After the ugliness of what is the history of Tigers playing third base, we move to what I am guessing is an easier decision with the Shortstop position. If you missed the greatest Tigers catcher, first baseman, second baseman, or third base, you can catch up at any point by clicking on the hyperlinks.
Again, the only qualifier in my process for determining the best positional Detroit Tiger is that they played at least five years as a Tiger with a majority of their games at that position. Qualifying for shortstop is Alan Trammell, Donie Bush, Billy Rogell, Harvey Kuenn, and (ahem) Deivi Cruz. We boot Deivi to start with his 6.0 WAR as a Tiger.
Here we go in chronological order of when the player was in Detroit…
Donie Bush (1908-1921): Tough to gage era’s and especially the “dead ball” era, so let’s focus on hits, OBP, etc. Bush played in Detroit starting at the age of 20 in 1908 and was the teams starting shortstop until 1922, when he was claimed off of waivers by the Washington Senators (I’m guessing because of the cost of his contract). In Bush’s 14 years as a Tiger, he hit .250, with 1,745 hits, including 181 doubles, 73 triples, and 9 homers. Donie scored 1,242 runs, stole 402 bases, and walked 1,125 times, compared to striking out 618 times. Bush had a .357 OBP, but was hurt by the era and carried just a .656 OPS. As a Tiger, Bush accumulated a 38.5 WAR and was on three MVP ballots, finishing as high as 3rd in 1914.
There were no Gold Gloves or All-Star games, but looking at league leaders, Bush lead the league in runs scored once (1917), games played (1909), Plate appearances (’09, ’13-15, ’18), and walks (’09-’12, ’14).
In the 1909 World Series against the Pirates, Donie hit .318 with 7 hits, a double, 3 RBI, and an .846 OPS
Billy Rogell (1930-1939): Rogell spent parts of three seasons in Boston to start his career before playing for St. Paul of the America Association and eventually having his contract purchased by the Tigers in 1929. Billy played for the Tigers as their starting shortstop until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the winter of 1939.
As a Tiger, Rogell hit .274, with 1,210 hits, 227 doubles, 64 triples, 39 homers, 533 runs driven in, 670 runs scored, an OPS of .742 and a WAR of 24.8.
In two World Series appearances against the St. Louis Cardinals (’34 & ’35), Rogell hit .283 with a combined 15 hits, 3 doubles, 5 RBI, 4 runs scored, and an OPS of .661.
Harvey Kuenn (1952-1959): Kuenn is a bit of an unknown star to today’s Tigers fan and I am guess it’s based on Harvey only spending eight seasons in Detroit. Kuenn was traded right before the start of the 1960 season to the Cleveland Indians for Rocky Colavito. Harvey only spent one season in Cleveland and was sent to San Francisco in a trade, and eventually played for the Cubs, Phillies, and Brewers.
Kuenn would start his career as the Tigers starting shortstop before moving to the outfield in 1958, where he stayed for most of his career. As the Tigers shortstop, Kuenn hit .306, with 995 hits, 163 doubles, 33 triples, 36 homers, 298 RBI, 447 runs scored, a .761 OPS, and as a Tigers an aggregate 21 WAR.
Between 1952 and 1957, Harvey would make the All-Star team five times (8 times in all, 7 as a Tiger), was the Rookie of the Year in 1952, made the MVP ballot voting 5 times (9 times in all, 7 as a Tiger), and was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the max 15 years, but never made it above 39.3 of votes.
When Baseball-Reference.com compares Kuenn’s career, it compares closest to Hall of Famer George Kell.
Alan Trammell (1977-1996): Tram, one of the Tiger All-Time greats, played all of his 20 seasons in Detroit. Of Alan’s 2,293 Tigers games, 2,106 game at short, where he hit .285, with 2,232 hits, and collected 382 doubles, 53 triples, 177 homers, knocked in 943, scored 1,176 times, stole 224 bases, and accrued a .768 OPS and 70.4 WAR.
Tram, mostly overshadowed his entire career by Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith, made six All-Star games, finished 4th in 1978 Rookie of the Year voting, was on MVP ballots seven times, finishing as a runner-up in 1987. Alan also won 4 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers.
Trammell played in both the 1984 and 1987 postseasons, was a leader of the Bless You Boys ’84 Championship team, and was the 1984 World Series MVP. In total, Tram hit .333 in the post season, with 17 hits, 10 runs scored, had 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 11 RBI, and a .992 OPS. The World Series MVP Award came as he hit .450 in 20 at bats, had 2 homers, and 6 RBI.
Alan never made it past 40.9% of the Hall of Fame voting, which is a crime. There is still hope for is entrance in to the Hall with the veterans committee, but that is a wait and see.
It’s not much of a challenge on picking the greatest Tiger shortstop of all-time, as Alan Trammell is clearly the best by far to play the position for Detroit.