The 10 Greatest Detroit Tigers Teams of All-Time

Don Drysdale
Don Drysdale June 2, 2018

There is no question that the Detroit Tigers have one of the most storied histories in all of Major League Baseball. Not only have they won four World Championships since their inaugural season in 1901 but they have also had some great teams that came up just short of raising a trophy. But have you ever sat down and thought about which Tigers team is the greatest of all-time? Well, we have you covered! Here is a countdown of the top 10 Detroit Tigers teams of all-time.

Related:  The Unheralded Hero of Detroit’s First Title

Let’s start by looking at a handful of teams that easily could have made the top 10.

Honorable Mention:

1950 Detroit Tigers (95-59, .617)

The 1950 team that finished in 2nd place in the American League was led by outfielder Vic Wertz (.308, 27 home runs, 123 RBIs) and starting pitcher Art Houtteman (19-12, 3.54 ERA)

1907 Detroit Tigers (92-58, .613)

In 1907, the Tigers won the American League and advanced to the World Series for the first time in team history, only to be swept by the Chicago Cubs. They were led by the greatest player ever to play for the Tigers, Ty Cobb (.350, 5 home runs, 119 RBIs) and starting pitcher Ed Killian (25-13, 1.78 ERA)

1908 Detroit Tigers (90-63, .588)

Just as they did a year before, the 1908 Tigers went all the way to the World Series but came up short. The team was led by Ty Cobb (.324, 4 home runs, 108 RBIs) and starting pitcher Ed Summers (24-12, 1.64 ERA)

2013 Detroit Tigers (93-69, .574)

In 2013, the Tigers took care of business in the A.L. Central before eventually falling to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. They were led by Miguel Cabrera (.348, 44 home runs, 137 RBIs) and Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA)

1945 Detroit Tigers (88-65, .575)

Despite winning the World Series, the 1945 Tigers fell just short of making the top 10. They were led by Roy Cullenbine (.277, 18 home runs, 93 RBIs) and starting pitcher Hal Newhouser (25-9, 1.81 ERA) *Note: Hank Greenberg only played in 78 games for the Tigers in 1945 after returning after four years of serving in the military. In those 78 games, he hit .311 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs). Had Greenberg been around for the entire season, this team would have made the cut.

10 – 2006 (95-67, .586) American League Champions

As you will see as you go through this list, the 2006 Tigers is the most recent team to make the cut. Led by starters Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Jeremy Bonderman, along with Joel Zumaya out of the bullpen, the Tigers pitching staff ranked No. 1 in Major League Baseball with a 3.84 ERA. Despite the stellar pitching and 822 runs scored by the offense (No. 8 in MLB), Detroit was unable to win the American League Central, finishing a single game behind the Minnesota Twins.

In the playoffs, the Tigers were faced with the monumental task of squaring off against the New York Yankees and their amazing lineup. In 2006, the Bronx Bombers put up 930 runs which were the most in MLB by a rather wide margin and they were a favorite to win the World Series. After losing the first game 8-4 in Yankee Stadium, the Tigers stormed back, winning the next three games to take the ALDS 3-1, stunning the Yankees and their fans.

After using a Magglio Ordonez walk-off home run in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, the Tigers swept the Oakland Athletics, giving them a shot at their first World Series title since 1984. Unfortunately, Detroit was unable to complete the deal as they fell 4 games to 1 to the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite losing in the World Series, the 2006 team was one of the greatest in Detroit Tigers history.

Top Pitchers: Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA), Kenny Rogers (17-8, 3.84 ERA), Joel Zumaya (1.84 ERA).

Top Hitters: Magglio Ordonez (.298, 24 home runs, 104 RBIs), Carlos Guillen (.320, 19 home runs, 85 RBIs), Ivan Rodriguez (.300, 13 home runs, 69 RBIs)

9 – 1946 (92-62-1, .587) 2nd Place in American League

In 1945, after going 88-65 in the regular season, the Tigers managed to find a way to win their second World Series in team history. But after reviewing the data, it was the 1946 team that was probably the better of the two, despite not making the playoffs.

Led by Hank Greenberg (.277, 44 home runs, 127 RBIs) and Hal Newhouser (26-9, 1.94 ERA), the 1946 Tigers won 92 games but still ended up 12 games behind the Boston Red Sox (104-50) in the American League. After going a respectable 42-32 in the first half of the season, Detroit really turned it on in the second half, going 50-30 but it was nowhere near enough to catch the Sox.

As a team, the Tigers scored 704 runs (No. 3 in MLB) while posting a 3.22 ERA (No. 6 in MLB).

Top Pitchers: Hal Newhouser (26-9, 1.94 ERA), Dizzy Trout (17-13, 2.34)

Top Hitters: Hank Greenberg (.277, 44 home runs, 127 RBIs), Roy Cullenbine (.335, 15 home runs, 56 RBIs), George Kell (.327, 4 home runs, 41 RBIs)

8 – 1987 (98-64, .590) Lost in ALCS

After a disappointing 11-17 start to the season, the 1987 Tigers figured things out on way to a 98 win campaign which was good enough to win the American League East by two games over the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the American League Championship Series, the Tigers were a heavy favorite over the Minnesota Twins who emerged at top of a weak A.L. West by going 85-77. During the regular season, Detroit won 8 of the 12 matchups against Minnesota and most thought the playoffs would end no differently. But Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, and company were on a mission as and that mission started by shocking the Tigers in the ALCS 4 games to 1.

Though losing to the Twins was a huge disappointment, the 1987 squad was solid from top to bottom and should be considered one of the best teams in Detroit Tigers history. Not only did they lead Major League Baseball with 896 runs scored, but they could pitch too, posting a team ERA of 4.02 which was good for No. 3 in the Amercian League.

Top Pitchers: Jack Morris (18-11, 3.38 ERA), Frank Tanana (15-10, 3.91 ERA), and Doyle Alexander (9-0, 1.53 ERA in 11 games)

Top Hitters: Alan Trammell (.343, 28 home runs, 105 RBIs), Matt Nokes (.289, 32 home runs, 87 RBIs), and Kirk Gibson (.277, 24 home runs, 79 RBIs)

7 – 1961 (101-61, .623) 2nd Place in American League

When it comes to Major League Baseball, 100 wins in a regular season is quite an accomplishment for a team. The century mark also happens to be a number that will get a team into the postseason more often than not. Unfortunately, despite winning 101 games in 1961, the Detroit Tigers only finished in 2nd place in the American League, behind the New York Yankees, back when the top team from each league qualified for the World Series.

The 1961 squad led MLB with 841 runs scored behind outstanding performances at the plate by Norm Cash, and Rocky Colavito. The duo combined for 86 home runs and 272 RBIs, numbers that rivaled Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris for the Bronx Bombers who combined for 115 home runs and 269 RBIs.

As a team, the 1961 Tigers also pitched well, as they were No. 3 in Major League baseball with a team ERA of 3.55 behind only the Baltimore Orioles (3.22) and Yankees (3.46).

Top Pitchers: Frank Lary (23-9, 3.24 ERA), Jim Bunning (17-11, 3.19 ERA), and Don Mossi (15-7, 2.96 ERA)

Top Hitters: Norm Cash (.361, 41 home runs, 132 RBIs), Rockey Colavito (.290, 45 home runs, 140 RBIs), and Al Kaline (.324, 19 home runs, 82 RBIs)

6 – 1915 (100-54, .649) 2nd Place in American League

With a 100-54 regular season record, the 1915 Detroit Tigers had the 2nd best winning percentage in team history yet the came up short of qualifying for the World Series as they finished 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League.

During an era dominated by pitching (15 teams had a team ERA under 3.00), the 1915 Tigers managed to score 778 runs despite hitting only 23 home runs as a team. They were led by Hall of Famer Ty Cobb who batted .369, 27 points higher than Benny Kauff of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

When it came to pitching, the Tigers did not fare as well as they did in the hitting department but they were solid nonetheless, posting a 2.86 ERA.

Top Pitchers: Harry Coveleski (22-13, 2.45 ERA), and Hooks Dauss (24-13, 2.50 ERA)

Top Hitters: Ty Cobb (.369, 3 home runs, 99 RBIs), Bobby Veach (.313, 3 home runs, 112 RBIs), and Sam Crawford (.299, 4 home runs, 112 RBIs)

5 – 1909 (98-54, .645) Lost in World Series

1909 marked the third consecutive year that the Detroit Tigers won the American League, and advanced to the World Series. Unfortunately, it was also the third straight year the Tigers would come up short of winning it all as they lost to the Pirates 4 games to 3.

Detroit’s offense was led by the great Ty Cobb who was No. 1 in the league with a .377 batting average, 30 points higher than Eddie Collins of the Philadelphia Athletics. Cobb also led the league in hits, RBI, home runs, runs, and stolen bases during the 1909 campaign. The pitching staff was led by George Mullin, who dominated baseball with a 29-8 record.

As a team, the Tigers scored 666 runs, good enough for No. 2 in the league behind the Pirates who led the way with 701. When it came pitching, the Detroit staff was one to be reckoned with as they posted a 2.56 ERA (No. 5 in the league).

Top Pitchers: George Mullin (29-8, 2.22 ERA), Ed Willett (21-10, 2.34 ERA), and Ed Summers (19-9, 2.24 ERA)

Top Hitters: Ty Cobb (.377, 9 home runs, 107 RBIs), and Sam Crawford (.314, 6 home runs, 97 RBIs)

4 – 1934 (101-53, .656) Lost in World Series

In 1934, the Detroit Tigers had a legitimate shot at winning their first World Series title as they dominated the American League with a 101-53 record. After all, the .656 winning percentage was the highest in team history and the Tigers certainly had the talent to win it all, but the St. Louis Cardinals had other plans. After taking a 3-2 lead in the series, the Bengals were just one win away from hoisting the trophy but the Cardinals took the final two games in Detroit to end it.  It marked the fourth World Series loss for the Tigers in as many attempts.

The ’34 squad was led by an offense that scored a whopping 958 runs despite having just 74 home runs as a team. Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg, in his second season, was tremendous at the plate as he batted .339 with 26 home runs and 139 runs batted in. The Tigers also had two pitchers rack up over 20 wins as both Schoolboy Rowe (24-8) and Tommy Bridges (22-11) accomplished the feat.

Losing to the Cardinals in the World Series very well could have been what prepared the Tigers for the 1935 season when they would get revenge.

Top Pitchers: Schoolboy Rowe (24-8, 3.45 ERA) and Tommy Bridges (22-11, 3.67)

Top Hitters: Hank Greenberg (.339, 26 home runs, 139 RBIs), Charlie Gehringer (.356, 11 home runs, 127 RBIs), and Goose Goslin (.305, 13 home runs, 100 RBIs)

3 – 1968 (103-59, .636) World Series Champions

Trying to determine the top three for this list was very difficult as each of the three teams can certainly be argued the best in Tigers history. Coming in at No. 3 is the 1968 Detroit Tigers who won 103 games on their way to a World Series title.

Starter Denny McLain stole the show in the American League in ’68 as he went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA as he was named by the A.L. Cy Young Award winner and A.L. Most Valuable Player. By his side was Mickey Lolich, who won 17 games during the regular season but really stepped up in the World Series as he posted three complete-game victories over the Cardinals, including outdueling the great Bob Gibson in Game 7.

When it came to hitting, the Tigers more than held their own as they scored 671 runs (No. 2 in MLB) in what was known as “the year of the pitcher” in Major League Baseball. Leading the way offensively was Willie Horton who hit .285 with 36 home runs and 85 runs batted in.

Top Pitchers: Denny McLain (31-6, 1.96 ERA), Mickey Lolich (17-9, 3.19 ERA)

Top Hitters: Willie Horton (.285, 36 home runs, 85 RBIs), Jim Northrop (.264, 21 home runs, 90 RBIs), and Bill Freehan (.263, 25 home runs, 84 RBIs)

2 – 1935 (93-58, .616) World Series Champions

Coming in at No. 2 on the list happens to be the first World Series winning team in Detroit Tigers history. Not only is that team remembered because of the championship they brought to the city of Detroit but because of the plethora of talent they had. That talent was led by Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Mickey Cochrane, and Goose Goslin, all who would eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The ’35 team led all of baseball with 919 runs scored and came in at No. 6 in Major League Baseball with a team ERA of 3.82.

When it came to the World Series, the fifth appearance in team history, it seemed like the baseball gods did not want the Tigers to win as they dropped the first game 3-0 to the Chicago Cubs. In Game 2, the Tigers stormed back with an 8-3 win at Navin Field in Detroit but they lost their best player, Hank Greenberg for the rest of the World Series when he broke his wrist. With Hammerin’ Hank unable to help the cause, the Tigers rallied as a team to win Games 3 and 4 in Chicago to take a 3-1 lead into Game 5. After the Cubs were able to take Game 5 by a score of 3-1, it was back to Navin Field for what ended up being the deciding game of the series. In front of 48,440 fans, the Tigers used a Goose Goslin walk-off single to win Game 6 by a score of 4-3, securing their first World Series Championship.

Top Pitchers: Tommy Bridges (21-10, 3.51 ERA) and Schoolboy Rowe (19-13, 3.69 ERA)

Top Hitters: Hank Greenberg (.328, 36 home runs, 170 RBIs), Charlie Gehringer (.330, 19 home runs, 108 RBIs), Mickey Cochrane (.319, 5 home runs, 47 RBIs), Goose Goslin (.292, 9 home runs, 109 RBIs), and Pete Fox (.321, 15 home runs, 73 RBIs)

1 – 1984 (104-58, .642) World Series Champions

And then there was one.

Rounding out the list of the greatest teams in Detroit Tigers history is the 1984 squad that won 104 games and eventually a World Series title. After winning 35 of 40 games to start the season, the Tigers never looked back as they won the American League East by 15 games over the Toronto Blue Jays. In the World Series, Detroit easily disposed of the San Diego Padres in five games. In the series-clinching Game 5, Kirk Gibson blasted a 3-run home run off Padres reliever Goose Gossage in the bottom of the eighth inning, sealing the deal.

The ’84 team was solid in all aspects of the game. When it came to hitting, they led the league in runs scored with 829. The lineup was solid from top to bottom with Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon, and Lance Parrish leading the way. As far as pitching goes, the Tigers led the American League with a 3.49 team ERA and a 1.26 WHIP behind the arms of  Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and American League MVP, Willie Hernandez. There was certainly no lack of talent on the 1984 team and they went into every game with a solid chance of walking away with a victory.

Top Pitchers: Jack Morris (19-11, 3.60 ERA), Dan Petry (18-8, 3.24 ERA), Milt Wilcox (17-8, 4.00 ERA), Willie Hernandez (32 Saves, 1.92 ERA)

Top Hitters: Alan Trammell (.314, 14 home runs, 69 RBIs), Lou Whitaker (.289, 13 home runs, 56 RBIs), Chet Lemon (.287, 20 home runs, 76 RBIs), Kirk Gibson (.282, 27 home runs, 91 RBIs), Lance Parrish (.237, 33 home runs, 98 RBIs)

*All statistics used in this piece were courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Reference

 

2 Comments on “The 10 Greatest Detroit Tigers Teams of All-Time”

  1. I am glad to see the 1961 Tigers were not overlooked. Many fans have forgotten how they gave the New York Yankees a run for their money until Labor Day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shop for Authentic Autographed Lions Collectibles at SportsMemorabilia.com