The Five Greatest Shortstops in Detroit Tigers History

Alan Trammell, Harvey Kuenn, Billy Rogell, Carlos Guillen, and Donie Bush.

Alan Trammell, Harvey Kuenn, Billy Rogell, Carlos Guillen, and Donie Bush.

The shortstop position is one of the most crucial on the field. Detroit has had several players man shortstop for long stretches, but none of them have yet earned election to the Hall of Fame. But if you poll Tigers’ fans, they’ll tell you that our #1 man on this list deserves that honor.

#5. Billy Rogell (1930-1939)

The Tiger shortstop during the Depression Era, Rogell was an outspoken team leader who frequently delivered big hits. He was a slap hitter who was known for his clutch ability – he drove in 100 runs in 1934 even though he only had three homers. Rogell was considered one of the bestter defensive shortstops in the league during his prime. After he retired he gained even more fame in Detroit as a city councilman for decades.

#4. Carlos Guillen (2004-present)

When Detroit acquired Guillen from Seattle before the 2004 season, they knew they were getting a player who had some experience on winning teams. But they couldn’t have expected that Guillen would blossom into one of the best hitting shortstops in the game. The Venezuelan native never hit higher than .276 for the Mariners, but he hit .318, .320, and .320 in his first three seasons as a Tiger. In 2006 he was the key offensive player on the club, belting 41 doubles, 19 homers, driving in 85, scoring 100 runs, and stealing 20 bases. He proceeded to tear apart Yankee pitching in the first round of the playoffs, hitting .571 in the Tigers’ four-game win over the Bombers. The switch-hitting Guillen battled injuries during his time as a Tiger, which is the only reason he doesn’t rate higher on our list.

#3. Donie Bush (1908-1921)

Little Donie Bush (he was just 5’6 and 140 pounds) was the perfect leadoff man for the Ty Cobb-era Tigers. He got on base a ton (he led the league in walks five times), could bunt very well, was a switch-hitter, and he was quick (he swiped 406 bases in his career). Bush was a valuable team player who often stoled bases on the front end of double steals with Cobb or Sam Crawford. He was also a solid defensive player, covering a lot of ground at short.

#2. Harvey Kuenn (1952-1959)

Kuenn could just plain hit. Though he was never a great defensive player, his outstanding bat always earned him a spot in the lineup. He was Rookie of the Year in 1953 when he led the American League with 209 hits and batted .308 for the Tigers. It was one of 10 times he hit over .300, and his career mark was .303 in more than 1,800 games. He won the batting title in 1959 when he hit .353 and finished eighth in MVP voting. In the off-season he was traded to Cleveland in one of the biggest trades in baseball history, when he was dealt for home run champion Rocky Colavito. Kuenn earned MVP consideration in each of his first eight seasons in the big leagues.

#1. Alan Trammell (1977-1996)

Only Ty Cobb and Al Kaline played more seasons in a Tiger uniform than Trammell, a fan favorite who played 2,139 games at shortstop for Detroit. A skinny slap-hitter when he came up as a teenager, Trammell matured into a great hitter with line drive power. In 1987 he batted cleanup after the departure of Lance Parrish and had one the finest seasons by a shortstop ever – hitting .343 with 205 hits, 28 homers, 105 RBI, and 109 runs scored. It was one of seven times he hit .300, and one of seven times he earned MVP votes. When he retired in 1996, he was among franchise leaders in every offensive category and clearly the greatest Tiger shortstop of all-time. He was the MVP of the 1984 World Series when he hit .450 with nine hits, two homers, and six RBI in five games.