I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
Who Are the Best Home Run Hitters in Detroit Tigers History?
Tiger Stadium in Detroit witnessed 11,111 home runs from 1912 to '99, and that included some big moments—from Babe Ruth's 700th career shot and the one he hit an estimated 600+ feet to Reggie Jackson's All-Star homer off the light towers to Kirk Gibson's massive longball in the 1984 World Series. The power has continued into Comerica Park, with players like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and J.D. Martinez thrilling fans. But who are the best home run hitters in franchise history?
In this article, I will explore the top power hitters in the history of the Detroit Tigers. These rankings are not based upon opinions, and for a player to be considered, he must have hit at least 100 home runs during his time with the Tigers. Players were then ranked by averaging their rank for both of these criterion:
- Total home runs with the Tigers
- Plate appearances per home run with the Tigers
Following the top five are the best of the rest, a handful of shorter lists of franchise leaders in more defined categories, and franchise home run records. Information from Stathead on Baseball Reference was used to compile statistics.
Note: Ranks in parenthesis in individual player capsules represent their ranking among players who hit at least 100 home runs with the Tigers. ... Statistics are current through the end of the 2021 season.
5. Willie Horton
- Years Played: 1963–77
- Home Runs: 262 (5th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.82 (11th)
- Single-Season High: 36 in 1968
Willie Horton homered in his second at-bat as a 20-year-old rookie with the Tigers in 1963, and that opened a long stretch of 15 powerful seasons for the left fielder. Horton was a four-time All-Star with Detroit and hit at least 25 home runs in five seasons. In 1968, Horton finished fourth in MVP balloting and also homered in Game 2 of the World Series, which the Tigers won over the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
4. Miguel Cabrera
- Years Played: 2008–present
- Home Runs: 364 (3rd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 21.76 (8th)
- Single-Season High: 44 in 2012 and '13
Though Miguel Cabrera's production has tailed off in recent years, the Tigers should have few regrets about making the blockbuster trade to acquire him and giving him a massive contract extension. Cabrera won back-to-back MVP awards in 2012 and '13 (including a Triple Crown in 2012), and hit 30 or more homers in his first six seasons with Detroit. He made seven straight All-Star appearances from 2010 to '16 and won five Silver Sluggers in that span. Cabrera joined the Tigers in 2008 and led the AL with 38 that season, the first of six consecutive years he hit more than 30 homers. On August 22, 2021, he became the 28th player to hit 500 career home runs with an opposite field homer at Toronto.
3. Norm Cash
- Years Played: 1960–74
- Home Runs: 373 (2nd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 20.85 (6th)
- Single-Season High: 41 in 1961
Norm Cash was traded twice in the five months leading up to the 1960 season, but it's doubtful he was upset by where he landed. After two seasons with the White Sox, Cash was briefly acquired by the Indians, who flipped him to the Tigers. But once Cash became a regular player, he showed he belonged. Cash was a five-time All-Star and had five seasons with at least 30 homers to become one of the top sluggers of the 1960s. In 1961, he became the first player to hit a home run out of Tiger Stadium and did so four times in his 15-year tenure. He helped the Tigers to the 1968 World Series championship and homered in a Game 2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
2. Cecil Fielder
- Years Played: 1990–96
- Home Runs: 245 (6th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 17.36 (1st)
- Single-Season High: 51 in 1990
After a lackluster start to his Major-League career, Cecil Fielder went to Japan in 1989 and mashed 38 home runs. That caught the attention of the Tigers, who signed him for the 1990 season and were rewarded with back-to-back MVP finishes from the big first baseman. Fielder popped 51 home runs in 1990, which were the most in the American League since Roger Maris set the all-time record with 61 homers in 1961, and he again led the league in 1991 with 44 more. Those two seasons more than tripled his career total from four partial seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1986 to '89. Fielder continued his power surge with the Tigers for seven seasons, making three All-Star teams and winning two Silver Sluggers. His son, Prince, played for the Tigers in 2012 and '13. Both men finished their careers with 319 total home runs.
1. Hank Greenberg
- Years Played: 1930, 1932–41, 1945–46
- Home Runs: 306 (4th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 18.26 (2nd)
- Single-Season High: 58 in 1938
After winning his second MVP award at age 30 in 1940, Hank Greenberg missed most of the next four seasons and half of the 1945 season due to service in World War II. And while that cost him the prime of his playing career, Greenberg never had regrets about serving and will forever be remembered among the top sluggers in Tigers history. He emerged in 1934, leading the American League with 63 doubles and adding 26 homers. The next season, he was the MVP after leading the circuit with 36 home runs and 168 RBI, and from 1937 to '40, he made the All-Star team every year. Greenberg launched 58 home runs in 1938 to again lead the league, and he paced the AL again in 1940 with 41 homers and 150 RBI (with a .340 average, he was .012 away from a Triple Crown). He had five World Series home runs in four appearances for the Tigers, helping them win championships in 1935 and '45.
Greenberg had one last hurrah after returning from the military. At age 35 in 1946, he hit 44 homers and had 127 RBI to lead the AL in his final season with Detroit. He was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates in January 1947 and became the first player in history to hit 25 or more home runs in a season with teams in both leagues.
The Best of the Rest
The following three players are home run hitters from Detroit Tigers history who just missed the top five.
- Years Played: 1953–74
- Home Runs: 399 (1st)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 29.07 (17th)
- Single-Season High: 29 in 1962 and '66
Al Kaline is often remembered as one of the greatest players in Tigers history, and he became the club's all-time home run leader with a consistent approach for 22 seasons. Though he never hit 30 homers in a campaign, he reached double figures in home runs in each of the final 20 years of his career. Kaline was an 18-time All-Star and hit two homers during the 1968 World Series, which saw the Tigers defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
- Years Played: 1977–86
- Home Runs: 212 (9th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.05 (9th)
- Single-Season High: 32 in 1982
Lance Parrish was a six-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger winner during his 10-year tenure with the Tigers, becoming one of the best home run hitters in all of baseball during the 1980s. Parrish had two home runs during the 1984 playoffs, including one in the decisive Game 5 victory that clinched the World Series championship over the San Diego Padres.
- Years Played: 1934, 1937–45
- Home Runs: 239 (8th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.39 (10th)
- Single-Season High: 35 in 1937
Rudy York spent the first 10 seasons of his career in Detroit and made the most of his time. York was a five-time All-Star and led the American League with 34 homers in 1943, which marked his fourth and final season with at least 30 home runs. His 18 home runs as a rookie in August 1937 are the most an AL player has ever hit in a single month.
Detroit Tigers Home Run History
Below are some of the franchise home run records for the Detroit Tigers.
Detroit Tigers Career Home Run Leaders
- 1. Al Kaline, 399
- 2. Norm Cash, 373
- 3. Miguel Cabrera, 364
- 4. Hank Greenberg, 306
- 5. Willie Horton, 262
Detroit Tigers Plate Appearance/Home Run Leaders (min. 100 HRs)
- Cecil Fielder, 17.36
- Hank Greenberg, 18.26
- Rocky Colavito, 19.59
- Darrell Evans, 19.92
- Tony Clark, 20.59
Detroit Tigers Single-Season Home Run Leaders
- 1. Hank Greenberg, 58 (1938)
- 2. Cecil Fielder, 51 (1990)
- 3. Rocky Colavito, 45 (1961)
- T-4. Miguel Cabrera, 44 (2012 and '13)
- T-4. Fielder, 44 (1991)
- T-4. Greenberg, 44 (1946)
Detroit Tigers Single-Game Home Run Leaders
- 19 players tied with 3 (Cecil Fielder did it 3 times)
© 2021 Andrew Harner