The 1973 Detroit Tigers finished with a 85-77 record, 12 games behind the Orioles. They had, however, finished in 1st place the prior year, finishing a half-game ahead of the Red Sox before losing to the A’s 3 games to 2 in the ALCS.
The 1973 Tigers were 1st place as late as August 14th, when they went into a skid and fell to 3rd place, 7.5 games out of first, which contributed to the firing of…
Billy Martin, who would be replaced by coach Joe Schultz for the remainder of the season. Schulz would not be brought on full time; Ralph Houk would be the Tigers manager in 1974.
Funny thing… I don’t think I’d ever noticed that Joe Schultz’s name is missing from this card.
Best Starting Pitcher
Joe Coleman went 23-15 with a 3.53 ERA, 13 complete games, 2 shutouts and 202 K’s.
File this under “It was a different time…”: Despite his 23 wins, Coleman didn’t get any Cy Young votes. He did finish 23rd in the MVP voting, though.
Best Relief Pitcher
John Hiller went 10-5, 1.44 with 38 saves. He had 124 K’s in 125.1 innings pitched.
Hiller finished 4th in Cy Young voting… By the way, this happened after Hiller suffered a heart attack at the age of 28. I wrote about John Hiller a couple of years ago, if you want to know more.
Best Offensive Player
This team was not an offensive juggernaut. There was nobody who stood out in this category so I’m going to go with Willie Horton who was an All-Star, lead the team with a .316 batting average and had 17 homers and 53 RBI. Arguments could also be made for Norm Cash and Mickey Stanley.
Best on-field photo; Favorite card
Without a doubt:
The Yankees’ Celerino Sanchez evades Bill Freehan’s tag… I’m guessing I’m not the first person to try to figure this play out, but I believe it’s from August 8th, 1972. In the bottom of the 4th the was game tied 1-1, Mickey Lolich on the mound, one out and Felipe Alou had singled. Sanchez was hit by a pitch, moving Alou to 2nd. Ron Swoboda singled, scoring Alou and sending Sanchez to 2nd base. Gene “Stick” Michael flied out to right and then pitcher (and Shlabotnik favorite) Fritz Peterson – FRITZ!!! – singled, but the throw from left fielder Willie Horton nailed Sanchez at the plate.
Best (relatively speaking) Rookie Card
There are three rookie cards in this team set. All three feature pitchers. None of them had a long or ourstanding careers. I ruled out Bob Strampe from consideration (he shared a “Rookie Pitchers” card with Jesse Jefferson and Dennis O’Toole), but I couldn’t decide between the other two, so I decided to just feature them both.
As I was finishing this post I discovered two things about Bill Slayback which would’ve put him over the top from the start, had I only realized…
First off, Slayback no-hit the Yankees through 7 innings in his 1972 Major League debut. Johnny Callison led off the 8th inning with a single, which broke up the No-No, but Slayback would get the win (and Seelbach got the Save).
The other thing which really floored me was that Bill Slayback wrote a song with Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, Slayback would record that song… and it’s a song I know! …Although, to be fair, it’s a song I know from a CD called “Baseball’s Greatest Hits”… but still!
And now we have a long-distance dedication… Here’s Bill Slayback with “Move Over Babe (Here Comes Henry)”
I’ve got another music-related comment about Bill Slayback that I’ll save for the end of the post.
Best Cartoon #1
Here’s another MLB debut of note… On April 11th, 1963, Chris Zachary came in to pitch the 9th for the Houston Colt .45’s against the San Francisco Giants. With the Colts down 4-1, Zachary walked Willie Mays, gave up a single to Willie McCovey (sending Mays to third) and then gave up a 3-run homer to Orlando Cepeda. A rough debut for sure… but then Zachary settled down and got Tom Haller, Felipe Alou and Jose Pagan to get out of the inning.
This has nothing to do with anything, but I have to mention it: The awesomely-named Conrad Cardinal also made his MLB debut in that game, pitching the 6th, 7th and 8th for the Colts. Cardinal’s entire MLB career consisted of 6 games in 1963 with Houston, so Cardinal never pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals. Even more sad: His only baseball card, a 1963 Rookie Stars card shared with Dave McNally, Don Rowe and Ken Rowe, lists him as Randy Cardinal. Bummer.
Best Cartoon #2
Best Cartoon #3
Best Cartoon #4
THE BILL SLAYBACK!
James Brown had a song in 1973 called “The Payback”, and when I look at Bill Slayback’s card I hear James Brown singing “Gotta get ready for the Bill Slayback!” I’d have to think that somebody on the team gave him grief over that.
I don’t know karate, but I know ca-razy!
(Some of the lyrics found on the internet say “…But I know ka-razor”. Really? “Ka-razor”???? NEVER trust internet lyrics.)