RECORDS & AWARDS
BASEBALL'S ALL-TIME BEST
July 7, 2012Richmond High School
BASEBALL’S ALL-TIME BEST? 1968 DETROIT TIGERS…by Troy Derengowski, EIHSS Sports
The argument about who is the best in sports will continue until the end of time. Who is the best running back in the NFL? Who’s the best NBA team of all-time? Who is the best golfer ever? Starting today, we’ll take a look at the best all-time major league baseball teams. There are many candidates including the 1984 Detroit Tigers. How about the 1931 St. Louis Cardinals? Perhaps the 1970 Orioles, or the ‘75’ Reds? Today we’ll start with the 1968 Detroit Tigers.
1968 was the “Year of the Pitcher.” Denny McLain certainly proved to be the king of the hill. In McLain went 31-6 with an ERA of 1.96. He led the Tigers to their first world championship since 1945. The Tigers earned their first pennant in 23 seasons and dominated the American League beating second place Baltimore by 12 games. McLain won his 30th games on September 14th by beating Oakland 5-4 in Detroit. Before McLain won 30, the last time a pitcher won 30 games in a season was Dizzy Dean in 1934. Pitcher’s controlled the majors in 1968. Batting averages fell to .230 in the American League and .243 in the NL. There were 335 shutouts. McLain won the Cy Young Award and the MVP Award, striking out 280 batters in 336 innings. Next on the Tigers staff was Mickey Lolich who went 17-9 with a 3.19 ERA. Earl Wilson won 13 games.
The Tigers could also hit the ball. Catcher Bill Freehan hit 25 homeruns, Willie Horton smacked 36 HR’s, Norm Cash belted 25 HR’s and Jim Northrup had 21. The ‘68’ Tigers scored the most runs in the American League (671) and gave up the fewest (492). They led the AL in homeruns (185) and slugging (.385). They were tops in fielding (.983) and made the fewest errors (105).
Detroit clinched the pennant on September 17 in dramatic fashion when Doc Wertz hit a bases loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Detroit beat the Yankees 2-1. The 1968 World Series was billed as the showdown between McLain and Cardinals ace Bob Gibson. Gibson dominated the National League by going 22-9 with an ERA of 1.12 and 268 strikeouts. No one expected Mickey Lolich to be the star as he won games 2,5 and 7, all complete games victories. Gibson was spectacular in game one striking out 17 earning a 4-0 win over McLain. But Detroit won the series after trailing 3 games to 1, thanks to Lolich. Never again would major league teams reach the World Series without first surviving the playoffs. Both leagues expanded in 1969 to 12 teams, creating four division races and two championship series. This made Detroit special as they were the last of their kind, the last world champions to win the pennant during the regular season.
FINAL RECORD: 103-59 .636
BEAT ST. LOUIS 4-3 IN THE 1968 WORLD SERIES.
MANAGER: MAYO SMITH