A couple weeks ago, I posted a stupid test to see if you are a “good Tigers fan”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. The thing that surprised me the most about the responses to it were how many people didn’t know the uniform numbers of Kaline, Greenberg, Gehringer, Whitaker, and Trammell. I just assumed this knowledge was immediately known to everyone once they decided on their fandom to the Tigers. It should be, anyway.
Today, those of you numerically uninformed folks are going to get a lesson. I’m going to cover the best players to wear each number, other famous guys to wear them, and my personal favorite for each number. Considering how I tend to enjoy weird players, this may be entertaining for a few of you.
Take notes in case there’s another exam in the future.
Also, some guys wore multiple numbers during their careers (especially in the early days). I’ve included them only under their most famous and/or current numbers.
The Best: Lou Whitaker
Other Notables: Jose Iglesias, Billy Martin
Personal Favorite: Sweet Lou. Of course.
The Best: Charlie Gehringer
Other Notables: No one you’ve probably heard of.
Personal Favorite: The Mechanical Man.
The Best: Alan Trammell
Other Notables: Dick McAuliffe, Mickey Cochrine, Gary Sheffield
Personal Favorite: Tram. Though I believe I was Gary’s only fan when he was in town. This happens to me quite a lot.
The Best: Rudy York
Other Notables: Bobby Higginson, Omar Infante, Tony Phillips, Cameron Maybin, Goose Goslin, Whitey Herzog, Aurelio Rodriguez.
Personal Favorite: If you don’t know, you haven’t been paying attention. You fail. #Higgy4Life
The Best: Hank Greenberg
Other Notables: Jim Northrup
Personal Favorite: Hank. Wish I could have seen him play.
The Best: Al Kaline
Other Notables: Al Simmons
Personal Favorite: Duh. Kaline, along with George Kell, taught me the game as announcers in the 80’s. He’s near the top of my list of players I never got to see play that I wish I could have.
The Best: Harvey Kuenn
Other Notables: Ivan Rodriguez, Rocky Colavito, Eddie Mathews, Bill Madlock, Dean Palmer
Personal Favorite: Gotta go with Pudge, even if he’s kind of a prick. He started the baseball rebirth in Detroit.
The Best: Ray Boone
Other Notables: Ron LeFlore, Mike Heath, Pete Incaviglia, Edgar Renteria, Gerald Laird
Personal Favorite: Heath. Always was a big fan of Mike. Not sure why. I always loved the catchers when I was a kid since that was my first position I played.
The Best: Carlos Guillen
Other Notables: Damion Easley, Skeeter Barnes, Ray Knight, Pete Fox.
Personal Favorite: Carlos. Maybe the most underrated Tiger I’ve ever watched. It’s either him or Tony Phillips off the top of my head. Maybe I’ll discuss that in the future…
The Best: Tommy Bridges
Other Notables: Jim Leyland, Rusty Staub, Al Cowens, Fernando Vina.
Personal Favorite: Bip Roberts. Great name.
The Best: Bill Freehan
Other Notables: Sparky Anderson, Dizzy Trout
Personal Favorite: I worship Sparky.
The Best: Brad Ausmus. So many bad players wore this number. Some went on to be worse announcers.
Other Notables: Jim Price, Rod Allen, Carlos Pena, Andy Dirks.
Personal Favorite: Dwight Lowery. Great guy who died too soon at the age of 39 of a heart attack.
The Best: Lance Parrish
Other Notables: Rico Brogna, Alex Avila
Personal Favorite: Josh Anderson. I was convinced he was going to flourish in Detroit. Only time I’ve ever been wrong. ONLY TIME!
But seriously, Lance.
The Best: Jim Bunning
Other Notables: Schoolboy Rowe, Hoot Evers, Placido Polanco, John Wockenfuss, Dave Bergman, Matt Anderson, Austin Jackson
Personal Favorite: Toughest one, so far. I love Polly, Anderson, and AJax, but for nostalgia reasons, I have to go with Bergie. One of my favorites from my youth. He pulled off the first successful hidden ball trick that I ever witnessed.
The Best: Joe Coleman
Other Notables: Rusty Kuntz, Pat Sheridan, Brandon Inge
Personal Favorite: Lloyd Moseby. Because he’s not Inge.
The Best: Hal Newhouser
Other Notables: Tom Brookens, David Wells
Personal Favorite: Brookens. Loved him when I was a kid. Not as big of a fan of his third base coaching skills.
The Best: Denny McLain
Other Notables: Frank Lary, Tony Clark, Shane Halter
Personal Favorite: Tony the Tiger. He was a good man.
The Best: John Hiller
Other Notables: Robert Fick, Johnny Damon, Matt Tuiasosopo
Personal Favorite: I never saw Hiller play, so I’m going to upset everyone and say Johnny Damon. I liked the guy. Sue me.
The Best: Anibal Sanchez? Tough one.
Other Notables: Al Benton, Joe Niekro, Dave Rozema, Darnell Coles, Doyle Alexander, Juan Gonzalez, Nook Logan, Timo Perez, Aubrey Huff, Jeff Larish
Personal Favorite: TIMO! Longtime readers know of my strange infatuation with Timo Perez. I’m also a huge fan of Jeff Larish’s hair. Basically anyone is acceptable for this answer except for Juan Gonzalez, who is a mammoth piece of shit.
The Best: Vic Wertz
Other Notables: Mark Fidrych, Howard Johnson, Mickey Tettleton, Matt Joyce, Scott Sizemore, Octavio Dotel
Personal Favorite: I’m tempted to say Sizemore to piss off Kurt from BYB. And I’m sure “The Bird” is the popular vote winner. But Mickey Tettleton is a Tigers icon to me. I adored him growing up and got screamed at by a coach for imitating his batting stance in a Little League game once. The Mick is the man.
The Best: George Kell
Other Notables: Willie Hernandez, Mike Moore, Brian Hunter, Gregg Jefferies, Sean Casey, Dontrelle Willis, Delmon Young, Rick Porcello
Personal Favorite: George Kell was the voice that I grew up on narrating Tigers games. But that was as an announcer. As a player, I have to go with Sean Casey for being the only Tiger not to crap the bed in the 2006 World Series.
The Best: Virgil Trucks
Other Notables: Milt Cuyler, Justin Thompson
Personal Favorite: Justin Thompson. I was sure he’d be a star back in the day. I blame the Gonzalez trade. I blame many things on the Gonzalez trade because I’m mentally unbalanced.
The Best: Willie Horton
Other Notables: Kirk Gibson, Hideo Nomo
Personal Favorite: Gibby forever.
The Best: Miguel Cabrera
Other Notables: Mickey Stanley, Champ Summers, Travis Fryman, Rondell White
Personal Favorite: Miggy. No contest. My apologies to Travis Fryman, whose #24 I chose to wear in Little League for a couple years.
The Best: Norm Cash
Other Notables: Jo-Jo White, Larry Doby, Dmitri Young, Matt Stairs, Ryan Raburn
Personal Favorite: RYAN FUCKING RABURN. Deal with it. (Love Da Meat Hook, too.)
The Best: Gates Brown
Other Notables: Frank Tanana, Chris Shelton, Brennan Boesch, Hernan Perez
Personal Favorite: Tanana. Loved him. He was the inspiration for Eddie Harris in “Major League”, in my opinion.
The Best: Jhonny Peralta
Other Notables: Craig Monroe, Frank Catalanotto, Barbaro Garbey
Personal Favorite: Rough one. Gotta go with Jhonny, I guess.
The Best: Curtis Granderson
Other Notables: Rob Deer, Will Rhymes, Prince Fielder
Personal Favorite: Deer was fun in a circus freak kind of way. But Grandy’s the easy choice here. (Glares at Prince.)
The Best: Mickey Lolich
Other Notables: Fred Hutchinson, Aurelio Lopez, Nate Robertson, Danny Worth
Personal Favorite: Nate, only because my frustrations with him led to me starting to write about the Tigers. Plus, he’s a really good guy in real life.
The Best: Magglio Ordonez
Other Notables: Jason Thompson, Johnny Grubb, Nick Castellanos
Personal Favorite: MAGGLIO. Trade Castellanos! It’s too soon!
The Best: Larry Herndon
Other Notables: Ned Garver, Vern Ruhle, Eric Munson, Zach Miner, Brad Penny
Personal Favorite: Herndon .
The Best: Jamie Walker (yeah)
Other Notables: Ruppert Jones, Jim Walewander, Dan Gladden, Jose Lima, Don Kelly (see?)
Personal Favorite: Walker. Still the coolest Tiger I’ve ever met.
The Best: Steve Kemp
Other Notables: Dave Campbell, Matt Nokes, Eric Davis, Marcus Thames, Drew Smyly
Personal Favorite: ‘Roided up Matt Nokes was amazing in ’87. Barely beats out Marcus with me.
The Best: Chet Lemon
Other Notables: Ted Gray, Juan Encarnacion, Nate Cornejo, David Pauley (WHO?), Avisail Garcia
Personal Favorite: Chester. Loved him.
The Best: Justin Verlander
Other Notables: Lynn Jones, Walt Terrell, Chris Gomez, Randall Simon
Personal Favorite: JV.
The Best: Um…Bill Gullickson?
Other Notables: Jeff Weaver, Edwin Jackson, Brad Thomas, Clete Thomas, Luke Putkonen
Personal Favorite: Edwin. Because he got us Scherzer.
The Best: Max Scherzer
Other Notables: Hank Aguirre, Steve Sparks, Kenny Rogers
Personal Favorite: Max. But much respect to Kenny.
The Best: Jeremy Bonderman
Other Notables: Les Cain, Brian Moehler, Darin Downs
Personal Favorite: Bondo. 2006 wouldn’t have happened without him.
The Best: Mike Henneman
Other Notables: Milt Wilcox, Ramon Santiago
Personal Favorite: Henneman. My favorite Tigers closer ever.
The Best: None. This number is cursed.
Other Notables: Felipe Lira, Troy Percival, Jose Mesa, Phil Coke
The Best: Darrell Evans
Other Notables: Andy Oliver, Victor Martinez
Personal Favorite: I love V-Mart, but Darrell Evans is legendary to me.
#42 (Retired by all teams for Jackie Robinson)
Since this is a special number, a couple quick notes instead of the normal stuff. #42 was Trammell’s number when he first came up in ’77. The last Tiger to wear it was Jose Lima in 2002.
The pickings get slim here because the higher we go in numbers, the fewer guys to choose from. But I don’t want to forget any favorites. Here are notable Tigers that have/had numbers higher than 42.
#43: Bruce Rondon
#44: Juan Berenguer, Dick Tracewski
#45: Cecil Fielder, Ryan Perry, Casey Crosby
#46: Dan Petry, Mike Maroth, Jose Valverde
#47: Jack Morris
#48: Torii Hunter (also Rick Porcello until this year)
#49: Jason Grilli, Luis Marte
#50: Andy Van Hekken, Jacob Turner, Bryan Holaday
#52: Quintin Berry
#53: Joaquin Benoit
#54: Joel Zumaya
#55: Brayan Pena
#56: Jose Ortega
#57: Evan Reed, Casper Wells
#58: Doug Fister, Armando Galarraga,
#59: Todd Jones, Fu-Te Ni
#62: Al Alburquerque
#74: Ugueth Urbina
#94 Jose Mesa in 2007, which is the highest number ever issued by the team.
There you have it. I admit, my Tigers knowledge before the 80’s isn’t as strong as after. If I left out an earlier favorite of yours, I apologize.
For the complete list of every player and their number, check out this page at baseballreference.com.
**Note to readers: In the real world, I’m the area manager for a group of sports bars. With football season beginning, our business is now picking up quite a bit. In recent years since I started this site (and DNR before it), I only had two stores to worry about. We’ve opened an additional two more in the past year, so I’m up to four. Thus, my free time isn’t what it used to be. Imagine working at four places with 20-40 employees in each place that all have your phone number and like to call and complain constantly. Plus add in three owners that like to blame you for anything that goes wrong. Yeah…that’s why I’m so cranky all the time. This is why I haven’t written in a week and why posts won’t be as frequent in the near future. Just wanted to give you a heads up since I’ve already had a couple people asking why I haven’t written lately. As always, thanks for reading my nonsense, and check back from time to time as I’ll write when I can. We've got a big couple months ahead of us still.**