These Tigers Played College Baseball in Michigan

Top row: Bill Freehan (Michigan), Kirk Gibson (Michigan State); Bottom row: Pat Sheridan (Eastern Michigan), Rick Leach (Michigan), and Tom Tresh (Central Michigan).

Michigan colleges and universities have had many baseball players who went on to join the major league ranks.

A number of them suited up for the Detroit Tigers.

Here is a look at some. This is not an exhaustive list, but contains several notable names, sprinkled with a few that might jog your memory.

From the University of Michigan Wolverines:

Steve Boros, 3B: After a couple of seasons with the Wolverines, Boros inked a contract with the Tigers in 1957. The bonus baby had a solid rookie year in 1961, but was traded to the Cubs after 1962. He managed the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres in the 1980’s.

Bill Freehan, C: His .585 batting average in 1961 established a Big Ten record. Freehan was one of the best catchers in the American League in the 1960’s. And no, Brock never stepped on home plate.

Charlie Gehringer, 2B: During his short time as a student, the “Mechanical Man” starred at baseball as well as basketball. He was a main cog in the Tigers’ first World Series championship in 1935. Was he Detroit’s greatest second baseman ever? His lifetime WAR of 80.6 is third on the all-time Tigers list, while Lou Whitaker’s 74.9 is number four.

Rick Leach, OF: The kid from Ann Arbor was a bona fide star at quarterback, leading the Wolverines to three Big Ten championships and as many Rose Bowl appearances. The Tigers drafted him in the first round (13th overall) in 1979. He played ten years in the majors with five different clubs. Never more than a solid bench player, he battled drugs for many years.

Don Lund, OF: Born in Detroit in 1923, Lund was a big man on campus, lettering in baseball, football, and basketball. The National Football League’s Chicago Bears drafted him, but he chose to pursue baseball. He began his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, moved on to the St. Louis Browns, and wound up with the Tigers for four seasons beginning in 1949. After his playing days ended at age 31, he returned to Ann Arbor, coaching the Wolverines baseball team to a College World Series title in 1962

Elliott Maddox, OF: Maddux enrolled at U of M by way of East Orange, New Jersey. He won the Big Ten batting title in 1967 with a whopping .467 mark. That caught the attention of several major league clubs, including the Tigers, who drafted him in the first round in 1968 (two years earlier, the Houston Astros had nabbed him in the fourth round, but he chose not to sign). Maddox played only one season in Motown, hitting .248 in 109 games in 1970. He was a fine outfielder for ten seasons, which included a World Series with the Yankees in 1976.

Hal Morris, 1B: His Michigan teams were among the program’s best ever, winning Big Ten titles in 1984 and 1986. His teammates included future stars Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, and Jim Abbott. A prolific hitter as a Wolverine, Morris was drafted by the Yankees but attained stardom as a Cincinnati Red. A lifetime .304 hitter, Morris played out his last few months in the big leagues with the Tigers in 2000.

Leon Roberts, OF: Born in Vicksburg, Michigan in 1951, Roberts was recruited by Bo Schembechler to play at U of M. While he received a football scholarship, he never played the game as a Wolverine, focusing instead on baseball and basketball. The Tigers drafted him as an eventual replacement in right field to the aging Al Kaline. He was a solid hitter with some pop, and his locker was right next to Kaline’s. Roberts was traded following the 1975 season, and bounced around the majors for another nine years.

Dick Wakefield, OF: The Chicago native played only one season in the maize and blue, hitting .372. The first “bonus baby” ever, he was an All-Star as a Tigers rookie in 1943, leading the league in hits (200) and doubles (38), while checking in at .316. He never lived up to his hype, however, and retired in 1952.

From the Michigan State University Spartans:

Kirk Gibson, OF: Was there ever a more exciting, raw athlete to don the green and white than Gibson? He brought a football mentality to the game of baseball. What he lacked in finesse, he made up for in determination and grit. An All-American as a wide receiver, he also put up impressive numbers on the diamond (.390 and 52 RBIs in 48 games). He had some big years as a Tiger, but is best known for his home run in Game Five of the 1984 World Series. On a national scale, his move to L.A. paved the way for his hitting perhaps the most famous blast ever in a Fall Classic, off Dennis Eckersley in Game One in 1988.

From the Eastern Michigan University Hurons:

John Martin, LHP: Hailing from Wyandotte, Martin pitched for some very good EMU teams when they won Mid-American Conference championships in 1976 and ’77. Detroit selected him in the 27th round of the 1978 draft, but dealt him to the St. Louis Cardinals a couple years later before he ever made it to Tiger Stadium. In four years in St. Louis, he compiled a 17-14 record in 91 games (32 starts). He was purchased by the Tigers in August 1983, but only got into a handful of games.

Pat Sheridan, OF: Okay, Tiger fans, where were you when Sheridan hit that clutch two-run home run in the eighth inning of Game Three of the 1987 American League Championship Series? At the time, Detroit was trailing 6-5, in danger of falling behind three games to none in the series to the Minnesota Twins. Sheridan drilled a fastball from closer Jeff Reardon into the right field stands at Tiger Stadium, helping Detroit steal a win (they eventually lost the series, however). It was the high point of an otherwise nondescript nine-year major league career for the Ann Arbor-born Sheridan. He played in two World Series with the Royals and Giants (winning it all with K.C. in 1985). As a Huron, Sheridan was an All-MAC centerfielder in 1979. And let’s hear it for Wayne Memorial High, his alma mater!

From the Western Michigan University Broncos:

Jeff Kaiser, LHP: Hey, another Wyandotte kid! Kaiser holds the WMU club record for 25 wins as a pitcher, and was a first-team All-MAC in 1980 and ’81, and a second-team All-MAC in ’82. In seven years in the majors, Kaiser pitched for five clubs (including 10 games with Detroit in 1991). His lifetime record in 50 games, all in relief, was zero wins and two defeats, and a 9.17 ERA (coupled with a 2.192 WHIP).

From the Central Michigan University Chippewas:

Shawn Hare, OF: Hare graduated from CMU in 1988, signing with the Tigers as an amateur (undrafted) free agent. After some solid seasons in the minors, Detroit called him up in September 1991, and Hare proceeded to finish the season with one hit in 19 at-bats. He was not much better in 1992, going 3-for-26. He later played for the Mets and the Rangers, and spent a summer in Korea before hanging up his spikes.

Dave Machemer, 2B: A product of St. Joseph, Michigan, Machemer was drafted by the California Angels and hit a home run in his first major-league at-bat in 1978 (his only career bomb). He played briefly at Michigan and Trumbull in 1979. Machemer became a highly successful minor league manager for many years (Manager Machemer has a nice lilt to it).

Joe Siddall, C: The Windsor-born Siddall grew up a Tigers fan. His favorite player was Lance Parrish, so naturally he became a catcher. He began his days at CMU as a quarterback, but ultimately chose baseball. Originally signed by the Montreal Expos in 1987, Siddall played four big-league seasons with a .169 average. His only home run came at Tiger Stadium in 1998. He later became a bullpen catcher for the Tigers, and works the radio and TV booth for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tom Tresh, OF-SS-3B: Tresh was born in Detroit and went to Allen Park High School. A two-time All-Star with the Yankees, he played in the World Series from 1962-64. With his career winding down, he was traded to the Tigers in June 1969, socking 13 homers in 94 games.