The Five Greatest Second Basemen in Detroit Tigers History

Lou Whitaker, Charlie Gehringer, Dick McAuliffe, Damion Easley, and Placido Polanco.

Lou Whitaker, Charlie Gehringer, Dick McAuliffe, Damion Easley, and Placido Polanco.

The Tigers have had the fortune to field several All-Stars at second base over the years, including one of the all-time greats at the position.

#5. Damion Easley (1996-2002)

Easley was an All-Star for Detroit in 1998, and he enjoyed his best years with the Tigers. For parts of seven seasons he manned second for the team, and though he was never known for his defense, he handled the duties admirably. His powerful bat was needed in the lineup, and he hit 20 or more homers three straight years, topping out at 27 in 1998 when he also drove in 100 runs. He’s the only second baseman in Tiger history to do that besides Charlie Gehringer. He hit 104 homers in a Detroit uniform.

#4. Placido Polanco (2005-2009)

His stay in Detroit was brief – too brief for most Tiger fans – but Placido Polanco became a fan favorite based on his contributions on the field. The sure-handed Polanco was the best defensive second baseman at the position for Detroit since Lou Whitaker, setting a record for most consecutive games without a miscue while covering much ground in the field. Polanco also provided a steady bat near the top of the lineup, batting .311 in his four and a half seasons in Motown which included the magical run to the World Series in 2006.

#3. Dick McAuliffe (1960-1973)

Also a shortstop, McAuliffe spent the second half of his career as the Tigers’ starting second baseman, serving in that role on the 1968 World Championship club. A pesky hitter, McAuliffe had power for a middle infielder, hitting 20 homers three times. Often a leadoff man, McAuliffe was adept at drawing walks and rarely grounded into double plays. He was a three-time All-Star and in ’68 he finished seventh in AL MVP voting when he led the league in runs scored.

#2. Lou Whitaker (1977-1995)

In 19 years in a Detroit uniform, “Sweet Lou” delighted fans with his consistent performance. A leadoff man for much of his career, Whitaker had a knack for getting on base and also packed surprising punch in his swing despite his small size. His 244 homers rank among the all-time leaders for second basemen, and he’s one of only four second sackers to collect 2,000 hits, hit 200 homers, and drive in 1,000 runs. With double play partner Alan Trammell, Whitaker was an All-Star in the middle of the diamond during one of the most successful eras in franchise history, earning a title in 1984. Hall of Fame voters didn’t give him much love, but Whitaker still rates among the best to play the position.

#1. Charlie Gehringer (1924-1942)

They said about Gehringer that you could wind him up during spring training and he’d go out and hit .320 and play brilliant defense around the bag. “The Mechanical Man” wasn’t robotic, he only seemed that way because of his remarkable consistency. Gehringer hit .323 at home and .318 on the road during his 19-year career which was spent entirely with Detroit. For his career he hit .319 in the first half and .321 in the second half, he hit .300 in every month and against six of the seven other teams in the American League (he hit .298 against Boston). Gehringer won the MVP award in 1937 when he led the loop with a .371 average and collected 209 hits, one of seven times he topped the 200-hit mark. He played on three Tiger pennant winners and won a title in 1935. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949. He’s not just the greatest second baseman in Tiger history, he’s one of the best to ever play the position.