins leader (31)
* AL win percentage leader (.838)
* AL innings pitched leader (336)
* AL games started leader (41)
* AL complete games leader (28)
* AL home runs allowed leader (31)
* AL leader in strikeout to walk ratio (4.44)
* AL batters faced leader (1288)
* AL sacrifice hits leader (16)
Associated Press Athlete of the Year[ [http://www.nndb.com/honors/906/000166408/ Associated Press Athlete of the Year (male) ] ] Mayo Smith
* Associated Press AL Manager of the Year
Gold Glove Awardfor outfielder
* AL leader in fielding percentage by outfielder (1.000)
* AL grounded into double plays leader (22)
1968 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Bill Freehan, C, Starter
* Willie Horton, OF, Starter
Denny McLain, P
Don Wert, 3B
* [http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/DET/1968.shtml 1968 Detroit Tigers Regular Season Statistics]
* [http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1968_WS.shtml 1968 World Series Statistics, Box Scores and Play by Play]
* [http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1968ws.shtml Baseball Almanac on 1968 World Series]
title = American League Champions
years = 1968
before = Boston Red Sox
after = Baltimore Orioles
title = World Series Champions
years = 1968
before = St. Louis Cardinals
after = New York Mets
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