When Jim Leyland wrote Delmon Young’s name on his lineup card on Monday night it made history. Not because Young faced the team he was traded from in his first game as a Tiger, but because his debut at Comerica Park was a family affair.
The, um…younger Young joined his older brother Dmitri in wearing the Olde English D. Thus they became just the third pair of brothers to play for the Detroit Tigers in the 111 years of the franchise.
Dmitri, known as “Da Meat Hook” to fans and teammates, spent five seasons in Detroit, playing his final season in Leyland’s first as Tiger skiupper in 2006. Dmitri was an All-Star in 2003, when the Tigers played more like pussycats, losing an American League record 119 games.
Delmon is 12 years Dmitri’s junior, but he inhereited big brother’s talent with the lumber. He carries a .289 career average into his stint with the Tigers, just a few points off the mark of Dmitri during his career. Last season, Delmon had 46 doubles, 21 homers, and 112 RBI for the Minnesota Twins. Young was expendable to the Twins, who have young outfielders waiting in the wings to take Delmon’s spot.
Prior to the Young’s, there have been two other sets of siblings to each don a Tiger uniform. In 1912, Jack and Eddie Onslow both made their big league debuts playing with Ty Cobb and the Tigers. Jack was a catcher and Eddie was a first baseman. Neither of them started, getting into 36 games each that year, their only season with Detroit. Jack was better known as a longtime minor league manager and scout of great accliam, and in 1948 he became one of the oldest rookie managers, when he was hired to lead the White Sox at the age of 60 late in the season. Younger brother Eddie could never hit big league pitching, but he was a star in the minor leagues. In 19 years in the minors, Eddie collected more than 2,700 hits in more than 2,300 games. He was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame.
The most succesful of the Tiger brothers was Gee and Hub Walker, outfielders who played during the Great Depression era. Gee was a very fast runner who partrolled the outfield for the Tigers from 1931-1937, batting .317 with 132 stolen bases. He had his best season in 1936, when he hit .353 with 55 doubles, 12 homers, 93 RBI, and 105 runs scored. He was part of the Tigers first World Series championship team in 1935.
Younger brother Harvey “Hub” Walker played for the Tigers three different times: in 1931, 1935, and again in 1945 at the age of 38 when many of the younger players were serving in World War II. Hub hit .263 in nearly 300 major league games. Gee made his major league debut with the Tigers on April 14, 1931, while Hub made his debut the next day on April 15. The pair were teammates in the minor leagues as well as in 1931 and 1935 with the Tigers. They frequently played alongside each other in the outfield for manager Mickey Cochrane in those two seasons. Though Hub was pon the roster for the ’35 Series he did not play in that Fall Classic. However, in 1945 he appeared for the Tigers in the Series against the Cubs, the second World Series title for the franchise.
Gee and Hub had a younger brother, Leo, who was also a ballplayer. He made it to the minor leagues but before he could get a chance to join them in the bigs, he was killed during a training flight just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Other Tigers have had brothers who played in the majors, but not for Detroit. Hall of Fame Tiger outfielder Heinie Manush had his brother Frank (who wasn’t nearly as good). More recently there were Jeff Weaver, older brother of Jered, who stars for the Angels. In 1989, Ramon Pena pitched in 12 games for the Tigers. He was the younger brother of longtime catcher Tony Pena, who starred for the Pirates and other clubs. Detroit outfielder Mel Nieves, who was a top prospect in the 1990s, is the older brother of Wil Nieves, a catcher currently playing for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Right-hander Joe Niekro pitched for the Tigers in the 1970s, but was overshadowed by his Hall of Fame sibling Phil Niekro, who won more than 300 games. Likewise, Jim Perry was outshined by brother Gaylord Perry, who went on to earn Hall of Fame honors.
Light-hitting Tiger shortstop Eddie Brinkman had a brother who played in the majors: Chuck. Tiger lefty Pat Underwood squared off in a pitching matchup against his sibling Tom of the Blue Jays in the late 1970s. Infielder Gary Sutherland was the baby brother of Darrell, who pitched for the Mets and Indians in the 1960s.
Time will tell if Delmon can add new chapters in the history of Tiger siblings in 2011 or beyond.