this post covers the 1968 detroit tigers and cards number 25 to 33 in the set. here are the fronts:
it's the largest team representation we've seen so far, with 9 players in the set. plus two memorable moments cards - another first in the set.
what team is this: 1968 detroit tigers
why this team?: they were the world champions! the tigers won 103 games in 1968 and beat the cardinals, another 'timeless team' in the fall classic 4 games to 3 after trailing in the series 3 games to 1.
which players are featured?: al kaline, bill freehan, denny mclain, dick mcauliffe, jim northrup, john hiller, mickey lolich, mickey stanley, willie horton
why these players?: you can't think about the tigers without al kaline coming to mind, and the majority of the other the players featured were big parts of the 1968 championship run. let's take a deeper look.
al kaline had been named to the american league all-star team 13 straight years heading into 1968, and he had won a gold glove in 10 of those seasons. unfortunately, kaline was able to play in only 102 games for the tigers that year, hitting .287 with 10 homers and 53 rbi. he was healthy for the postseason, however, and torched the cardinals in the world series to the tune of 2/8/.379. he was also named the recipient of the lou gehrig award in 1968.
bill freehan won a gold glove, finished 2nd in the league mvp voting, and was named to the all-star team in 1968. he pounded 25 homers and drove in 83 runs while throwing out 37% of the would-be basestealers that ran against him. he tanked offensively in the world series, managing just 2 singles in 28 at bats for an average of .083, but he made a big play at the plate in game 5 tagging out lou brock to hold the cardinals' lead to just one run and squelch a potential rally.
denny mclain was the american league's pitcher in the year of the pitcher. he won 31 games (a fact the memorable moments card celebrates) and won both the cy young and mvp awards. in addition to his 31 wins, mclain led the league with 41 starts, an astonishing 336 innings pitched, and 28 complete games. his 1.96 era, however, was only good enough for fourth in the league. fourth! in his first postseason, mclain was just 1-2, losing games 1 and 4 before bouncing back to win game 6 with a complete game on 2 days rest.
dick mcauliffe was the tigers' primary second baseman who led the league with 95 runs scored in 1968. he finished 7th in the league's mvp voting, and contributed a homer and 3 rbi to detroit's offensive output in the world series.
it's funny about jim northrup. his card from the 1968 team is in the blog header because when i was building the set, the last two cards i needed were both jim northrup cards. for some reason, there were none available on sportlots or comc. i think i wound up going through the beckett marketplace to score them. anyway, northrup hit 21 homers and drove in a career-high 90 runs for the tigers during the regular season. in the world series, he hit just .250 but had 2 homers (including a grand slam in the tigers' series record 10 run outburst in the 3rd inning of game 6), 8 rbi and a huge triple in game 7. that hit broke a scoreless tie in the 7th inning and may or may not have been made possible by a curt flood misplay.
john hiller split the regular season between the bullpen and the starting rotation, putting up a record of 9-6 with 2 saves. of his 39 appearances, 12 came as starts, and he threw 4 complete games with 1 being a shutout. for the world series, however, hiller was used exclusively out of the bullpen. he appeared in 2 games against the cardinals (both were tiger losses) and gave up 3 runs in his 2+ innings of work.
mickey lolich was 17-9 in the regular season with a 3.19 era and 8 complete games in 32 starts. he made 3 starts in the world series, and pitched a complete game each time. he won games 2, 5, and 7, outdueling bob gibson on 2 days' rest in the clincher. at the plate, lolich hit a home run in game 2 which proved to be the game winner. for his efforts, lolich was named the series mvp, as we learn from his memorable moments card.
mickey stanley had never played shortstop in his major league career prior to 1968, but that's where he played in the world series. during the regular season, stanley was part of a 4-player outfield rotation with kaline, northrup, and willie horton. in the postseason, manager mayo smith wanted all four bats in the lineup so he benched regular shortstop ray oyler in favor of stanley. stanley had made just a handful of appearances at short in the regular season, a season in which he won a gold glove for his outfield play. he did make a couple of errors in the world series, but they didn't amount to anything, while his .214 average in the series makes one wonder if smith's gamble really made a difference.
willie horton was an all-star left fielder for the tigers in 1968, leading the club with 36 homers. he hit one more home run in the world series where he posted an ops of 1.013. horton got the assist on the game 5 putout of lou brock at home plate that may have saved the tigers' season.
the stadium on the back is...?: "the corner", also known as "old" tiger stadium. it opened in 1912 (as navin stadium) and was the home to the tigers through the 1999 season.
did upper deck get it right?: there is no doubt that the 1968 tigers were a great team. they were the last of the 'pure' world champions, meaning the last to win the world series prior to the expansion of the postseason due to divisional play. and, as i mentioned before, i think the players all make sense, although perhaps the checklist could have been pared down a little bit. as for the photos, upper deck could have done better.
al kaline's photo is from the 1950's, as the tigers didn't use the script 'detroit' on their away grays in the 1960's. the rest of the team, except for dick mcauliffe and mickey stanley, are appropriate with the block lettering on their away jerseys. mickey lolich, however, appears to be sporting longer sideburns than one would expect from most ballplayers in 1968. as far as mcauliffe and stanley go, their photos are from 1972 at the earliest, which is when detroit went to the pullover away jerseys with a touch of orange.
is this team timeless?: yes. they claim the last 30-game winner, a 100+ win season, and were only the third team in history to rebound from a 3-1 deficit in the world series.