For fans tired of .500-type baseball in Detroit, 1960 was about to give them a jolt---even if it didn't translate into more wins.
It all started before the season with two of the most impactful trades in Tigers history. The first was the Tigers' trade of little-known, little-used Steve Demeter to the Cleveland Indians for 1B Norm Cash. The second was made on the eve of the season, and it staggered the baseball world.
Tigers President Bill DeWitt, known for his impulsive trades and flamboyance, lived up to his bill when he again traded with the Indians. DeWitt sent reigning A.L. batting king Harvey Kuenn to Cleveland for the reigning home run king, Rocky Colavito in a blockbuster trade of right fielders.
Cleveland GM Frank Lane immediately claimed victory, saying his team had traded "hamburger for steak." To which DeWitt replied, "I like hamburger."
Colavito was enormously popular in Cleveland, so the trade didn't play well there. It didn't help that Colavito continued his home run hitting prowess with the Tigers, while Kuenn battled injury and missed 36 games with the Indians.
But DeWitt wasn't done dealing with the Indians. He had another stunner up his sleeve.
Again finding Lane a willing trade partner, DeWitt cooked up something that hadn't been done before, and hasn't been done since: a swap of big league managers during the season. DeWitt and Lane traded managers, with Jimmie Dykes headed for Cleveland and Joe Gordon coming to Detroit.
The day the trade was announced, on August 3 (DeWitt's birthday), the Tigers were struggling at 45-52, while the Indians were 50-46. Neither team was in pennant contention, so both GMs agreed to pull the trigger, whether it was a publicity stunt or not.
When the dust settled after all the trades and theatrics, the Tigers finished in sixth place, 71-83. It was a step backward in terms of wins and losses, but the excitement of the Cash and Colavito trades, and the swap of managers, did a lot to distract fans from the team's foibles.
Colavito hit 35 home runs in his first Tigers season. Kaline dipped to a .278 average, and even though "Sunday" Charlie Maxwell added 24 homers, he batted just .237. On the mound, Frank Lary won 15 games (but also lost 15) and Jim Bunning once again led the league in strikeouts, again with 201, but his record was just 11-14.
It was a whirlwind season. Even the Tigers' Old English D wasn't safe, as DeWitt had the word "Tigers" spelled out in Dodgers-like script on the front of the home jerseys for the 1960 season. That move proved to be DeWitt's most unpopular, and the "D" was returned to the left breast for 1961.By GregEno
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- Al Kaline, Bill DeWitt, Charlie Maxwell, Detroit Tigers, Frank Lane, Frank Lary, Harvey Kuenn, Jim Bunning, Joe Gordon, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, Steve Demeter