The Detroit Tigers have been around for a very long time which means they have a very long list of great hitters. Today we will be taking a look at the top 10 greatest Tigers hitters of all-time. No. 1 on this list should not come as a surprise, but there is sure to be some disagreement when it comes to the other nine who made this list. Who do you think are the greatest hitters ever to wear the Old English ‘D’? Are we in lockstep?
10 – Alan Trammell
When it comes to talking about the all-time greatest Tigers hitters, Alan Trammell has to be on the list. During his 20 seasons of playing in Detroit, Trammell put up some outstanding offensive numbers and he was not too bad defensively, either. From 1977-1996, Trammell, who was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, hit .285 with 185 home runs 1,003 RBIs. His greatest season came in 1987 when he batted .343 with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs as he finished 2nd to George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League MVP voting.
9 – Lou Whitaker
There is no question about it, “Sweet Lou” Whitaker is one of the greatest second basemen ever to step on a field, though he has yet to receive his due of being inducted to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. I guess that is an argument for another day, but it is a fact. Whitaker, in 19 seasons with the Tigers, batted .276 with 244 home runs and 1,084 RBIs. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1978 and was selected to five All-Star teams. Lou’s best season in the Old English ‘D’ came in 1983 when he hit .320 with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs on his way to an 8th place finish in the MVP voting.
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8 – Norm Cash
‘Stormin’ Norman Cash originally came into Major League Baseball with the Chicago White Sox but that short stint is pretty much forgotten because of the 15 seasons he spent in the Motor City. During that time, Cash hit .272 with 373 home runs and 1,088 RBIs. His greatest individual season came in 1961 when he absolutely owned American League pitching as he batted .361 with 41 home runs and 132 RBIs. Cash easily could have won the MVP (he finished 4th) had it not been for a guy named Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs that season.
7 – Charlie Gehringer
Though he was not very large in stature, Charlie Gehringer could certainly hit a baseball with the best of them. In his 19 seasons with the Tigers, ‘The Mechanical Man’ hit .320 with 184 home runs and 1,427 RBIs. Charlie was selected to six All-Star teams but his greatest season at the plate came in 1937 when he batted a league-best .371 while hitting 14 home runs and 96 RBIs on his way to being named the American League Most Valuable Player. In 1935, the Tigers first World Championship season, Gehringer helped lead the attack as he hit .330 with 19 home runs and 108 RBIs.
6 – Al Kaline
It’s impossible to talk about the greatest Detroit hitters of all time without mentioning Mr. Tiger himself, Al Kaline. Kaline made his debut with the Tigers in 1953 when he was just 18 years old. Over the next 22 seasons, Al earned the respect and admiration of Tigers fans as he hit .297 with 399 home runs and 1,582 RBIs. He was selected to 15 All-Star teams, including 13-straight from 1955-1967. When looking through Kaline’s stats through the years, it is difficult to pick which season was his greatest because he was so consistent year in and year out.
5 – Harry Heilmann
When talking about the greatest Tigers of all-time, Harry Heilmann is one who often is overlooked. Though that seems impossible considering he has a career batting average of .342, Harry is usually not mentioned as being at the same level as guys like Kaline, Gehringer, Greenberg, etc. During his 15 years with the Tigers, Heilmann hit .342 with 164 home runs and 1,446 RBIs while posting an OPS of .927. Harry led the league in hitting on four occasions, including during the 1923 season when he batted a whopping .403. Heilmann’s greatest season at the plate came during that amazing season when he also hit 18 home runs and drove in 115 runs.
4 – Sam Crawford
Sam Crawford was a lefty who could hit a baseball and fly around the bases after doing so. In fact, Crawford is still the all-time leader in Major League Baseball with 309 career triples. Though he played during what is considered the dead-ball era, Sam hit .309 with 70 home runs and 1,262 RBIs during his 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers. His greatest season at the plate came in 1911 when he hit .378 with seven home runs and 115 RBIs. As far as triples go, Crawford, who was also known as ‘Wahoo Sam’, led the league on six occasions with a season-best 26 in 1914. There are certainly some hitters in Tigers history who put up more eye-popping numbers, but considering the era, Sam Crawford is deserving of being regarded as one of the best hitters in team history.
3 – Miguel Cabrera
Determining No. 2 and No. 3 on this list was no easy task as it came down to Miguel Cabrera and Hank Greenberg. When it came down to it, I decided to put Miggy at No. 3 and Hammerin’ Hank at No. 2. In 11 seasons with the Tigers (including the 38 games in 2018), Cabrera has a .318 batting average with 327 home runs and 1,112 RBIs while posting a .954 OPS. In his first six seasons in the Motor City, his average season was .327 with 37.8 home runs and 122.8 RBIs. Miggy’s greatest season in a Tigers uniform came in 2012 when he hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs as he won the American League Triple Crown and was named Most Valuable Player for the first of two consecutive seasons. When all is said and done, Miguel Cabrera will be yet another Detroit Tigers superstar to get into the Hall of Fame.
2 – Hank Greenberg
When it comes to baseball in Detroit, Hank Greenberg is a legend. In 12 seasons with the Tigers, Hammerin’ Hank hit .319 with 306 home runs and 1,200 RBIs to go along with whopping 1.028 OPS, which is the highest in team history. While wearing the Old English ‘D’, Greenberg won two Most Valuable Player awards (1935 and 1940) and was named to the American League All-Star team on four occasions. Hank’s most impressive season in Detroit came in 1937 when he hit .337 with 40 home runs and 184 RBIs. What is really amazing about his career numbers is that Greenberg missed nearly fours seasons because he was called to serve in the military during World War II. Had Greenberg been able to play a full career in Detroit, who knows what his numbers would look like.
1 – Ty Cobb
Was there really any doubt whatsoever that Ty Cobb would come in at No. 1 on this list? Of course not. Cobb is not only the greatest hitter in Detroit Tigers history but one of the top hitters the game has ever seen. His .366 career batting average is No. 1 all-time, comfortably ahead of Rogers Hornsby who hit .358 during his career. To highlight how amazing Cobb was as a hitter, you just have to look at what he did from 1907-1919. During those 13 seasons, Ty led the league in batting average an astounding 12 times. His greatest season came in 1911 when he hit .420 with 127 RBIs and 83 stolen bases on his way to a Most Valuable Player award. During that campaign, Cobb led the league in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, batting average, slugging, OPS, and total bases. Let’s face it, there will never be another Ty Cobb.