|1961 Detroit Tigers|
|Major League affiliations|
|General manager(s)||Rick Ferrell|
(George Kell, Ernie Harwell)
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The 1961 Detroit Tigers won 101 games but finished in second place, eight games behind the Yankees. The team's 1961 record tied the 1934 Tigers team record of 101 wins, and only twice in team history have the Tigers won more games: 1968 (103 wins) and 1984 (104 wins).
On January 1, the Tigers' home park, Briggs Stadium, was renamed Tiger Stadium.
The 1961 Tigers were led by Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, and Al Kaline. Cash won the AL batting title with a .361 batting average, and had 132 RBIs, and Colavito hit 45 home runs and had 140 RBIs. Kaline led the AL with 41 doubles and finished second to Cash for the batting title with a .324 average. Frank Lary led the pitching staff with 23 wins. The 1961 Tigers' winning percentage ranks as the 6th best in team history.
Catcher Dick Brown hit 16 home runs in 1961, including back-to-back-to-back home runs with Norm Cash and Steve Boros on May 23, 1961. He hit a grand slam less than one month earlier on April 29, 1961.
Brown shared catching duties with rookie Mike Roarke who played in 86 games and hit .223 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs. Roarke was a 30-year-old rookie in 1961. Roarke graduated from Boston College in 1952 where he was captain of the football and baseball teams in his senior season.
Brown appeared in 91 games at catcher in 1961, and Roarke in 85.
First baseman Norm Cash won the AL batting crown with a .361 average and also led the league with a .488 on-base percentage and 193 hits. He was also among the league leaders with 41 home runs (6th in the AL), 132 RBIs (4th in the AL), 119 runs scored (4th in the AL), 124 walks (2nd in the AL), 354 total bases (2nd in the AL), and a .662 slugging average (2nd in the AL). He also led the AL in putouts in 1961. While Cash's performance was overshadowed by the 61 home runs of Roger Maris, his .361 average would be the highest by any major league player in the 1960s. Cash was 4th in the MVP voting.
Shortstop Chico Fernández was Detroit's regular shortstop for three seasons from 1960 to 1962. In 1960, he led American League shortstops with 34 errors. After six seasons in which he never hit more than 6 home runs, Fernández hit 20 home runs and 59 RBIs for the Tigers in 1962.
Second baseman Jake Wood was the Tigers' starting second baseman from 1961 to 1963. 1961 was his rookie season, and he led the AL in triples with 14 and in strikeouts with 141. He was also third in the AL in stolen bases with 30.
Third baseman Steve Boros signed a bonus contract with the Detroit Tigers in 1957. He was named the most valuable player of the Class AAA American Association in 1960 after he tied for the lead in runs batted in with 119. In his first full MLB season, 1961, Boros appeared in 116 games for the Tigers as a third baseman and hit .270 with 62 runs batted in. His season was cut short when he collided with Frank Lary and broke his collarbone.
Left fielder Rocky Colavito came to the Tigers in 1960 in a trade for Harvey Kuenn, who had won the 1959 batting title. The trade proved to be a good one for the Tigers. In 1961 with the Tigers, Colavito enjoyed career highs of 45 home runs, 140 RBI and 129 runs scored as the team led the major leagues in scoring. Colavito placed eighth in the MVP race, but Tiger fans didn't take to him. Sportswriter Joe Falls, who viewed Colavito as a "self-ordained deity," started a feature chronicling the runs he failed to drive in. In one game, Falls – acting as the official scorer – charged Colavito with a controversial error, and the outfielder tried to attack him. And on May 12, 1961, he was ejected from the game after climbing into the stands to go after a drunken fan who had been harassing his wife and father. After his excellent 1961 season, he drew the local fans' criticism by holding out for a higher salary than established team star Al Kaline. He was traded to the Athletics after the 1963 season.
Center fielder Bill Bruton put in a strong performance as the Tigers' center fielder. His range factor of 2.67 was far above the league average of 1.98. Bruton played in 160 games for the 1961 Tigers, scored 99 runs, collected 153 hits, and had 17 home runs, 63 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and a .257 batting average.
Right fielder Al Kaline finished second in the AL with a .324 batting average and led the league with 41 doubles. Kaline also had 19 home runs, 82 RBIs, 116 runs scored, finished 9th in the AL MVP voting, and won a Gold Glove award for his fine performance in right field.
Frank Lary was 23–9 in 1961, leading the team in wins and finishing second in the AL behind Whitey Ford. He also won a Gold Glove award in 1961, led the AL with 22 complete games, threw a one-hitter, appeared in the All Star Game, finished 7th in the AL MVP voting, was 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting. Known as "The Yankee Killer", Lary had a career record of 27–13 against the Yankees, including a 13–1 run from 1958 to 1959.
Future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning went 17–11 for the Tigers in 38 games in 1961. He was chosen for the AL All-Star team and was among the AL leaders with a 3.19 ERA (7th best in AL), 17 wins (4th best in AL), 194 strikeouts (3rd in AL), 12 complete games (4th in AL), and 4 shutouts (3rd in AL).
Don Mossi pitched the greatest season of his career in 1961, going 15–7 with a 2.96 ERA. Nicknamed "The Sphinx" and "Ears", baseball historian Bill James dubbed Mossi "The Man Who Invented Winning Ugly." James wrote: "Mossi's ears looked as if they had been borrowed from a much larger species, and reattached without proper supervision. His nose was crooked, his eyes were in the wrong place, and though he was skinny he had no neck to speak of, just a series of chins that melted into his chest. . . . Don Mossi was the complete five-tool ugly player. He could run ugly, hit ugly, throw ugly, field ugly and ugly for power." 
The Tigers #4 starter Paul Foytack played 10 seasons for the Tigers (1953, 1955–63) and is best known for giving up the longest home run in Tigers Stadium history—a 1960 blast by Mickey Mantle that landed in the Brooks lumberyard across Trumbull Avenue from the stadium. In 1961, Foytack was 11–10 with a 3.93 ERA.
Relief pitcher Phil Regan became known as "The Vulture" because of his skill as a closer. In 1961, Regan was 10–7 in 32 games (16 as a starter, 16 in relief). He pitched 120 innings with a 5.25 ERA.
|New York Yankees||109||53||0.673||—||65–16||44–37|
|Chicago White Sox||86||76||0.531||23||53–28||33–48|
|Boston Red Sox||76||86||0.469||33||50–31||26–55|
|Los Angeles Angels||70||91||0.435||38½||46–36||24–55|
|Kansas City Athletics||61||100||0.379||47½||33–47||28–53|
Sources:          
|1961 Detroit Tigers|
Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in
Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in
Note: pitchers' batting statistics not included
Note: G = Games; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts
Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts
Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts
The following members of the 1961 Detroit Tigers are among the Top 100 of all time at their positions, as ranked by The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001:
See also: Minor League Baseball
|AAA||Denver Bears||American Association||Charlie Metro|
|AA||Birmingham Barons||Southern Association||Frank Skaff|
|A||Knoxville Smokies||Sally League||Frank Carswell|
|B||Durham Bulls||Carolina League||Al Lakeman|
|C||Duluth–Superior Dukes||Northern League||Bob Swift|
|D||Montgomery Rebels||Alabama–Florida League||Gail Henley|
|D||Decatur Commodores||Midwest League||Johnny Groth|
|D||Jamestown Tigers||New York–Penn League||Al Federoff|