The Night Fred Lynn Demolished the Tigers

Fred Lynn Boston Red Sox

Fred Lynn smashed three homers against the Tigers in a June game in 1975.

Several visiting players to Detroit have hit three home runs in a game, including Ted Williams and George Brett. Others have enjoyed games in which they knocked in six or seven runs. But no visitor has ever been as devastatingly rude to his host as Boston rookie Fred Lynn was on June 18, 1975.

The Tigers were two months into one of their worst seasons ever. The club would finish last for the second straight year, losing 102 games, including a club-record 19 in a row. Unbeknownst to the 13,029 diehards that came out to Tiger Stadium on a muggy Wednesday night, they were sitting in on history.

In the opening inning, the left-handed batting Lynn drilled a three-run homer off Joe Coleman. The next inning, the 23-year-old center fielder cranked another home run off the Detroit starter, this time a two-run shot that bounced off the roof in right. The score had grown to 8-1 against Lerrin LaGrow in the third inning when Lynn tripled over Danny Meyer’s head in left, sending two more Bosox scurrying home.

Lynn slowed to a single and an out in his next two at-bats. But with two on in the ninth, he hammered a Tom Walker pitch into the upper deck in right. The made the final score 15-1, with Lynn personally accounting for 10 runs with a single, triple, and three home runs. One more RBI and he would have matched the American League single-game mark of 11, set by New York’s Tony Lazzeri in 1936. Two more and he would have tied the big-league record of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Jim Bottomley, who knocked in a dozen in 1924. (Bottomley’s record would be matched in 1993 by another Cardinal, Mark Whiten.) As it was, Lynn’s 16 total bases tied an American League record first set in 1925 by another center fielder – Tiger legend Ty Cobb.

Lynn led the Red Sox into the World Series in 1975, earning Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year laurels. He was acquired 13 years later by Detroit, but by then he was only a shadow of the hitter who had once single-handedly dismantled the Tigers on a midweek evening in June of ’75.

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