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…
#13 Center Fielder Chet Lemon
There were some flashy guys on the 1980’s Detroit Tigers teams. There were some brash guys. There were some guys sports reporters didn’t like so much…there were even some guys the fans ended up not liking as much…and then there was Chet Lemon…who was a defensive wizard in Center, and let’s be honest Center in Old Tiger Stadium was no small piece of real estate, who quietly went about his job and was the very definition of role player. No that is not a slight against Chet, more of a commentary on how the ’84 team was built.
A lot of people forget about Lemon’s contributions to the team…on any other team he likely would have hit first or second…on a team stacked like the Tigers of the 1980’s were he was a bottom of the order guy who still had some pop in his bat and enough speed to give Manager Sparky Anderson options in the bottom third of his lineup. He was set to hit 7th in the final game of the 1984 World Series when right before game time Sparky moved him up to sixth…he responded by helping the team break through in the first inning. That is what Chet did…came though when the team needed him too along with playing great defense in center.
Since I was a kid, and since ESPN was not in my home till much later in my childhood I always wonder what kind of guy he really was. Was he really the quite guy who just did his job or did he have some flash…either way growing up in the 1980’s I never had to worry about defense in Center because Chet was out there day in and day out getting the job done.
1984 was probably his best year in Detroit. He hit .287 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and had 34 doubles. It would be the third and last time he was an All Star. I find it very curious that he never won a Gold Glove…when I think of great defense he is the second or third name that pops into my head.
He came to the Tigers in 1981 via a trade with the Chicago White Sox…The Tigers gave up Steve Kemp for him who had been an All Star Left Fielder but never amounted to much after the trade…he was out of baseball by 1986. Since Lemon would serve with the team through the 1990 season they got tremendous value out of that trade. That along with the solid drafting of talent in the 1970’s and early 1980’s is what made the teams of the 1980’s so much fun to watch…even though they really should have one at least one more World Series title.