We haven’t even gotten to the really tough ones yet.
When I proposed doing a best-loved Tigers bracket I thought it would be an all-in-good-fun way to keep everyone engaged during the extended offseason. I should have known it would have also involved some very passionate tweets and comments from everyone.
A reminder: the brackets were random. A cruel twist of fate paired Miggy and Ty, I didn’t do it to personally hurt you.
The likely Tram vs. Kaline pairing though… while not intentional, I’m really looking forward to that one.
Today’s two pairings are another mix of classic greats and new cult heroes, and will surely lead to more great debates.
In the second bracket set of round one, Hal Newhouser takes on J.D. Martinez; and Cecil Fielder faces off against Dick McAuliffe.
Hal Newhouser vs. J.D. Martinez
As far as deep Detroit roots go, Hal Newhouser has the definite edge here. Not only did he play for the Tigers for a whopping 15 seasons, but he was also born and raised in Detroit and spent his whole life in Michigan. But for a brief two-year stint with the Indians, Newhouser was a Tiger through and through.
The Hall of Famer has he share of accolades: two-time MVP; pitching Triple Crown winner, seven-time All-Star; 1945 World Series winner; two-time ERA title; and Major League Player of the Year. Newhouser likely would have had a Cy Young or two, but retired from baseball in 1955, a year before the first Cy Young award was given out. He had a lifetime ERA of 3.06, at age 23 he collected 29 wins in a single season, and at age 24 had a season ERA of 1.81 (and a mere 25 wins). Newhouser, in fact, had four seasons with over 20 wins.
He’s one of the greatest pitchers in Tigers history and his number 16 is one of the few retired by the club.
J.D. Martinez may not have the deep history that Newhouser does, but he is without a doubt one of the most beloved players in modern Tigers history. When he came to the Tigers after a sluggish career start with the Astros, he defied all expectation and quickly won fan hearts with his power bat and charming grin. His .315 batting average in 2014 Tigers debut season didn’t hurt either.
Martinez, now a three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger winner, and a member of the 2018 Boston Red Sox World Series team is certainly collecting his share of accolades, and made a good chunk of money signing with the Red Sox as well.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that thing J.D. did once against his own current Red Sox teammate Chris Sale.
Cecil Fielder vs. Dick McAuliffe
If you were a Tigers fan in the 90s, there’s no way you escaped without feeling a lot of hype for Cecil Fielder. Fielder (father of future Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, hey did you know they retired with the same number of career home runs?), was with the Tigers for seven years, arguably the best seasons of his career.
During his tenure with the Tigers, Fielder was a three-time All-Star, and a two-time Silver Slugger. We won’t talk about the fact that he left the team in 1996 and went on to win the World Series with the Yankees.
One of the pinnacles of Fielder’s career with the Tigers, of course, was his 1990 season, in which he hit a whopping 51 home runs and had a career-best SLG% of .592.
Dick McAuliffe was a multi-position infielder for the Tigers from 1960-1973, during which time he was a three-time All-Star and a member of the 1968 World Series team. Though his overall career numbers (.247/.343/.403) didn’t merit him a lot of attention as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, he’s still considered one of the best-loved Tigers of all-time, and certainly deserves his place on this bracket.
McAuliffe gained a lot of notoriety for his unusual batting stance.
It’s also worth noting that McAuliffe holds an unusual distinction in baseball: in the 1968 season, he did not once ground into a double play. To date only three players have managed to avoid that, and McAuliffe is the only American League player (Craig Biggio in 1997 and Augie Galan in 1935 did it in the NL).
Remember, if you have any fond memories of these players, please share them below, as we’ll try to include some fan responses in the second round of votes!