I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. That means I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title, and waiting for them to win another. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a fan…at eight years old…This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers’ players have…I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly…and no neither one of those players will make my list…With all of that being said…
#21 Catcher/Outfielder/First Baseman Mickey Tettleton
By the time the Detroit Tigers acquired Mickey Tettleton the bottom of the great 1980’s teams had begun to fall out. The core of players was aging, the starting pitching had been ineffective and not much was done to fix that, and the front office was in turmoil. Still what remained of the 1984 championship team along with the free agent additions of Cecil Fielder, Tettleton, and Tony Phillps, managed with skill by Sparky Anderson…were still able to contend. Maybe not contended for deep playoff runs even though they were in the hunt in 1993 till very late in the season. Looking at it like that Tettleton was a free agent stop gap. A good player that could help the team contend so it could be sold. Maybe that is a little bit cynical…but I covered sports for a long time and I am not sure winning was the number one priority from 1988 to around the hiring of Dave Dombrowski.
I remember seeing Tettleton bat that spring training and I was like who is this dude with the funky batting stance…I had grown away from baseball by that point due in no small part to the emergence of Barry Sanders, the Detroit Lions, and football…It was Mickey who got me excited for baseball again. I liked the way this guy went about his job. Much like Tom Brookens before him Mickey would play wherever Sparky felt he needed him. He was a good catcher, a pretty good first baseman, and I saw him play in the outfield live on more than one occasion. I was still attending at least one game a season then (a goal I now share with my son), and liked what I saw from what I saw as the new core of the team. Granted this core was not home grown like the 1984 squad had been but even then I think I knew we were in a different era of baseball. I didn’t know at the time the very sad state of the Tigers’ minor league system. Free agency is something to get use to as a die hard fan. This system had cost the Tigers Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, but by the 1990’s it was adding talent to the team.
That didn’t matter to me then because I was just a fan, I had not become a sports writer and as long as the team could attract decent free agents…not named Rob Deer…It seemed like they could go on winning forever. Tettleton, Fielder, Phillips were the first wave of those free agents. Of those Tettleton was always my personal favorite.
He did hit more than 30 home runs in three straight seasons here. He won two Silver Slugger awards, and in his final season in Detroit he was an All Star. I think he main drawback was the amount of times he struck out. This was before everyone knew the name of the Hitting Coach…but had this been in the time of the Internet hotness I am more than sure all of us Tigers fans would have been calling for his head each and every day.
I suppose I had come to embrace this second incarnation of my baseball team. The team’s of the 1980’s had been so good, so much fun to watch, so full of names I had come to know that it was hard to embrace the new guys. Fielder hit a ton of home runs and who doesn’t love that but it was guys like Tettleton that seemed like the next great thing in Detroit baseball.