- 3B, CF, DH, OF, LF, RF, 2B
- The Jet
- February 12, 1955
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-09-1975 with CHA
Fan-favorite Chet Lemon set a single-season major league record for putouts by an outfielder in just his second season. In one of the best trades in Tiger history, he was dealt to Detroit prior to the 1982 season for Steve Kemp, and finished his career with the team, starring on the 1984 World Series champions. He was an excellent outfielder and had good power at the plate, hitting 20 homers three times.
#34 with the Tigers
“Chet wasn’t a very good outfielder at first because he came up as an infielder and made the change but Chet worked very hard. He hustled, he learned. He had trouble running the bases at first despite the fact that he was fast, but he picked up.” Jimmy Piersall, from an interview with Mark Liptak
In 1988, Gary Pettis, who was an excellent defender, pushed Lemon to right field in the Tiger outfield. A few years later, after Chet retired, he was replaced in RF by Rob Deer.
His .287 average and .495 slugging percentage were the best he put up in Detroit.
Lemon was part of an all-Detroit middle unit for the American League in the 1984 All-Star Game starting lineup. Catcher Lance Parrish, and double play duo Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, joined Lemon, who started in center field.
Lemon was a notoriously bad baserunner, and might have made more blunders on the basepaths than any other regular player of his era.
On September 20, 1988, Lemon hit his 200th home run, off Scott Bailes of the Indians. The homer came at Tiger Stadium in the 9th inning and gave Detroit a 3-1 victory.
Lemon was known for being hit by pitches, making leaping catches over the outfield wall, and sliding head-first into first base. He probably slid into first base three out of every ten times he grounded out, despite warnings of injury and the pleadings of his managers.
MLB Hit By Pitch Leaders, 1980-1989
Don Baylor... 160 Chet Lemon... 108 Brian Downing... 88 Carlton Fisk... 81 Lonnie Smith... 68
Worst Stolen Base Percentage, 1980-1989
(Minimum 50 attempts) Chet Lemon... 34.4% (21-for-61) Ben Oglivie... 39.6% (21-for-53) Pete O'Brien... 40.7% (22-for-54) Mike Marshall... 45.6% (26-for-57) Keith Moreland... 45.9% (28-for-33) Lemon is the only player in this group who was considered fast during his career. Lemon did have great instincts in the field and got to a lot of fly balls, but for whatever reason, he failed to translate those instincts to the base paths.
Worst Stolen Base Percentage, All-Time
(Minimum 125 attempts) Pat Duncan... 39.6% Buddy Bell... 41.0% Chet Lemon... 43.3% Doc Cramer... 45.9% Babe Pinelli... 47.0% Duncan was an outfielder, primarily with the Reds in the early 1920s. He hit well enough to stick around until Cincinnati realized you could shake a tree and find .300 hitting outfielders in the minor leagues. In four full years as Cincinnati's starting left fielder, he hit .295, .308, .328 and .327. He had enough speed to reach double figures in triples three times, but he was a miserable base stealer. In 1921-1922 he was gunned down in 46 of his 65 steal attempts.
Lemon hit a line drive against the Angels on July 22, 1983, which left fielder Brian Downing misplayed, allowing Lemon to reach second. The error by Downing broke his record string of 244 games without a miscue in the outfield.
Near Death Experience
Lemon became ill after the 1990 season, shortly after he had retired from baseball. He rapidly lost weight and become more and more sick as the fall turned to winter. Finally, he was diagnosed with a rare spleen ailment. He survived what doctors called "risky spleen surgery" at the University of Michigan in December of 1990.