Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images
The first four of thirty-two contenders, are you ready?
When we started out with the idea for this challenge, the assumption was that 16 players would be more than enough to do a suitable bracket. But between your incredible suggestions and others brought up by the Bless You Boys staff, we came up with a 32-player bracket.
Over the coming week we’ll be exploring the first round players and their legacy with the team, four players at a time, and then collecting your votes to see who advances to the next round. We also want to include some input from you. If one of these players is particularly meaningful to you, please share a story in the comments or even in a FanPost , and we’ll include some of your stories as the players advance into round two.
Some of our own staff members will also be completing their own brackets, with explanations, but this one is all for you guys, the readers.
Here’s the complete bracket if you want to prepare yourself for the votes ahead. Some of these choices will be harder than others, but we opted for a randomized pairing system, so brace yourself, things will get tough!
In this first round, we see beloved utility man Don Kelly take on Tigers great Charlie Gehringer; and Bobby Higginson take on Curtis Granderson.
Charlie Gehringer vs. Don Kelly
Charlie Gehringer was a lifetime Tiger, playing for Detroit from 1924-1942. He was a six-time All-Star (in back-to-back seasons no less), and a member of the 1935 World Series championship team. He’s also a Hall of Famer, and his number 2 is retired by the team. Fun fact, though, he very briefly wore number 3 in the 1931 season. Gehringer had a lifetime line of .320/.404/.480.
In the offseason, when he wasn’t working at local Detroit retailer Hudson’s, he would often spend time with barnstorming clubs, and even joined a Negro Leagues touring group. He claimed that Satchel Paige’s pitches were “no fun” and in turn Paige called Gehringer the “best white hitter” he ever pitched against.
Don Kelly got his start, as many Tigers do, in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, but but 2009 found himself with Detroit. He played for the Tigers for six seasons, the bulk of his major league career. While he does not have the credits to his name that Gehringer does, the resilient utility man was a charming, beloved figure during his time with the Tigers.
After his retirement, he worked in the Tigers scouting department, before moving on to join the coaching staff of the Houston Astros. We won’t hold that against him, though.
Kelly, whose career line was only .230/.294/.334 may not make any lists for best overall Tigers players, but he remains top of mind for most when talking about best-loved players in the modern era.
Bobby Higginson vs. Curtis Granderson
Another lifetime Tiger, Bobby Higginson was with the club from 1995-2005. Over those 11 years (though I’m sure he’d like us all to forget the 2005 season), he hit for .272/.358/.455. A Philadelphia native, he was actually originally drafted in the 1991 Amateur Draft by the Phillies, but opted not to accept the offer. The next year he signed with the Tigers.
Higginson had the bad luck to be a good player on a team during a time of flux. He saw the end of the era at Tigers Stadium in 2000 and Bobby had a tremendous year that season. He also played for the worst team in Tigers history in 2003 (a season in which he still managed to hit 14 home runs and a not-so-bad average). It was a good run of bad luck for the Tigers and Higginson, unfortunately, never got to see postseason play with the club (that would come the year after he retired).
For a player to remain an upbeat and lovable figure, while never playing for a winning team, is a pretty remarkable feat.
Curtis Granderson had a bit of better luck than Higginson in his big-league career. He was a three-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner, and was also a member of the 2006 Tigers World Series team. Though his career in Detroit ended in 2009 and he played for six other teams after leaving the Tigers, he was always well-loved by Tiger fans. Not an easy feat, considering he went to the Yankees after leaving Detroit.
Granderson, better known as “Grandy,” had the easy, affable charm that endears a player to fans and fellow athletes alike. When he announced his retirement earlier in 2020, there were fond remembrances from all his former clubs, where fans all felt like he belonged to them. Not every player is capable of creating that kind of a lasting legacy.
He’s also responsible for one of the greatest calls of all time.
Don’t forget to share your stories or thoughts below, as they may be featured in the round two bracket.