Detroit Tigers History Part 6: 1951-1960

Welcome back finally to the History of the Tigers series. I’m sorry that I stopped posting this back in September but now I am going to finish it before the MLB Season starts. This post will focus on the Detroit Tigers history from 1951-1960. To stay updated on future posts, follow my Twitter here and like my Facebook page here. To see all of the Detroit Tigers history posts, click here.

Detroit Tigers History 1951-1954: Tough Years

In 1951, the Tigers finished 8 games under .500, a huge change from the 95 win team of 1950. They did not change any staff besides adding Paul Williams to the radio booth along Ty Tyson. The Tigers also hosted the All-Star game, as it was the City of Detroit’s 250th birthday in 1951. George Kell was their best hitter with a .319 average, 2 homers, 59 RBI and 36 doubles. Fred Hutchinson was their top pitcher with a 10-10 record and a 3.68 ERA.

In 1952, the had the second-worst season in team history with a record of 50-104. Walter Briggs Jr. became the owner of the team after his dad died in January before the regular season started. Charlie Gehringer became the GM of the team, and Fred Hutchinson, a player, took over for Red Rolfe in July. These were clearly not the best times for the Tigers. Van Patrick became the TV and radio commentator. Walt Dropo may have only hit .279, but he was clearly the best power hitter on the team with 23 homers and 70 RBI. And Hal Newhowser was their best pitcher with a 9-9 record and 3.74 ERA. Virgil Trucks threw 2 no-hitters but had a horrendous 5-19 record.

1953 was another rough one for the Tigers. They went 60-94, 6th in the American League. Dizzy Trout joined the radio booth with Van Patrick. Ray Boone was the top hitter with a .312 average, 22 homers and 93 RBI. Ned Garver was their best pitcher with an 11-11 record and 4.45 ERA. Al Kaline started his career this season, only appearing in 30 games and hitting .250.

1954 was yet another hard season for the Tigers, but every year since 1951 they were making slight progress. The team went 68-86 and hired Muddy Ruel as their new GM. Harvey Kuenn was the team’s top hitter with a .306 average, 5 homers and 48 RBI. Steve Gromek was their top pitcher with an 18-16 record and 2.74 ERA. Following Al Kaline more, he hit .276 with 4 homers and 43 RBI.

Detroit Tigers History 1955-1960

In 1955, the Tigers finally got back to a winning record, going 79-75. This was Buck Harris’s first year as the manager of the team, and he proved to be better than Frank Hutchinson. Al Kaline had his breakout season, hitting .340 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI. Steve Gromek led the way pitching with a 13-10 record and a 3.98 ERA. The Tigers were finally starting to look like a team that could compete for titles, and they had found their star player.

1956 was another good year for the Tigers, but they still did not have enough power to beat the Yankees. Fred Knorr and John Fetzer joined Walter Briggs Jr. in owning the team. They finished 5th, with an 82-72 record. Harvey Kuenn was the top hitter on the team with a .332 average, 12 homers and 88 RBI. Frank Lary was their best pitcher with a 21-13 record and 3.15 ERA.

In 1957, Walter Briggs Jr. and John McHale became GM’s of the team. Briggs no longer was a part owner of the team. Jack Tighe also became the manager. They finished 78-76, good for 4th in the AL. Al Kaline hit .295 with 23 homers and 90 RBI, while Jim Bunning went 20-8 with a 2.69 ERA.

1958 was a year in which the Tigers finished exactly at .500, with a 77-77 record, 5th in the AL. Bill Norman took over as manager mid-season for Jack Tighe, and Walter Briggs Jr. was no longer a GM with John McHale.  Al Kaline batted .313 with 16 homers and 85 RBI. Leading the pitchers was Frank Lary with a 16-15 record and 2.90 ERA.

In 1959, the Tigers started 2-15 and fired Bill Norman on May 2. Jimmy Dykes took over as the new manager, and he helped the team recover to a 76-78 record, 4th in the AL. Rick Ferrell and Bill DeWitt took over the GM spot. Al Kaline batted .327 with 27 homers and 94 RBI, and Don Mossi went 17-9 with a 3.36 ERA.

We finish this post in 1960. Bill DeWitt was now the only owner on the team, and as a result of a trade and travel issues, the Tigers had 3 managers in one year. On August 3rd, the Tigers traded Jimmy Dykes, their manager, to the Cleveland Indians for Joe Gordon! Billy Hitchcock, the third manager the Tigers had that season, was their interim manager for 1 game after the trade of managers happened because Joe Gordon had not yet arrived yet. The 1960s ended on a high note, however, as Ernie Harwell joined the radio booth, and we know how great he became. The Tigers went 71-83, 6th in the AL. Norm Cash was their best hitter with a .286 average, 18 homers, and 63 RBI. And Frank Lary led the pitching with a 15-15 record and 3.51 ERA.

Thanks for reading this History of the Tigers post and I hope you read the next one next Friday!

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