It all began for the Detroit Tigers on April 25, 1901 when they scored 10 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 14-13 in front of 10,023 fans at Bennett Park in Detroit. Since that day, the Detroit franchise has entered the hearts of countless Tiger fans across the nation. They have won four World Series titles and provided us with a plethora of great moments that can never be taken away.
Throughout the storied history of the Tigers, there have been some absolutely amazing regular season performances that have stood the test of time. Though it was difficult to narrow it down, and there are certainly more achievements that could have made the cut, here is a list of 10 Detroit Tigers single-season records that will never be broken.
.420 Batting Average – Ty Cobb (1911)
When it comes to hitting, there was nobody in the history of the game better than the great Ty Cobb. Not only does he have the best career batting average of all time (.366) but in 1911, Cobb put together one of the best hitting seasons in Major League Baseball History when he batted a whopping .420 over 146 games. During the 1911 season, Cobb led the league in hits, runs, doubles, triples, RBIs, stolen bases, slugging, OPS, and total bases. It was no surprise whatsoever when he was named Most Valuable Player when all was said and done. Let’s face it, folks, .420 is an average that will never be seen again in Major League Baseball.
26 Triples – Sam Crawford (1914)
In 1914, Tigers outfielder Sam Crawford set a team record that has already lasted for over 100 years, and in my opinion will be a very difficult record to break. With 26 three-baggers during that campaign, Crawford posted what is the ninth most single-season triples in Major League Baseball history. Over his career, he racked up a total of 249 triples which places him behind only Ty Cobb (286) in team history. Even at the spacious Comerica Park in Detroit, it is highly unlikely a Tigers’ player will ever pass Crawford’s 26 triples in a season, though Curtis Granderson made a run at the team record with 23 triples in 2007.
183* Runs Batted In – Hank Greenberg (1937)
‘Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg is without a doubt one of the greatest baseball players ever to wear the Old English ‘D’ in the Motor City. Greenberg had some amazing seasons with the Tigers and in 1937 he set a team-record that will likely stand forever when he drove in 183* runs. Not only does that number rank at top of the Detroit leaderboard but it ranks No. 3 all-time behind Hack Wilson (191 in 1930) and Lou Gehrig (184 in 1931). Also, keep in mind that Greenberg achieved that feat in only 154 games. Good luck reaching this one, future Tigers
96 Stolen Bases – Ty Cobb (1915)
Though this single-season record only ranks No. 26 on the MLB all-time list, 96 stolen bases by Ty Cobb in 1915 is a record that will last for a very long time moving forward. In his career, Cobb ranks No. 4 all-time with 892 swipes but totals like that are most likely a thing of the past as fewer and fewer players are racking up big stolen base numbers. In fact, the last time a player eclipsed 80 stolen bases in a single-season was in 1988 when the great Rickey Henderson stole 93. In order for Cobb’s record to fall, the game of baseball would really have to change.
1.64 Earned Run Average – Ed Summers (1908)
In 1908, Ed Summers put together one of the greatest single-season pitching performances in Detroit Tigers’ history, at least in terms of earned run average. In what was his rookie campaign, Summers went 24-12 with a 1.64 ERA for a team that ended up losing to the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. One of the best moments from that year came in late September when the Tigers played a double-header against the Philadelphia Athletics. On that day, Summers pitched two complete games (19 total innings pitched) as the Tigers won 7-2 and 1-0. To put things in perspective, during Justin Verlander’s dominant 24-5 2011 season, his ERA was a 2.40.
31 Wins – Denny McLain (1968)
In an era where five-man rotations are the norm, it is going to be just about impossible for a Tigers’ pitcher to eclipse the 31 wins that Denny McLain posted in 1968. During that season, McLain was 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA in 41 starts and took home both the American League Cy Young Award and was named American League Most Valuable Player. Considering most starters who stay healthy and do not miss a start get 34-35 in a season, McLain’s team-record 31 wins during the 1968 World Series title-winning season is one which will stand forever.
42 Complete Games – George Mullin (1904)
This single-season Detroit Tigers’ record is one of the biggest no-brainers when it comes being unbreakable. In 1904, George Mullin racked up 42 complete games in 44 starts for the Tigers. As we know, complete games in Major League Baseball have become pretty rare as the seasons have gone by. In fact, in 2017, there were just 59 complete games pitched in all of Major League Baseball and Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana tied for the league lead with five. Unless scientific evidence emerges proving that pitchers arms become stronger and last longer if they throw nine innings every 3-4 days, this is a record that will continue to stand the test of time.
9 Shutouts – Denny McLain (1969)
Similar to complete games, a shutout in baseball is becoming something of the past and Denny McLain’s nine in 1969 is a record that will be extremely difficult to break. After winning 31 games and throwing six shutouts in 1928, McLain followed that up with 24 wins, winning his second straight Cy Young Award. It’s pretty amazing to think that Justin Verlander has eight shutouts in his career and McLain had that many in one season!
308 Strikeouts – Mickey Lolich (1971)
Of the single-season records included on this list, Mickey Lolich’s 308 strikeouts in 1971 is the closest to Crawford’s triples record to being breakable. That being said, 308 punchouts is a number which has only been topped once (Pedro Martinez, 313 in 1999) and equaled twice (Randy Johnson, 1993 and Chris Sale, 2017) in the American League since 1978. During his 16-year MLB career, Lolich recorded 2,832 strikeouts which is No. 1 one in Detroit Tigers’ history.
45 Games Started – Mickey Lolich (1971)
One of the biggest reasons why Mickey Lolich was able to strike out 308 hitters in 1971 is because he started a Tigers’ single-season record 45 games. During that season, the lefty was 25-14 with 29 complete games as he finished second in the American League Cy Young voting behind Vida Blue. During his 13 years in the Motor City, Lolich started 459 games, which places him No. 1 on the Tigers’ all-time list. As mentioned earlier, this is the type of single-season record that is unbreakable because starting pitchers who stay healthy generally start 34-35 games at the most during the regular season.