The Tigers had been nothing more than a .500 club, for the most part, for the previous three seasons. They weren't great, they weren't terrible. They headed into the 1958 season hoping to make the leap from average to pennant contender.
Part of the team's problems was rooted in the offense. Beyond Al Kaline and Harvey Kuenn--the celebrated "K Boys"--the Tigers simply didn't have a lot of pizzazz in their lineup. The two stars were the only batters to eclipse the .300 plateau.
As a result, the Tigers often struggled to score runs, which placed an enormous burden on their pitching staff--which was good but not stellar.
It all added up to another summer of .500 baseball in Detroit---this time literally. The 1958 Tigers finished 77-77, spending most of the season scrambling to just reach the break even point, let alone climb over it.
There was a little news, however. On June 11, the Tigers fired manager Jack Tighe after a 21-28 start, replacing him with minor league skipper Bill Norman, who had never managed in the big leagues. The move worked---for a little while. The Tigers were 11-3 in Norman's first 14 games as manager.
Kuenn, who missed 15 games, batted .319; Kaline was close behind at .313. As usual, both players were incredibly consistent, and the 23-year-old Kaline had baseball observers amazed that he was already in his sixth season at such a young age.
The 1958 season also saw the fiery Billy Martin spend his lone season as a Tigers player, spending most of his time at shortstop.
On the mound, the Tigers were led by "Yankee Killer" Frank Lary, who had 16 wins and a 2.90 ERA. Lary earned his moniker for his famous success against the Bronx Bombers throughout his career in Detroit.
On Sunday, July 20, right-hander Jim Bunning twirled a no-hitter at Boston's Fenway Park, which would be the last no-hitter fired by a Tigers pitcher for nearly 26 years. The Red Sox lineup that afternoon included the likes of Ted Williams, Frank Malzone and Jackie Jensen. Yet Bunning dominated, striking out 12.
Bunning's gem was a highlight in a year that was otherwise pretty nondescript---again.
- Al Kaline, Bill Norman, Billy Martin, Detroit Tigers, Frank Lary, Harvey Kuenn, Jack Tighe, Jim Bunning