The rich history of the Tigers includes several Hall of Fame hitting careers and countless legendary seasons. But what about great individual games? While the list includes familiar names, some of the best games by Tigers hitters come from players many either have forgotten or never knew in the first place. Here’s one writer’s ranking of the top five single-game hitting performances in franchise history:
1) Ty Cobb: May 5, 1925, at St. Louis Browns
Cobb was a 38-year-old player-manager with one double-digit homer season in his 20-year career, most of it in the Deadball Era, when he stepped to the plate against the St. Louis Browns. His 6-for-6, three-homer game that Tuesday afternoon produced 16 total bases, an American League record then and still a Tigers record now. Cobb homered in the first inning off Bullet Joe Bush, homered again in the second inning off Elam Vangilder, doubled in the fourth inning off Joe Giard, hit a sixth-inning infield single off Milt Gaston, homered off Gaston in the eighth and hit another infield single for an RBI in the ninth off Brad Springer. He then made his only out of the game when he tried to steal third base. Cobb scored four times and drove in five runs in Detroit's 14-8 win.
2) Bobby Veach: Sept. 17, 1920, vs. Red Sox
For all of Cobb’s success in Detroit, the Georgia Peach never hit for the cycle. The first Tiger to do it was actually one of Cobb’s longtime teammates. Veach went 6-for-6 with six RBIs, including a two-run double in the ninth to complete the cycle and send the game into extra innings. The meaning of the cycle was completely lost in the newspaper account of a late-season game between two teams out of contention that combined for eight errors and 26 walks in a 14-13 Tigers victory in 12 innings. The snub is a microcosm of Veach’s incredible but not Hall of Fame career, but he remains the only Major Leaguer to hit for the cycle in a six-hit, six-RBI game.
3) Cesar Gutierrez: June 21, 1970, at Cleveland
Gutierrez and Rocky Colavito share the Tigers record with seven hits in a game. Gutierrez did it without making an out, setting an American League record for consecutive hits in a game and recording the only 7-for-7 game in American League history. Only one of his hits went for extra bases, a seventh-inning double down the left-field line, but his eighth-inning single – his fifth hit of the contest – drove in the tying run and set up Detroit’s 9-8 win in 12 innings. Not bad for a tiny shortstop – he was generously listed at 5-foot-9 -- who was hitting .218 that season entering the game, raised his average to .249 with the effort and ended up hitting .243 for the season and .235 for his four-year Major League career.
4) Dmitri Young: May 6, 2003, at Baltimore Orioles
The 2003 Tigers set an AL record with 119 losses and had the worst offense in the league, but Young had a game for the ages during one of their 43 wins, going 5-for-5 with two home runs, two triples and five RBIs. Young stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of a 6-6 game needing a double to complete the cycle, slugged the hit he needed to deep right-center, rolled into second base – and kept going for his second triple of the night and the go-ahead RBI. His 15 total bases fell one shy of Cobb’s franchise record. Two years later, Young hit three home runs on Opening Day, an honorable mention on this list.
5) Jim Northrup: June 24, 1968, at Cleveland
Just two players in Tigers history have driven in eight runs in a game. Northrup did it twice. The first time, he needed just two hits to do it, slugging grand slams in consecutive innings during a 14-3 win. He actually did it on consecutive pitches, hitting the first pitch both times. Northrup had another eight-RBI game five years later.