Pushing forward, we move out to the outfield where I believe there will be some challenging calls at each position. To recap however, we had an easy decision at shortstop, an ugly decision at third, and some very intriguing calls at second, first, and catcher.
If you’re reading one of these entries for the first time, the only stipulation that I look at is that the player be in a Tiger uniform for a minimum of 5 years and play a majority of his games at that position during that timeframe. I will make a slight change however and evaluate all of a players outfield stats, as they are a little more likely to move to another position to cover an injury, etc. Qualifying for consideration in left is Willie Horton, Bobby Veach, Matty McIntyre, Charlie Maxwell, Larry Herndon, Bobby Higginson, Steve Kemp, and Dick Wakefield. To keep this readable, I am going to cut Dick Wakefield, Steve Kemp, Larry Herndon, and Matty McIntyre.
Bobby Veach (1912-1923): Veach started his career in Detroit as the Tigers had purchased his contract from Indianapolis of the America Association in 1912. Bobby played in Detroit until his contract was purchased in 1924 by the Boston Red Sox, and was eventually move to the Yankees and the Senators.
In Bobby’s 12 seasons as a Tiger, he hit .311 with 1,859 hits, 345 doubles, 147 triples, 64 homers, 957 runs scored, 1,044 runs driven in, 189 bases stolen, and a .814 OPS with a combined 45.8 WAR. Often overshadowed by Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, Veach led the league in doubles twice (’15 & ’19), RBI three times (’15, ’17, & ’18). Besides leading the league in doubles in 1919, he also led it in hits (191) and triples (17).
Bobby Veach was never on an MVP ballot and was never on a World Series team in Detroit
Charlie Maxwell (1955-1962): As one of my dad’s favorite players growing up, Maxwell was going to make this list J regardless. Maxwell started out his career in Boston, where he played for four years, before having his contract purchased by Baltimore, and eventually be Detroit in May of the 1955 season. Charlie played in Detroit for eight seasons, before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in June, 1962.
As a Tiger outfielder, Maxwell hit .268 with 110 doubles, 26 triples, 148 homers, 532 runs driven in, 415 runs scored, an OPS of .828 and a WAR of 19.2
Paw Paw, was an All-Star twice as a Tiger and was on three MVP ballots, with arguably his best season coming in 1956, where he hit .326 with 23 doubles, 24 homers, 87 RBI, and a .948 OPS
Willie Horton (1963-1977): Horton, a local talent out of Northwestern High School in Detroit played his first 15 seasons of his career as a Tiger before being part of multiple trades to the Rangers, the Indians, signing as a free agent with the Athletics, being traded back to the Blue Jays, and signing with the Mariners.
As a Tiger outfielder, Horton hit .276, collecting 1,490 hits, 211 doubles, 31 triples, 262 homers, knocking in 886, scoring 671 times, compiling a .808 OPS and a 25.9 WAR.
Willie was an All-Star four times, on an MVP ballot four times, finishing as high as 4th in 1968 and making the postseason in 1968 and 1972. 1972 was a struggle, but in 1968, Horton hit .304 with 7 hits, including a double, triple, and homer, while knocking in 3.
Bobby Higginson (1995-2005): Apparently I didn’t appreciate enough what Bobby did for the Tigers over his 11-year career, as I was shocked to put him on this list.
To start his career, Higgy spent equal time between left and right before being the mainstay in left starting in the 2000 season. As an outfielder, Higginson hit .272, with 1,336 hits, 270 doubles, 33 triples, 187 homers, had 736 runs scored, 709 runs knocked in, an OPS of .813, and a WAR of 23.
It’s a pretty interesting discussion when looking at these four players who span close to a 100 years in difference. Surprising to me was Higginson’s OPS and WAR, Horton’s MVP finish and “small-ish” WAR, Maxwell’s WAR for a limited period of time and Bobby Veach in general.
At the end of the day, the overall numbers put up by Veach in an offensively challenged era, not to mention his WAR and league leading stats make this a surprise pick as the Detroit Tigers greatest left fielder of all-time.
Now this sets up an interesting scenario, as I think we all know who will be the Tigers best center fielder of all-time, so it will become more interesting in looking at Al Kaline vs. Sam Crawford to see if the early 1900’s may contain all of the greatest Tigers outfielders