On April 24, 1901, the Tigers prepared to take to the field for their first official American League game. A standing room only crowd was anticipated at Bennett Park, but unpredictable weather postponed the opening by a day.
On that historic afternoon, April 25, 1901, in front of 10,000 fans, the Tigers entered the ninth inning trailing Milwaukee, 13-4. A series of hits and miscues followed, moving the score to 13-12 with two runners on. With two out, Tiger Frank "Pop" Dillon faced reliever Bert Husting, and the lefthanded hitter rapped a two-run double to complete a 14-13 comeback win.
The 1905 season was a remarkable one for the organization in that it marked the first in a Detroit uniform for Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the most famous Tiger of all. Acquired in exchange for pitcher Eddie Cicotte and $700 from Augusta of the Sally League (plus an additional $50 for "immediate delivery"), Cobb played the first of his 3,033 major league games on August 30, 1905. He would remain with the Tigers for 22 years, and when he retired in 1928, he had collected more records than any player in major league history.
The 1907 season saw the emergence of two individuals, neither of them players, who would both play significant roles in turning the fortunes of the young Tigers. One was Frank Navin, who began as a bookkeeper with the franchise in 1902 before acquiring a full half interest ownership in the club and becoming team president. After Ban Johnson's retirement in 1927, Navin came to be regarded by many as the most powerful man in the American League. The other was Hughie Jennings, a keen judge of talent who would lead the club to three consecutive league championships as one of the most colorful managers in major league history.
That same 1907 season, the Tigers won their first pennant, taking the American League by one and one-half games with a mark of 92-58. A disappointing loss to the Cubs in the World Series followed.
In 1911, Cobb finished with a personal-best batting average of .420, finishing just short of the all-time American League single-season record of .422 set by Nap Lajoie in 1901.
In 1912, the club moved into its new ballpark, named after Frank Navin, but the campaign was marked by a one-game players' strike in retaliation for a suspension levied on Cobb for taking a punch at a fan in New York. The May 18 strike forced the Tigers to put together a team of sandlot players for one game, a 24-2 loss at Philadelphia.
In 1915, Jennings and his club posted a regular-season record of 100-54, yet the skipper remembered the campaign as "the biggest disappointment" of his career after Babe Ruth's Red Sox claimed the pennant with 101 wins.
By 1920, the Tigers had plunged to seventh place, Jennings was released and the managerial position fell into the hands of Cobb. The highlight of Cobb's tenure was 1924, the same season that Hall-of-Famer Charlie Gehringer first wore the Tiger uniform, when the club remained in the race until the season's final week with a record of 86-68.
After five seasons with Bucky Harris at the helm, Navin attempted to hire Babe Ruth as manager in 1934. Unable to land him, Navin turned to Mickey Cochrane, purchased from Philadelphia for $100,000. With Cochrane as catcher/manager, the Tigers soared to a 101-53 record in 1934 for the first of two consecutive league pennants. Schoolboy Rowe set a record with 16 consecutive pitching wins, but in the World Series the Tigers once again failed to capture the post-season magic, dropping a seven-game decision to Frankie Frisch's St. Louis Cardinals in a series that featured Commissioner Landis removing St. Louis outfielder Ducky Medwick from Game 7 for his own safety as Detroit fans pelted the field with debris.
In 1935, the long-awaited title dreams came true for Tiger fans and players. After winning the American League by three games, Detroit took six games to mow down the Chicago Cubs in the 1935 World Series, with Cochrane making a daring dash from second in the ninth inning of Game Six to score the winning run on a single by Goose Goslin. For their accomplishments, each player was awarded a share of $6,544.
On November 13, 1935, Frank Navin was stricken by a heart ailment and died at the age of 64. Walter Briggs Sr., already half-owner of the club, purchased the remainder of the team and became president.
In 1940 under manager Del Baker, Detroit earned its sixth pennant with a 90-64 mark and faced Cincinnati in the Fall Classic. A 21-game winner in the regular season, righthander Bobo Newsom pitched the Tigers to wins in two games of the Series but fell in Game Seven as the Reds won the title.
A strange end to the 1945 season marked the Tigers' successful surge to their eventual second World Series title. With little hope of making it to the post-season, the Washington Senators scheduled their season to close a week early to make their park available for pro football. The Senators, however, played inspired baseball all the way but were forced to sit and watch during the season's final week as the Tigers nosed them out of a pennant. In the ensuing World Series, the Tigers, managed by Steve O'Neill, knocked off the Cubs in seven games, with Hall-of-Famer "Prince Hal" Newhouser winning two times.
After a pair of second-place finishes in 1946 and '47 and the acquisition of Hall-of-Famer George Kell, the Tigers watched as a fresh influx of talent from the minors matured and nearly captured the 1950 pennant, falling just three games short after leading the pack for 119 days and finishing with a 95-59 record.
The 1950s were highlighted by the emergence of young outfielder Al Kaline who, with a .340 batting average in 1955, became the youngest player in league history to win a batting title.
The Tiger front office was also seeing sweeping change after the death of Briggs Sr. in 1952. After a four-year presidency by his son, Walter Briggs Jr., the Briggs stock was sold to a syndicate of 11 radio/television executives led by John Fetzer, Fred Knorr and Kenyon Brown. In 1960, Fetzer purchased the entire team and became entrenched as club president.
After finishing just one game out of first place in 1967, the Tigers were poised and loaded with talent entering the 1968 campaign. Under manager Mayo Smith, the club took the lead on May 10 and never relinquished it, finishing 12 games ahead of second-place Baltimore. Denny McLain was the hero of the campaign with a 31-6 record, becoming the first pitcher since Lefty Grove in 1934 (and remaining the last currently) to win 30 or more in a season. His efforts earned McLain unanimous acclaim as MVP and Cy Young winner in the league.
In a tight World Series, Mickey Lolich pitched the club to three wins, the final win coming on just two days rest as the Tigers captured the crown.
With divisional play starting in 1969, the Tigers next visited the post-season by winning the American League East in 1972 under Billy Martin with a 92-70 mark. The club was unable to capture the pennant, however, as the Oakland A's won the best-of-five series in five games.
The late 1970s featured the first of an American League record 1,918 appearances together by Tiger middle infielders Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.
The 1979 season saw another significant change in leadership when on June 14, Sparky Anderson took over the club's managerial reigns. For the next 16 seasons, Anderson would lead the Tigers from the dugout, claiming two division titles and a World Championship along the way.
After a second-place finish in 1983, success was expected for a talented Tiger club the following season. With Jack Morris tossing his first no-hitter on April 7 of 1984, the club vaulted into the division lead by winning its first nine games and going 35-5 through May 24, the best 40-game start in major league history. The Tigers went on to a 104-58 mark, 15 games in front of the pack, and continued by sweeping the Royals in the Championship Series. After defeating the Padres, four-games-to-one, in the World Series, the Tigers became the first major league team since the 1955 Dodgers to hold first place wire-to-wire and finish by winning the championship. In addition, a club-record 2,704,794 fans passed through the turnstiles.
The Tigers returned to glory in 1987 in dramatic fashion. The club struggled to an 11-19 start but closed strong and looked ready to make a move after first-place Toronto lost four straight entering the final weekend of play. Trailing the Blue Jays by just one game with a three-game set in Motown against Toronto to close the regular season, the Tigers took the first two. With a one-game lead, Detroit's Frank Tanana out-dueled the Jays' Jimmy Key on Sunday as Larry Herndon's solo homer proved the only scoring in a 1-0 triumph. After the dramatic ending to the regular season, Detroit bowed out of the playoffs to Minnesota, losing a best-of-seven series in five contests.
The 1992 season included the most recent change in ownership for the team as Mike Ilitch purchased sole interest in the team from Tom Monoghan, and other structural changes were not far down the road.
In 1995, Tiger President and CEO John McHale was hired, and the following off-season, Vice President/General Manager Randy Smith was brought on board. The organization began a process of rebuilding the franchise through scouting and player development, and the past four campaigns have seen the emergence of talented homegrown players such as Tony Clark, Brian Moehler and Juan Encarnacion.
September 27, 1999, saw the last Detroit Tiger baseball game played at Tiger Stadium. After an 87 year run, the Corner saw it's 6,783rd-and final-game with a sold-out crowd of 43,356 fans, many standing at their seats and dabbing tears from their eyes as 63 Tiger greats took the field one last time during the closing ceremonies of the park. The Tigers took that historic game, beating the Royals 8-2.
April 11, 2000, saw the beginning of a new era as the Tigers were welcomed into their new home, Comerica Park. Opening Day saw 34-degree weather, a sold-out crowd, and a 5-2 win against Seattle.
Also in 2000, right-hander Todd Jones won the Rolaids Relief Man Award, making 42 saves in 46 save situations.
A combination of veteran additions and maturing youngsters made the struggles of 2003 a distant memory with the second-largest year-to-year improvement in American League history.
The Tigers swept the Blue Jays in Toronto, then took their home opener over the Twins for their best start since 1985 and set up their first winning April since 1993. Ivan Rodriguez, signed two weeks before Spring Training when other teams passed on him, quickly became the face and heart of the franchise. His .500 average in June was only the third such performance by a Major Leaguer in a calendar month in 25 years. He earned the Tigers their first All-Star starter since 1991. Carlos Guillen, acquired by trade from Seattle, became the best Tigers shortstop since Alan Trammell with one of the best all-around hitting seasons ever from a Tiger.
In a season that began with so much promise for the Tigers, injuries to key players and a lack of consistency resulted in a fourth-place finish for a club that expected to contend for the American League Central title. It also led to the dismissal of former Tigers All-Star Alan Trammell as the team's skipper.
Dmitri Young got the year started off in impressive fashion, homering three times in an Opening Day blowout of the Royals. But the Tigers suffered a tough blow when slugger Magglio Ordonez, signed to a five-year, $75 million deal in the offseason, suffered a hernia in April that would keep him out until July. Injuries took their toll throughout the season as closer Troy Percival, shortstop Carlos Guillen and outfielder Rondell White also missed significant amounts of time. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez played valiantly though injuries, but he wasn't able to replicate his numbers from 2004.
Among the bright spots were Chris Shelton, who hit .299 with 18 homers after being called up, and Curtis Granderson, who took over the center field job with his strong defensive play and timely hitting. Newcomer Placido Polanco enjoyed a solid season and was named Tiger of the Year for his efforts, and Carlos Pena rebounded from a demotion in a big way. Craig Monroe (team-leading 89 RBIs) and Nook Logan (23 steals) also made big contributions, while Jeremy Bonderman showed in the first half why he's the Tigers' ace and Mike Maroth posted a 14-win season two years after losing 21 games.
Jim Leyland replaced Trammell as manager in October, two months before closer Todd Jones, who spent five seasons in Detroit from 1997-2001, signed a two-year deal with the Tigers. Veteran left-hander Kenny Rogers also joined the Tigers in late 2005, bringing 190 career wins and a 4.21 lifetime ERA to the club's 2006 rotation.
In terms of raw wins, the Tigers put together one of the biggest turnarounds in baseball history with their run from 43 wins in 2003 to 95 in 2006. Emotionally, the comeback rekindled baseball fever in Detroit, starting with a 16-9 record in April and gaining momentum with a 17-2 stretch over the summer. A late-season fade cost the Tigers an AL Central title, but first-year manager Jim Leyland regrouped a hungry club to run off seven straight postseason wins to reach the World Series for the first time since 1984. Their magical run, which included Postseason wins against the New York Yankees in the Divisional Series and the Oakland Athletics in the Championship Series, came to an end in the Fall Classic, where Detroit fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. Leyland was named AL Manager of the Year, while 17-game winner Justin Verlander became the Tigers' first rookie of the year since 1978.
Chris Shelton was the toast of baseball in April with nine home runs in the first 13 games. Carlos Guillen became the first Tiger in six years to hit for the cycle. Free-agent addition Kenny Rogers threw 23 scoreless innings over three playoff starts, something no pitcher had accomplished since 1981. Even in World Series defeat, thanks in part to a record five errors from Tiger pitchers, Detroit benefitted from Sean Casey, whose 9-for-17 series performance established a club record. Likewise, Craig Monroe's five postseason homers set a franchise standard.
Though the Tigers couldn't repeat their team success, eventually falling to Cleveland in the AL Central race, Detroit's defense attempt at their American League crown became a showcase for some incredible individual performances. Justin Verlander tossed the Tigers' first no-hitter since 1984 and sixth no-no ever when he dominated the Brewers on June 12 at Comerica Park. He went on to obliterate the notion of a sophomore slump with an 18-6 record in his first 200-inning season.
Curtis Granderson's second full season as Detroit's center fielder and leadoff man saw him become a multi-faceted catalyst at the plate. He became just the third player in baseball history and the first since Willie Mays to record 20 homers, 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same season, and he added a .302 batting average to boot.
Placido Polanco, meanwhile, was statistically flawless in the field, posting 141 errorless games at second base as part of a Major League second base record 186-game errorless streak that ran from July 1, 2006 until April 8, 2008. Polanco earned not only his first Gold Glove award, but also the All-Star starting nod at second base for the American League at the Midsummer Classic in San Francisco.
But arguably no Tiger enjoyed the season-long accomplishments of Magglio Ordonez, who followed up his 2006 postseason heroics by winning an AL batting crown -- Detroit's first since Norm Cash in 1961 -- and finishing second in the AL MVP race. His .363 average was the highest by a Tiger since Charlie Gehringer in 1937, while his 216 hits and AL-best 54 doubles marked the most by a Tiger since George Kell in 1950, to go with 28 home runs, 139 RBIs and .434 on-base percentage.
Offseason trades for Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Edgar Renteria sent the Tigers rolling into 2008 favored by many to win the American League and sent fans dreaming of October baseball. Just as the Tigers defied expectations to reach the Fall Classic in 2006, however, the '08 season showed how little high expectations mean. Though Cabrera emerged from a slow start to win Detroit's first AL home run crown since 1991 with 37 homers and a career-best 127 RBIs, Detroit couldn't overcome an 0-7 start to the season and a season of injuries up and down the pitching staff.
The bright side for the Tigers, besides Cabrera's first season in Detroit, was the emergence of surprise arms. Armando Galarraga, a Minor League trade acquisition just before Spring Training, earned a trip to the Majors two weeks into the season for an injured Willis and ended up leading with 13 wins and a 3.73 ERA. Zach Miner jumped into the rotation over the summer and became one of Detroit's most effective starters.
The Tigers turned 2009 into a rebound season on the strength of a young, gifted starting rotation. With Kenny Rogers retired and Jeremy Bonderman injured for most of the season, Justin Verlander emerged as Detroit's clear ace, leading the Majors with 269 strikeouts to go with 19 wins in the most dominant season from a Tigers starter since Jack Morris. Add in the emergence of trade acquisition Edwin Jackson and an impressive rookie year from 20-year-old Rick Porcello, and the Tigers had one of the American League's best pitching staffs pushing it atop the AL Central in early May. They either led or shared the division until the 163rd game, when a tiebreaker loss to the Twins sent the Tigers home heartbroken.
The Tigers' 2010 campaign seemed to be two seasons in one -- a division race with Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera, then a second-half fade with Ordonez on the disabled list and Cabrera on first base with a team-record 32 intentional walks. It was also a year of transition, replacing some familiar names from Detroit's AL pennant team in 2006 with emerging young prospects. Everything evened out in the standings with an 81-81 record and a third-place finish, but it was a roller-coaster of a year, competitively and emotionally. Fans, friends and colleagues paid their final respects to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who passed away in May after an eight-month battle with cancer. Emotions went from tears to disbelief a few weeks later, when a missed call by umpire Jim Joyce denied Armando Galarraga of what would've been the first perfect game in Tigers history. Incredibly, though, the reactions afterwards turned to forgiveness for Joyce and a life lesson about the value of understanding that people make mistakes.
Galarraga's gem didn't make history, but it made for a roll, with Detroit winning 12 out of 17 and seven in a row behind the hot hitting of rookies Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson. They took over first place for more than a week in early July, but a six-game losing streak out of the All-Star break left the Tigers playing catch-up. They couldn't recover once Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge all went on the DL in a five-day span. Ordonez's broken right ankle ended his season. Cabrera, an All-Star Game starter and a Home Run Derby participant, went on to lead the Majors with 126 RBIs. Jackson became the fourth rookie ever to post 180 hits, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 25 stolen bases in a season. Justin Verlander posted 18 wins for the third time in four years.
The Tigers went into 2011 as a contender for the American League Central if things went right for them in the division. As shaky as things looked at the start, it turned into one of the franchise's most successful seasons in recent memory, ending just two games shy of the World Series. Miguel Cabrera began the year in the national spotlight with an arrest just before Spring Training but ended it with his first batting title, pacing the big leagues with a .344 average. Jose Valverde not only set a franchise record with 49 saves, he didn't blow a save opportunity all year, an efficiency not seen from somebody with that many saves since Eric Gagne in 2003. Victor Martinez, signed to a four-year contract over the winter to support Cabrera in the lineup, drove in 103 runs to go with a .330 average while mentoring young catcher Alex Avila to an All-Star season.
The biggest feats, however, fell to Justin Verlander in one of the best seasons from a Major League pitcher in a quarter-century. The stats tell plenty with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts for the first pitching Triple Crown by a Tiger since Hal Newhouser. But starting with his May 7 no-hitter at Toronto, an 11-pitch walk shy of a perfect game, Verlander went on a dominant summer run that included two nine-game winning streaks, a few more no-hit bids and simply overpowering, efficient pitching. By year's end, Verlander was not only the AL Cy Young Award winner, but an overwhelming pick as the first starter to win AL MVP honors since Roger Clemens in 1986.
Combine all the individual success, and the Tigers eventually took over a division thought to be contested by the established White Sox and upstart Indians. A 12-game winning streak in September, helped in no small part by Trade Deadline acquisition Doug Fister, sent Detroit running away with its first division title in 24 years. The Tigers upset the top-seeded Yankees in the AL Division Series, winning Game 5 in the Bronx, before falling in six games to the defending AL champion Rangers.
Another MVP, another batting champion, another Triple Crown winner, another AL Central title, another postseason run. The Tigers matched so many accomplishments from the previous season, then topped it with a berth in the World Series. It was a dramatic finish for a season that nearly looked lost in mid-September.
The Tigers spent much of the summer in second place and stood three games behind the White Sox with 15 games to play before finally taking over the division lead for good. Detroit won eight of 10 games to close out the regular season behind the hitting of Miguel Cabrera, who became baseball's first batting Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 AL Division Series. It took a complete-game shutout from Justin Verlander in a winner-take-all Game 5 to seal it, but it sent Detroit on a roll. The Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS to advance to their second World Series in seven years, but just as in 2006, a long rest between series left their bats rusty as the Giants swept them out of the Fall Classic.