Once again spring training is heating up, and Opening Day approaches. It won’t be long before the “voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
But let’s be honest, Tiger fans: the upcoming season might be rough. While it could be enjoyable to see some new young faces wearing the Old English D in 2020, the team is not a favorite to make the playoffs. The losses could pile up again.
Fear not, there are many ways to enjoy the baseball season, including through a great book. Here are my five picks to start an essential reading list for fans of the Tigers. Grab one (or two) before opening day and dig in for great baseball stories.
The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych
by Doug Wilson
GREAT FOR: Every Tiger fan, but especially those who cut their teeth on the wild and crazy 1970s.
If there’s one book you should read this year about the Tigers it’s Wilson’s masterpiece about arguably the most popular athlete in Detroit sports history. Others were greater, others stuck around far longer, but no one else was as beloved by such crazed fans in Motown.
For one summer, in 1976, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych captivated the entire baseball world with his superb pitching and unbelievable antics on the mound. Baseball had never seen anything like it: his gyrations, his chatter, his playful demeanor. The Bird was a rock star in cleats.
Wilson has meticulously captured what it was like when Fidrych burst on the scene on his way to a Monday Night Baseball dominance of the mighty Yankees, the All-Star Game start, and complete game gens in front of 50,000-plus screaming fans. In my opinion this is the best book ever written about Tiger baseball.
If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Tigers
by Mario Impemba
GREAT FOR: Current fans who remember the most recent era of success and want an inside look at the team’s stars and great games from the 21st century.
The “If These Walls Could Talk” series is a fun look inside a team, from the perspective of a personality with access. In this case, longtime broadcaster Mario Impemba turned his attention to the Tigers great teams of the early part of the twentieth century. Great stories and anecdotes about people like Alan Trammell, Miguel Cabrera, Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, brandon Inge, Victor Martinez, and more. Includes great photos of all the most recent Tiger stars.
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty
by Charles Leerhsen
GREAT FOR: Baseball history fans and people who love to learn about Detroit and legendary figures.
If you still think Ty Cobb was a miserable SOB, you need to read this book, a wonderful piece of work by Leerhsen. You’ll learn the complexities that made Ty Cobb one of the most feared and respected men in the game for more than two decades. You’ll also have a few myths shattered. Very well researched, this is the best book on Cobb since Richard Bak’s work on The Georgia Peach.
Sock It To ‘Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers
by Mark Pattison and David Raglin
GREAT FOR: The fans who came of age in the Summer of ’68.
The 1984 team might have been better (maybe). But there’s never been a season like 1968, which helped heal a city on the brink. This book features profiles of every player on the ’68 team, the manager, coaches, and key executives. Each chapter reveals something about a part of that great time in Detroit history, from the days of summer to an exciting World Series comeback.
The Glory Years of the Detroit Tigers: 1920-1950
by William M. Anderson
GREAT FOR: Fans who want go back a ways.
Imagine a time when you could take a trolley to Navin Field in downtown Detroit and get into the ballpark for less than a dollar. Imagine seeing the tail end of Ty Cobb’s career, the emergence of The G-Men, the first World Championship, and the tremendous career of the Hebrew Hammer, Hank Greenberg. That was the joy of being a Detroit sports fan in the three decades between the early 1920s and the post-World War II years. The team was finding a way to build a winner, fielding countless batting champions, and establishing tradition. As the Second World War came to a conclusion, the Tigers enjoyed a rousing season culminating in a thrilling Fall Classic triumph.
Anderson’s book brilliantly details Cobb’s tumultuous reign as team manager, the City of Champions of the 1930s, and War-era success at The Corner. It’s strength are the fantastic photos, many of them unavailable anywhere else.