Prepare 4 October in Cooperstown: Detroit Tigers
While the heartbeat of baseball can be found in Cooperstown throughout the year, there’s no better time to reconnect with the National Pastime than when legends are being made. As the postseason approaches, fans all over the country can connect with the Hall of Fame to get in the fall spirit.
The Tigers’ 2011 resurgence has brought the team’s legends of yesteryear – like Cobb, Greenberg and Kaline – together with the stars of today like Cabrera and Verlander. Tiger fans might not be able to make it to Oakland this weekend to see their team continue its march toward the division crown, but Cooperstown offers a chance to follow along from afar while celebrating the team’s legacy in person.
And there is plenty to see for Bengal Believers at the Hall of Fame. To date, 25 Hall of Famers have worn Detroit’s Old English D, including 10 who entered the Hall of Fame sporting that signature D on their plaques.
While he’s preceded in history by Hall of Fame exec Ed Barrow and teammate Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb was the first Tiger elected to the Hall of Fame – having been a part of the inaugural class of 1936. Cobb, who led the Tigers to pennants in 1907, 1908 and 1909, won an MVP Award in 1911 (at the time a player could only win one during his career) with an other-worldly batting average of .420. He’s well represented in the Hall of Fame both in the Museum’s Baseball Timeline and in the newest exhibit One for the Books. Artifacts like the 1909 and 1911 Honeyboy Evans trophies, awarded to the all-time career batting leader for batting titles in those seasons, as well as sliding pads worn by the former all-time leader in stolen bases, are on exhibit in Cooperstown. Other artifacts from Cobb in the two exhibits include bats used during a career in which he won 11 batting titles; spikes worn during his career; and even a glove used by the stellar-fielding star, who holds the major league record for most games played in the outfield with 2,934.
The Tigers’ 1930s and 40s dynasty has a section devoted to it in the Timeline, marking the achievements of Hall of Famers like Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Hal Newhouser. From 1934 to 1945, this core group took Detroit to the World Series four times, winning in 1935 and 1945. The ’36 team holds the franchise record by fielding a lineup of four future Hall of Fame players and player/manager Cochrane. Found within the exhibit about these Motown Mashers are Cochrane’s catcher’s mitt; Gehringer’s bronzed second baseman glove; a home run ball from Greenberg’s 1940 league-leading campaign; a cap and jersey worn by Newhouser; and a number of awards, trophies and trinkets given to the group.
Between Fall Classic appearances in 1945 and 1968, notable Hall of Famers like third baseman and batting wizard George Kell, future senator and ace pitcher Jim Bunning and Mr. Tiger himself – Al Kaline – joined the team. Representing this trio in the Timeline are a pair of silver bats awarded to Kell for batting titles in 1943 (in the Interstate League) and 1949; Bunning’s spikes from his first career no-hitter – thrown at Fenway on July 20, 1958; and a uniform from Kaline who helped lead the Tigers back to the Fall Classic in 1968 when they topped the Cardinals to become World Champions. This group is also represented in One for the Books by Kaline’s 3,000th hit bat and the glove worn by 1968 and 1969 Cy Young Award winner, Denny McLain, who in 1968 became the first big leaguer to win 30 games in a season since 1934.
After Kaline retired, the torch passed to veteran manager Sparky Anderson, who after having won two World Series titles with the Cincinnati Reds, helmed a 1980s Tigers team poised to make some noise. In 1984, they won the World Series – and reached the ALCS again in 1987. Those teams have a spot in Cooperstown with Kirk Gibson’s 1987 batting helmet, Lou Whitaker’s 1984 championship jersey, Alan Trammel’s 1983 Gold Glove jersey, and Jack Morris 1984 no-hitter cap appearing in the Timeline alongside a 1984 Series cap from Sparky.
Recent Detroit squads have plenty of artifacts at the Hall of Fame, celebrating their success. Since winning the AL pennant in 2006, the Tigers have generously donated items found in Today’s Game such as: Bats from 2006 ALCS MVP Placido Polanco and ALCS Game Four walk-off home run slugger Magglio Ordonez, (in ¡Viva Baseball!); a jersey from Curtis Granderson, who joined Willie Mays and Frank Schulte as the only players with at least 20 doubles, triples, home runs and steals in a single season in 2007.
Other items within the Hall’s walls include a piece of the Tiger Stadium outfield wall (in Sacred Ground); and in Today’s Game the cap worn by Brian Moehler on April 11, 2000, when he became the first pitcher to start a game at Comerica Park; and the spikes from Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game on June 2, 2010, while first base from the game resides in One for the Books.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.