The Tigers were the World Champions in 1968, beating the 1967 champion Cardinals in 7 games. In games 1 and 4, manager Mayo Smith sent his ace Denny McLain out to face Bob Gibson and lost both times. Meanwhile, Mickey Lolich won games 2 and 5. Smith switched it up and brought Lolich back early for a game 7 match-up with Gibson, and it paid off.
Another smart move by Smith was moving center fielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop for the World Series, thereby sending Ray Oyler's .135 bat to the bench in favor of right fielder Al Kaline.
Earl Wilson won 22 games for the Tigers in 1967, and in fact was the team's Opening Day starter in 1968, but he slumped to a 13-12 record in 38 games. He lost Game 3 of the Series, the only game not started by McLain or Lolich. Joe Sparma rounded out the starting rotation, going 10-10 in 34 games.
Pat Dobson pitched 47 games (37 in relief) and had 7 saves. John Hiller pitched 39 games, all but 12 in relief. He was the top lefthander in the 'pen. Daryl Patterson pitched 38 games in relief along with only 1 start. He collected 7 saves, tied with Dobson for the club lead. Fred Lasher chipped in with 34 games, all in relief.
Don McMahon was acquired from the White Sox on July 26th for Dennis Ribant. This was his 12th season in the majors, and his experience (and 2.02 ERA) helped out. His Tigers' record that year was 3-1 in 20 relief appearances.
In mid-June, the Tigers acquired reliever John Wyatt in exchange for Jim Rooker. Wyatt was the 1967 AL champ Red Sox’ closer the previous season, and appeared in 22 games for Detroit in the 2nd half. He was 1-0 in the 1967 Series, but did not play in the ’68 post-season. Dennis Ribant was acquired from the Pirates in the off-season, but after only 14 appearances was traded for McMahon.
Jim Rooker (2 games in early-July), and Elroy Face. After 15 seasons with the Pirates, Face was acquired on 8/31 but only pitched 1 total inning (over 2 games on 9/2 and 9/3).
Here are the starting 8 players. The Tigers had 9 legitimate starters, and they tried to fit 4 quality outfielders into 3 spots.
Bill Freehan was an All-Star every year from 1963-73, and again in 1975. He was also the Gold Glove catcher every season from 1965-69. Norm Cash was limited to 127 games in 1968, but still hit 25 homers, tied for 2nd on the team with Freehan.
Dick McAuliffe was an All-Star from 1965-67 (mostly at shortstop) but was the full-time 2nd baseman in 1968. He was the leadoff batter and led the AL with 95 runs scored. Pretty good for only batting .249. Ray Oyler started 70 games at shortstop, the most for any Tiger. He and his .135 batting average were always found in the #8 spot. (He must have been a terrific fielder!)
Don Wert started 147 games at 3rd base, and somehow made the All-Star team, despite his .200 batting average. Willie Horton led the team with 36 home runs and was 2nd in RBI (85). He started 137 games in left field.
Mickey Stanley was the Gold Glove center fielder from 1968-70, and 1973. He started 119 games in center, his first as a full-time regular. Jim Northrup alternated between right field (96 starts) and center field (45). His 90 RBI led the team. He also had 2 homers and 8 RBI in the World Series.
The subs (in order of at-bats):
Al Kaline was in his 16th season, and although an All-Star every season from 1955-67, he was limited to 102 games in 1968. Along with 67 starts in right field, he started 18 games at 1st base. He matched Northrup's 2 homers and 8 RBI in the Series.
Tom Matchick and Dick Tracewski were utility infielders who shared the shortstop job with Oyler all season. Jimmie Price was acquired from the Pirates just before Opening Day 1967, and started 35 games behind the plate.
Gates Brown was the Tigers' pinch-hitting specialist, batting .370 in 86 at-bats. He also started 16 games in left field. Veteran Eddie Mathews was in his 17th and final season. He only played in 31 games (mostly as a pinch-hitter) and missed most of June and all of July and August.
Wayne Comer played in 48 games over the final 4 months of the season, mostly as a pinch-hitter. Dave Campbell played 9 games in early-August.
Lenny Green played 6 games in late June then was released in early-July, ending his 12-year career. Bob Christian had 3 at-bats in a September call-up, then moved on to the White Sox after the season. Mayo Smith managed the Tigers from 1967-70, winning 91, 103, 90, and 79 games in that span.
Mike Marshall spent the entire 1968 season in the minors, posting a 15-9 record and 2.94 ERA as a triple-A starter. He didn’t even get a cup of coffee in September, despite picking up 10 saves in 37 relief appearances (with a 1.98 ERA) in his MLB rookie season in 1967.
he had TWO Rookie Stars cards in the 1967 set!)
Transactions from the end of the 1967 season to the end of 1968:
11/22/67 - Traded pitcher Fred Gladding to the Astros for Eddie Mathews.
11/28/67 - Traded pitcher Dave Wickersham to the Pirates for Dennis Ribant.
11/29/67 - Traded catcher Chris Cannizzaro to the Pirates.
04/03/68 - Traded pitcher Hank Aguirre to the Dodgers.
04/13/68 - Sold catcher Bill Heath to the Yankees.
04/22/68 - Signed pitcher Dick Radatz.
06/15/68 - Traded Jim Rooker to the Yankees for John Wyatt.
07/06/68 - Released Lenny Green.
07/26/68 - Traded Dennis Ribant to the White Sox for Don McMahon.
08/31/68 - Purchased Roy Face from the Pirates.
09/30/68 - Sold Bob Christian to the White Sox.
10/??/68 - Purchased Dennis Ribant from the White Sox.
10/15/68 - Lost Ray Oyler, Wayne Comer, and Mike Marshall to the Seattle Pilots.
10/15/68 - Lost pitchers Jon Warden, Bill Butler, and Dick Drago to the Kansas City Royals.
10/28/68 - Released Eddie Mathews.
11/04/68 - Traded pitcher Jack DiLauro to the Mets for catcher Hector Valle.
12/15/68 - Sold Dennis Ribant to the Royals.