Monday, July 25, 2011

#390 Bill Freehan

#390 Bill Freehan
Today's entry wraps up the donation made by Greg Mader. Thanks again!

As you can see, Bill Freehan sets a great target, even though he's not making eye contact with the pitcher. That's a good way to get your fingers broken, kiddos.

Fun facts about Bill Freehan:

-Bill was a Detroit native and briefly attended the University of Michigan before signing with the Tigers in 1961.

-He debuted with the Tigers in September 1961 after hitting .289 in 77 minor league games. A few months shy of his 20th birthday, he went 4-for-10 with 4 RBI and a walk in his first taste of the bigs.

-Freehan became Detroit's everyday catcher in 1964 and made the first of 11 All-Star teams. He led the club with an even .300 average and 8 triples, and also contributed 18 home runs and 80 RBI. He placed seventh in MVP voting.

-Though his average dipped to .234 in 1965, his defense didn't suffer. Bill won the first of five straight Gold Gloves behind the plate.

-He was runner-up to batterymate Denny McLain in 1968's MVP vote. Freehan caught for a talented staff that included McLain (31-6, 1.96 ERA) and Mickey Lolich (17-9, 3.19 ERA) and also posted career highs in slugging (.454), home runs (25), and RBI (84). His .366 on-base percentage was nearly 70 points above the league average.

-Though he collected only two hits and four walks in the 1968 World Series (.083 AVG, .214 OBP), his defensive play was crucial. In Game Five, he threw out Lou Brock on an attempted steal of second base in the third inning and blocked the plate and tagged Brock out attempting to score in the fifth. The Tigers won the game 5-3 to stave off elimination, and rallied to win the next two games as well and capture the championship.

-Freehan gave fans an inside look at his 1969 season with the book Behind the Mask, with Steve Gelman and Dick Schaap collaborating on the effort.

-On August 9, 1971, he belted three home runs in a wild road game against Boston. All three were solo shots, as the Tigers blew a 7-2 lead and lost 12-11.

-Bill spent his entire career with the Tigers, retiring at the end of the 1976 season. In parts of 15 seasons, he batted .262 with 200 home runs and 758 RBI. Due to the depressed offensive environment of his era, he posted an OPS+ of 112.

-After retiring, he did broadcast work for the Mariners and Tigers, and also returned to the University of Michigan to coach the baseball team from 1989 to 1995.
#390 Bill Freehan (back)