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The Tigers were determined to show the baseball world that their flirtation with the 1961 pennant wasn't a fluke. Though they won 85 games in 1962, some baseball observers looked cross-eyed at the Tigers, figuring that they just had "one of those years" in 1961.

Once again, the key players from the 1961 team were back, plus a few new ones sprinkled in. Infielder Dick McAuliffe was now the regular shortstop, and Mac's unorthodox left-handed stance had some old-timers recalling that of Hall of Famer Mel Ott.

Catching prospect Bill Freehan, a local kid who went to the University of Michigan, was about ready to seize the day-to-day backstop duties. And Detroit-born and bred Willie Horton, from Northwestern High School, was a slugger of the future for the outfield. And a third sacker signed as an amateur free agent in 1958, Don Wert, was ready to get his feet wet with the big club.

Manager Bob Scheffing's easy-going style was a sharp contrast from that of his predecessors, Jimmie Dykes and Joe Gordon. Tigers observers wondered if Scheffing was maybe too easy on his players. An example was a pre-season contract squabble involving the Tigers and slugger Rocky Colavito. Scheffing seemed to publicly side with Colavito, and the rest of the team was split, which created some tension. That incident fuled the discussion over Scheffing's job status.

After 60 games, the answer must have been, "Yes, he is too easy-going," for with the Tigers 24-36, Scheffing was fired and replaced by fiery Charlie (Chuck) Dressen, a grizzled baseball man who managed his first game way back in 1934, with the Cincinnati Reds.

Dressen won consecutive pennants in 1952 and '53 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and unlike some managerial hires of the past, Dressen had some winning on his resume.

The magic wasn't there right away, however, after Dressen took over the Tigers, who promptly lost eight of their first 11 games under Charlie. But the team got better slowly, and an 11-1 run in late-August brought them within two games of .500.

Dressen's Tigers were an improvement over the ones who played for Scheffing, but it was still not even close to good enough to contend. The Tigers finished 79-83 and in the middle of the American League pack.

Al Kaline, as usual, paced the Tigers with 27 homers, 101 RBI, and a .312 BA. Colavito dropped to 22 homers. Horton, after a late-season call-up, batted .326 in 43 AB, with a home run. On the mound, Phil Regan led with victories (15), while Jim Bunning struck out 196 batters.

By GregEno
 

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Tagged:
Al Kaline, Bob Scheffing, Chuck Dressen, Detroit Tigers, Dick McAuliffe, Jim Bunning, Jimmie Dykes, Joe Gordon, Phil Regan, Rocky Colavito, Willie Horton

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