With three weeks left in the regular season, the Tigers roster is set for the stretch drive. It appears, barring a monumental collapse, that Detroit will win their third consecutive division title.
A few key players were added this season: reliever Jose Veras and shortstop Jose Iglesias. Both will be eligible for the postseason, but given the lead the team has, their play probably won’t tilt the division race in Detroit’s favor as it might in a close race. But there have been times when mid-to-late season additions were pivotal in helping the Tigers get to the postseason. How many do you remember?
1909: Jim Delahanty, second baseman
On August 13, the Tigers were tied with the A’s for first place in the eight-team American League. That’s when they traded second basemen with the cellar-dwelling Senators, sending the inimitable Germany Schaefer for Jim Delahanty. One of five brothers who played in the major leagues, Delahanty was a decent hitter in the middle of a good career. The move helped spark the team: the Tigs went 35-14 after the trade. Delahanty had 10 doubles and stole nine bases for Detroit as the team captured their third straight flag. In the World Series, Jim hit .346 with five doubles and four RBIs on the seven game loss to the Pirates.
1915: Big Bill James, starting pitcher
In a battle with the Red Sox for the pennant, the Tigers acquired James on August 18 from the St. Louis Browns. James was a big right-hander (g feet, 4 inches tall) who was born in Detroit. He went 7-3 as a member of the Tigers, adding a much-needed arm to an overstressed pitching staff. Despite his efforts, the Tigers finished second to Boston despite winning 100 games.
1934: General Crowder, starting pitcher
Crowder was a 35-year old veteran who had won 24 games for the Senators the previous season to help them to the pennant. He struggled for Washington in ’34, and on August 4 he was claimed by the Tigers off waivers. He got a new life in a Detroit uniform, winning five games down the stretch. He tossed three complete games, including a shutout of the Yankees. Detroit was 1/2 game ahead when Crowder was acquired and they proceeded, with hie assistance, to pull away to win their first pennant in 25 years. Manager Mickey Cochrane had Crowder open the World Series against the Cardinals, though the righty lost Game One.
1967: Eddie Mathews, third baseman
By the time Mathews became a Tiger for the last six weeks of the ’67 season, most people thought he was washed up. At 35, the famed slugger had struggled in his first season with Houston, but given a chance to hit in the cozier Tiger Stadium in the midst of a frantic pennant race, Mathews responded with a clutch performance. Five of his six home runs for the Tigers came in victories, and four of them gave the Tigers the lead or proved to be game-winners. The Tigers came up short in the final weekend in agonizing fashion, but Eddie had four RBIs in the four-game set.
1968: Don McMahon, relief pitcher
A crafty relief pitcher who had 12 seasons in the big leagues, including two appearances in the World Series, McMahon was acquired in August for his experience. He pitched well – 2.02 ERA in 20 games out of the pen – but he did get rocked in his two appearances in the Fall Classic.
1972: Duke Sims, catcher/outfielder
After he was selected off waivers from the Dodgers on August 4, Sims went 3-for-5 with the game-tying and game-winning RBIs in his first game as a member of the Bengals. With Detroit in a four-team race for the division in September, Sims hit .316 with 10 game-winning hits while filling in at catcher and right field. He impressed enough that he was in the Detroit lineup for all five of the playoff games.
1972: Woodie Fryman, starting pitcher
This was probably the cheapest late-season pickup ever for the Tigers. In early August, GM Jim Campbell snatched Fryman off waivers from the Phillies. The portly left-hander pitched wonderfully for Billy Martin’s club, going 10-3 with a 2.06 ERA and winning the division-clincher over Luis Tiant and the Red Sox on the next-to-the-last day of the season.
1987: Bill Madlock, third baseman/DH
“Mad Dog” infused the Tigers with some much-needed energy in ’87 as they battled the Blue Jays for the division title. He hit 14 home runs in little over a half-season with Detroit, driving in 50 runs in 87 games. His hard slide into second base during a game against the Jays in the final weekend helped the Tigers sweep their way to the postseason.
1987: Doyle Alexander, starting pitcher
Acquired from Atlanta on August 12 for prospect John Smoltz (yeah, I know that one hurt). Still, Alexander pitched brilliantly – going 9-0 in 11 starts with a 1.53 ERA. Without his contribution, there’s no way Detroit overtakes Toronto to win the AL East. It was the classic prospect for a short-term solution deal, and it burned Detroit in the long run (since Smoltz went on to his Hall of Fame career with the Braves), but they also did end up with baseball’s best record and advanced to the postseason.
2011: Doug Fister, starting pitcher
Like James, Fryman, and Alexander before him, Fister proved to be a gem in the rotation down the stretch. Acquired at the July trade deadline, the tall, lean right-hander went 8-1 in 10 starts with a glimmering 1.79 ERA. At the time he was acquired, Detroit held a slim 1 1/2 game edge over the Indians. He helped the Tigers pull away in September. I bet you don’t even remember who Detroit gave up to get him, and it doesn’t matter.
2011: Delmon Young, outfielder/DH
Sure, most Tiger fans hated Young, but in 2011 he was a booming bat in the Detroit lineup, and he continually provided big hits at opportune times in the regular season and the postseason. He drove in 32 runs in just 40 regular season games, and even though he could look foolish at times swinging at pitches in the dirt, he often flashed a quick bat late in close games. He hit three home runs in the ALDS victory over the Yankees, delivering two game-winning hits. He belted two more home runs in the ALCS loss to the Rangers.
2012: Omar Infante, second baseman
After coming over at the trade deadline in the same deal that netted pitcher Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins, Infante solidified the middle of the infield for the Tigers as they won their second straight division title. It was in the postseason where Infante really shined: he batted .353 with six runs scored in the five-game series victory over the Yankees in the first round. He was also one of the few Tiger batters to perform well in the World Series.
5 replies on “These were the best mid-season acquisitions in Tiger history“
Woodie Fryman was a lefthander not right handed. Sorry.
I think you forgot Ruper Jones in 1984.
Thanks, James. And I KNEW that! That’s what I get for working on this late at night.
Appreciate the correction.
Ruppert Jones was a great contributor to the ’84 Tigers, but he wasn’t a late or mid-season acquisition. He was signed as a free agent in April.
I appreciate these articles. Your mention of Fryman reminded me that I saw that game at the Corner in 72 when the Tigers clinched. I bought two tickets for me and my sister in the Spring and who knew that would be the clincher. We rode a bus over from Ann Arbor. As I recall it was Kaline’s single that drove in the game winner. Thanks again for these postings.
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