- LF, OF, RF, 3B, DH
- October 18, 1942
- 5' 11"
- 209 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-10-1963 with DET
A sandlot star in Detroit, Willie Horton was the youngest of 19 children, a four-time All-Star and a fan favorite for the Tigers in the 1960s and 1970s. He drew attention when at the age of 16 he blasted a home run into Tiger Stadium's right field stands in an All-City game. A tremendously strong man, Horton was the big power threat on Detroit's 1968 World Series Championship team. Horton hit 325 homers in his career, combining strength with quick wrists. After his playing career, Horton worked briefly for the Yankees under Billy Martin as baseball's first "harmony coach." His role was essentially to make sure Martin wasn't undermined by clubhouse politics, and to tutor young players on how to stay out of trouble.
#48 (1963, 1978 Blue Jays), #23 (1964-1978), #53 (1979-1980) When Tiger manager Charlie Dressen died in the middle of the 1966 season, Horton was devastated. "I want to wear that man's number," Horton said, "and do things for him on the field." Horton never did wear #7 in honor of Dressen, choosing to stick with his #23 instead.
Richie Zisk became the M's DH in 1981.
Horton's career numbers appear modest because he toiled during the low-scoring 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968 he was second in the American League in slugging, OPS, total bases and homers (36). He was fourth in RBI (85) and batted .285, which was also fourth in the league. In the World Series he hit .304 with six runs scored, a homer and three RBI. In addition, his assist that nabbed Lou Brock at home in Game Five helped turn the series in Detroit's favor.
After three teams had given up on his the previous year, in 1979 with the Mariners, Willie Horton was named the American League's Outstanding Designated Hitter and Comeback Player of the Year.
Willie Horton used the same batting helmet his entire career, having it painted to match his new teams after leaving Detroit.
August 7, 1961: Signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent; April 12, 1977: Traded by the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers for Steve Foucault; February 28, 1978: Traded by the Texas Rangers with David Clyde to the Cleveland Indians for Tom Buskey and John Lowenstein; July 3, 1978: Released by the Cleveland Indians; July 13, 1978: Signed as a Free Agent with the Oakland Athletics; August 15, 1978: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Phil Huffman to the Toronto Blue Jays for Rico Carty; December 2, 1978: Granted Free Agency; January 27, 1979: Signed as a Free Agent with the Seattle Mariners; December 1, 1979: Granted Free Agency; December 20, 1979: Signed as a Free Agent with the Seattle Mariners; December 12, 1980: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with Larry Cox, Rick Honeycutt, Mario Mendoza, and Leon Roberts to the Texas Rangers for Richie Zisk, Rick Auerbach, Ken Clay, Jerry Don Gleaton, Brian Allard, and Steve Finch (minors); April 1, 1981: Released by the Texas Rangers; May 4, 1981: Signed as a Free Agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Foot speed, though very early in his career, Willie was a better-than-average baserunner.
Horton was a poor Detroit kid who made it big with his hometown team. As a boy he would sneak into Tiger Stadium to watch his heroes. In 1999 Tiger Stadium closed it's gates for good. When Horton ran onto the field for the post-game festivities after the final game, he was greeted with a tremendous ovation from fans who appreciated his 15 seasons and 262 home runs with Detroit. Willie Horton, the slugger who starred on the '68 World Champions, the little kid from the streets of Detroit, the strong man who shattered bats with brute strength, broke down and cried like a baby.
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- 1968 World Series, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Willie Horton