In January of this year the Detroit Tigers announced that they were going to honor Sparky Anderson, the late manager of the Tigers from 1979-1995.
The Tigers announced that they are going to retire Sparky’s uniform #11 in a ceremony scheduled for this summer.
While I loved Sparky Anderson, and what he did for the Tigers, my feelings on the retirement of #11 for Sparky continues to get to me every day.
The Tigers are doing a disservice to the retirement of uniform #11 by not including the player who is, who was, and who always be, #11, Bill Freehan.
Bill Freehan’s service to the Tigers is just as important, and equal to, what the Tigers did under Sparky Anderson.
While it’s true that Sparky’s guarantee of a World Series Championship in five years was realized in 1984, Freehan was the on field leader of a Tigers team that won the 1968 World Series, six years after Freehan’s rookie year in 1963.
The Tigers won the 1987 American League Pennant under Sparky.
The Tigers, with Freehan as the primary catcher, won the 1972 American League Eastern Pennant.
In the ’72 ALCS Freehan missed the first two games because of a hairline fracture of his thumb, came back in Game 3 and hit a home run and doubled as the Tiger beat the A’s, 3-0.
After 1988 the Tigers were never a pennant contender under Sparky, having only three winning season’s until his retirement in 1995, and suffering 103 loss season in 1989.
After 1972, Freehan and the Tigers were really not very good, and that includes a 102 loss team in ’75.
My piont here is that the Tigers under Sparky were not always competitive, and at times, were downright awful.
Freehan was the Tigers catcher from 1963-76, a 15 year career that included 11 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards, and a MLB record .993 fielding percentage that stood for 30 years.
Freehan was voted to the Tigers All-Time Team by the fans in 1999 as the greatest Tiger catcher ever.
The Tigers are, in my opinion, should include Freehan in ANY ceremony were the uniform #11 is retired.
#11 Belongs to Bill Freehan
I have started a Facebook page, #11 Belongs to Bill Freehan and would appreciate it if you would check it out and support the movement to support Bill Freehan in the retirement of uniform #11 by the Detroit Tigers.
I guess what I’m trying to say in all of this is that the greatest catcher in Detroit Tigers history, Bill Freehan, is being ignored by the Detroit Tigers in the retiring of #11 in honor of Sparky Anderson.
Once Freehan retired the Tigers should have never allowed another player, or coach, to wear #11.
I believe the Tigers have the responsibility to include Bill Freehan in the ceremony retiring #11.
Also, I would like the Tigers to erect a statue of that famous moment at the end of Game 7 of the 1968 World Series were Bill Freehan catches Mickey Lolich as he jumps into his catchers arms to celebrate the Tigers championship.
Judge me as a Freehan homer if you like, but Bill Freehan’s career as a member of the Detroit Tigers stands as one of the best in Tigers history, and I believe that my hero, the greatest catcher in Tigers history, deserves to be honored by the team that he gave everything he had in 15 years behind the plate.
I know the Tigers are probably not going to change their minds, but there is always hope.
Hope that my baseball hero, and the best back stop in Detroit Tigers history, gets the respect he so proudly deserves.