The Tigers weren't getting any younger, but they arrived in Lakeland in 1973 feeling like they could still win the division, despite their advanced ages. Manager Billy Martin, however, caused a stir in spring training when he publicly wondered why the Baltimore Orioles seemed to have all the good young players, while the Tigers were failing to develop major leaguers themselves from their minor system.
A remarkable story was John Hiller, the lefty who suffered a heart attack in January 1971. Hiller came back in 1972 and pitched well, but in '73 he was unbelievable, registering 38 saves, a then record.
Another big story took place off the field, with the antics of manager Martin. He was already on thin ice after the spring training comment. Then he arrived in Chicago for a game less than hour before the first pitch, traveling separate from the team. In late-August, with the Tigers struggling to stay on the fringes of the divisional race---a race they led as recently as earlier in the month---Martin ordered at least one of his pitchers, Fred Scherman, to throw spitballs at the Cleveland Indians in retaliation for what Martin felt were illegal pitches thrown by the Tribe's Gaylord Perry. League president Joe Cronin suspended Martin, but before the suspension ran out, GM Jim Campbell fired Martin. Campbell was tired of the distractions that Martin provided.
Third base coach Joe Schultz took over, and the Tigers played out the string, winning 85 games and finishing 12 games behind the Baltimore Orioles and in third place.