Tigers look to end 28-year World Series drought

By Larry Fine, Reuters

Posted at Oct 23 2012 01:37 PM | Updated as of Oct 23 2012 09:38 PM

The Detroit Tigers, populated over the years by some of Major League Baseball's (MLB) most dynamic and colorful players, return to the World Series for the second time in six years looking to end a 28-year title drought.

A charter member of the American League (AL) dating back to 1901, the Tigers have won just four Fall Classic crowns but are peaking along with Detroit's brilliant autumn leaves thanks to a sparkling starting rotation and dangerous lineup.

Led by the towering talents of pitcher Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers put an inconsistent campaign behind them down the stretch to overtake the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central division crown.

The Tigers roared back by winning eight of their last 10 regular season games while Chicago lost 11 of their last 15.

Detroit then beat Oakland 3-2 in a best-of-five AL Division Series and swept the top-seeded New York Yankees 4-0 in the AL Championship Series (ALCS) to add the current group's achievements to past glories.

The Tigers were a powerful team in their early days, featuring one of baseball's greatest players in Ty Cobb.

The fiercely combative Cobb led Detroit to three consecutive AL pennants from 1907 but lost each time in the World Series.

Cobb played 22 years in Detroit and still stands first on MLB's all-time career batting average list at .367 and second in hits with 4,191, a total surpassed only by Pete Rose in 1985.

The outfielder so dominated that when the initial Hall of Fame voting took place in 1936 he garnered the most votes, topping Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson among Cooperstown's inaugural class.

Lean years

Slugger Hank Greenberg, nicknamed "the Hebrew Hammer" as the best known Jewish player of his day, helped Detroit win their first World Series in 1935 and challenged Babe Ruth's single season home run mark of 60 set in 1927, with 58 in 1938.

He served 45 months in the military during World War Two and, after he was discharged, rejoined the Tigers in 1945 and helped them win their second World Series that season.

Though the early years featured high-powered offenses, Detroit won their next crown in the 1968 'Year of the Pitcher.'

Hitters were so overmatched that season that MLB lowered the pitching mound the next year to give hitters a better chance, but in 1968 Detroit's pitchers led them to a seven-game triumph over hard-throwing Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Portly left-hander Mickey Lolich overshadowed team mate Denny McLain, who won 31 games that season, notching three wins in the Series, including a Game Seven victory on two days rest.

The '70s brought lean years, but 1976 was a season of wonder for rookie Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, whose eccentric patting of the mound and chattering to himself made him a famed figure as the 21-year-old rookie posted a 19-9 mark and 2.34 earned run average (ERA).

The last title for Detroit came in 1984 after a record start of 35-5 propelled them with starter Jack Morris, reliever Willie Hernandez, and Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammel leading the charge.

Economically depressed

The 2012 Tigers have given the economically depressed city something to cheer about, as the club surpassed three million in attendance despite the hard times that hit the Detroit area.

This echoes the way the city responded to the Tigers of 1968, bonding in support of the baseball team one year after a bloody five days of rioting in the city left 43 people dead.

These Tigers set their sights on a fifth title in their 111-year existence with their starting rotation pitching lights out.

Verlander, so dominant in 2011 he was a twin winner of MLB's top individual awards in taking the Cy Young as best pitcher and adding AL Most Valuable Player honours, posted a 17-8 mark this season to anchor a rotation that has thrived in the playoffs.

Along with Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez the Tigers allowed just two earned runs in the ALCS, pitching to a 0.66 ERA and holding the Yankees to a batting average of .144.

Cabrera led the league in home runs (44), runs batted in (139) and batting average (.330) to become the first player in 45 years to claim the Triple Crown and forms a potent middle of the order backed by slugging first baseman Prince Fielder and postseason terror Delmon Young.

Fielder (30 homers, 108 RBIs) was added as a free agent after signing a nine-year, $214 million deal, while Young has been a postseason powerhouse.

Young, who hit five homers and drove in six runs in last year's playoff run by Detroit, who reached the ALCS before falling to Texas, slugged a pair of homers and had six RBIs in ALCS against the Yankees.