what team is this?: 1972 detroit tigers
why this team?: the tigers won the american league east in 1972 with an 86-80 record. they finished a half-game ahead of the boston red sox thanks to the fact that they played one more game as a result of the player strike that delayed the start of the season and wiped out a different number of games for different teams. if you look at the final standings that year, you'll see that not every team played the same number of games. that's pretty fundamental, one would think. the tigers wound up losing the 1972 american league championship series to the a's in 5 games.
which players are featured?: it's a repeat cast from the 1968 detroit tigers team (which makes sense from a set checklist point of view) sans denny mclain who was out of detroit by the time 1972 rolled around. that means we get al kaline, bill freehand, dick mcauliffe, jim northrup, john hiller, mickey lolich, mickey stanley, and willie horton.
why these players?: in addition to from ed brinkman, these were the surviving everyday players from the 1972 tigers team. mickey lolich was the ace, and john hiller a key bullpen cog, although chuck seelbach would have made sense to have been included.
al kaline was 37 during the 1972 season. he played in 106 games and hit .313 in just over 300 plate appearances. he managed to hit 10 homers, the last of which started the scoring in the first game of the crucial season ending three game set against the second place red sox. kaline finished 24th in the league mvp voting and hit .263 with a solo home run in the alcs against the a's. that solo shot came in the top of the 11th inning of game 1 to give the tigers a lead. unfortunately, they were unable to hang on and lost the game in the bottom of the inning.
bill freehan was named to the american league all-star team for the 9th straight year in 1972. in the game, he started at catcher and was 0 for 1 with a walk and a run before being replaced by carlton fisk. during the regular season, freehan hit .262 and slugged 10 homers in 111 games played. behind the plate, he threw out 37% of the would-be base stealers who ran against him, but made an uncharacteristic 8 errors in 105 games as a catcher. freehan hit .250 with a homer and three rbi in the alcs.
dick mcauliffe hit .240 with 8 homers and 30 rbi in 1972. his home run total was the lowest since his rookie season of 1961. the tigers' primary second baseman also hit a solo shot in the alcs.
jim northrup also saw his home run total drop to 8 in 1972. northrup actually had his power numbers drop across the board, slugging just .362 with just 25 extra base hits in 134 games played. he hit .357 in the alcs, but had no extra base hits and just one rbi in the 5 game series.
john hiller triumphantly returned to the big leagues in 1972 after sitting out the 1971 season due to the health concerns. he pitched in just 24 games but had 3 saves and a 2.03 era. all three of his decisions came in his only three starts of the season - two losses and a complete game 5-hitter for the win. hiller pitched in 3 games of the alcs, earning the win in game 4 and posting a perfect 0.00 era in 3.1 innings of work.
mickey lolich went 22-14 for detroit in 1972. his 2.50 era was almost half a run lower than his era from the previous year when he won 25 games. although his strikeout numbers were down, he still k'd 250 batters, good for second in the league behind nolan ryan. as an aside, if mickey lolich didn't retire and miss the 1977 season before returning to the big leagues in 1978, would he have tallied the 168 strikeouts he ultimately needed to reach 3000? and, if so, is mickey lolich in the hall of fame? back to 1972 - lolich made the all-star team that year and pitched 2 innings of scoreless ball in relief of the game's starter, jim palmer. he also finished fourth in the league cy young voting and made 2 starts in the alcs. in game 1, he pitched 10 innings and allowed just one run before he was sent out for the 11th inning with a one run lead. he gave up back to back hits to start the inning and was relieved. the a's scored twice and lolich got the loss. he returned in game 4 and held the a's to a single run in 9 innings of work, but was replaced as the game went to extra innings and didn't get the win when the tigers eventually won in 11.
mickey stanley played center field for the tigers in 142 games during the 1972 season. he hit .234 with 14 homers and 55 rbi. he made only one start in the alcs, but appeared in four of the five games, hitting .333 with 2 singles in 6 at bats.
willie horton appeared in 108 games for detroit in 1972 as the tigers continued to work three players (horton, kaline, and northrup) across two positions (right and left field). like the rest, horton's numbers dipped (11/36/.231) although i don't know if that was due to playing time or the strike or just some fine 1972 pitching. in the alcs, horton was held to just one hit in 10 official at bats.
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.
as for the players, i think these are the right guys to be featured although hiller wasn't with the team the full season, and joe coleman and chuck seelbach would have been worthy additions to the set.
the photos are a mixed bag. kaline is too young in his photo for it to have been from 1972, and freehan is sporting the anniversary patch that was worn in 1969, as is horton. john hiller is also sporting the away grays that were last worn in 1971. as for the rest, they are wearing the away jersey that was first donned by tiger players in 1972, so they could be legit, although i would guess that the northrup and stanley images are from later in the 70's. not helping is the guy lurking in the background of northrup's photo. that's long time tiger coach (and former dodger) dick tracewski. he coached for the tigers from 1972-1995, so we can't narrow the timing of the photo down that way.
is this team timeless?: although 1972 was the final postseason appearance for each of these players, i don't see much of a reason to include them in the set. not timeless.