- 1B, 2B, OF
- August 3, 1894
- 6' 1"
- 195 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 5-16-1914 with DET
- Hall of Fame:
One of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history, Harry Heilmann won four batting titles on his way to the Hall of Fame. Some attributed his batting improvement after 1920 to a “lively ball”, but the more plausible reasons were the tutelage of teammate Ty Cobb, and maturity. Heilmann played fifteen seasons with Detroit as part of one of the best hitting teams in history, and later served as a popular announcer for the franchise. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1952.
Heilmann was 25 years old before he hit .300 in a season, but he retired at the age of 38 with a .342 lifetime mark. He listened closely to the advice Cobb gave him and became a line-drive hitting menace who rarely struck out. Joining Cobb and Bobby Veach, he formed an impressive outfield from 1921 to 1923. In 1924 Heinie Manush (also a Hall of Famer) joined Cobb and Heilmann in the Detroit outfield.
In the 1920’s Heilmann led all AL batters with a .364 average. His .558 slugging percentage was topped only by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Al Simmons. For that decade “Slug” averaged 220 hits, 110 runs, 45 doubles, 12 triples, 16 homers, and 130 RBI per 154 games. He won the batting title in 1921, 1923, 1925, and 1927. He was consistent - his average in his batting title seasons ranged from .393 to .403.
Heilmann’s batting titles all came over famous adversaries: in 1921 he beat out Cobb by five points; in 1923 Heilmann’s career-high .403 bested Ruth by ten points; in 1925 Heilmann used a September push to overtake Tris Speaker on the final day; and in 1927 he again won on the season’s last day, this time over Al Simmons. Thus, Heilmann topped four Hall of Famers for his batting crowns.
Despite arthritis in his hands, Heilmann drove in 120 runs for the 1929 Tigers in just 125 games, batting .344 with 41 doubles. In an astounding slap in the face, Detroit released him after the season and he finished his career with the Reds in 1932. He returned to the Tiger organization in 1933 to broadcast their games on radio, a post he held for 18 years. He died in Detroit in 1951, one year before his induction into the Hall of Fame. A few days after his death, Detroit hosted the All-Star Game, and they had a moment of silence in honor of Heilmann.