On Sunday, Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th career home run to write his name into an exclusive group of home run hitters. There are now 28 players who have hit as many as 500 homers, but Miggy is the first to do it while wearing a Detroit Tigers uniform.
But Cabrera does not hold the all-time record for homers by a Tiger. That distinction belongs to Al Kaline, who passed away last year. Kaline hit 399 home runs, all of them for Detroit.
Career Leaders in Home Runs, Detroit Tigers
Despite his previous track record of home run slugging (Cabrera has won two home run titles), he has his work cut out for him if he wants to become the most prolific home run hitter in Tigers history.
Al Kaline never won a home run title. In fact he never even hit as many as 30 homers in a single season. But he had longevity and consistency on his side. “The Line” hit between 21 and 29 homers nine times for the Tigers. He finished one stinkin’ homer shy of 400.
In 2021, Cabrera has 13 homers so far, and over the last five seasons he’s averaged 11 homers per. He’s currently 38 HR behind Kaline, which might take three more seasons at his current pace. Miggy’s contract with Detroit runs through the 2023 season, with options for the following two years. No one expects Cabrera to still be playing regularly past 2023, and the 2022 season may see his playing time decrease.
The rest of the top five in career homers for Detroit are Norm Cash, Hank Greenberg, and Willie Horton.
Norm Cash: Greatest Left-Handed Slugger in Team History
Once we look back on Miggy’s tenure with Detroit, we may call the deal that brought him to Detroit from the Marlins the best trade in team history.
But over a half-century ago the Tigers swiped Norm Cash from the Indians in a similar steal. On April 12, 1960, just as the regular season was kicking off, the Tigers acquired Cash from Cleveland for Steve Demeter. In his first year in the Motor City, Cash hit 18 homers and posted an impressive .405 on-base percentage. But the next season he became a star.
In 1961, Cash hit .361 with 41 homers and 132 RBIs. He led the AL in batting, hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Over the next dozen years or so, “Stormin’ Norman solidified the middle of the Detroit order with his left-handed power.
In 15 seasons with the Tigers, Cash hit 373 home runs, topping 20 on eleven occasions. He was a four-time All-Star first baseman, and he earned MVP votes in six separate seasons. Cash was also one of the Tigers most popular players.
Hank Greenberg: Best Power Hitter in Tigers’ History
Of all the players who ever swung a bat for the Tigers, Hank Greenberg was the most powerful and effective. His career slugging percentage of .616 is the highest ever by a Tiger. He leads the franchise in home runs per 100 at-bats, in total bases per season, in extra-base hits per season, and he also batted .319 wearing the Old English D.
Greenberg did some amazing things. In 1934 he had 63 doubles in a single season. The following year, at the age of 24, he hit 36 homers and drove in 168 runs to lead the league in both categories. This was at a time when Lou Gehrig was still in the league. Two years later, the original “Hammerin’ Hank” drove in an incredible 184 runs. He hit 58 homers the next season and probably would have broken Babe Ruth’s single-season mark if some pitchers hadn’t refused to pitch to him because he was Jewish.
Greenberg lost three and a half seasons of his baseball career while he was fighting in World War II. otherwise he would have hit 500 (and maybe 600) home runs. He was one of the greatest sluggers in history.
Willie Horton: Hometown Hero
Of all the 1968 heroes, Horton, Mickey Lolich, and Denny McLain are among the only stars left. Horton was a powerful force from the right side of the plate for the ’68 World Series champions. But he had more than just one great season.
In 15 seasons with his hometown Tigers, “Willie The Wonder” hit 262 home runs and consistently served as the run producer in the middle of the lineup. Twice he topped 100 RBIs, and in 1968 he smacked 36 homers, with one more in the Fall Classic.
Cecil Fielder: Rooftop Power
While he just missed the top five in Detroit homers, Cecil Fielder may have hit them higher and farther than anyone. In 1990 he came to the Motor City from Japan and hit 51 home runs, joining Greenberg as the only Tigers to reach the 50-HR mark.
In each of his first three seasons in Detroit, “Big Daddy” led the majors in RBIs and homers. He averaged 36 homers per season, a total only surpassed by Greenberg for the Tigers.
Twice, Cecil hit a ball onto and over the roof at Tiger Stadium.
Who was your favorite Tigers home run hitter? Tell us in the comments.