Monday, May 28, 2012

1975 TOPPS WILLIE HORTON

PROTOTYPICAL '70s SLUGGER.
WILLIAM WALLISON COULD OPEN A CAN
 OF WHUP ASS WITH THE BEST OF 'EM. 

THE FRONT PAGE

  • Willie Horton was and is a tremendously popular player in Detroit. His family moved to Detroit from Virginia when he was 11, and he played sandlot baseball outside Briggs Stadium.
  •  He signed with the Tigers at age 18 and ended his career in 1980 with the Mariners with the seventh most home runs by a right-handed hitter (325). 

THE BACK PAGE

  • Willie is fourth all-time on the Tigers' homer list with 262.
  • The old-time player in the cartoon looks like he's holding a needle. 
  • "William Wallison Horton.'' Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? 

PHOTO PLAY

  • A spring training shot, taken at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. 
  • With that mustache and build, Horton oozed bad-ass.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Horton was a prep legend around Detroit. He homered off the base of the light standard on top of the right-center field roof in a high school championship game in 1959 at Briggs Stadium (renamed Tiger Stadium in '61). He was only 16. Keep in mind Detroit is the site of some famous blasts: Babe Ruth's 700th, Ted Williams' game-winner in the '41 All-Star Game and Reggie Jackson's jack in the '71 All-Star Game, basically the same spot that Horton reached 12 years before. 
  • "Willie The Wonder'' used to sneak into games as a youth until he was caught by Indians outfield Rocky Colavito, who then helped him get a part-time job in the clubhouse. As fate would have it, a few years later, after Colavito was traded to the Tigers, Horton would replace him. 
  • Originally signed as a catcher, Horton was switched to the outfield because the Tigers had recently signed Bill Freehan
  • Became an everyday player in '65, the same year both of his parents were killed in an auto accident on New Year's Day.
  • Was often fined by the team for throwing baseballs to kids in left field during pregame.
  • Finished second in the AL in homers with 36 and was fourth in batting with a .285 average in '68, when the Tigers won the World Series; he hit .305 against the Cardinals.
  • However, it was his assist in left field that some cite as the spark that turned the Series Detroit's way after falling behind three games to one. In Game 5, the Cardinals led 3-2 and were threatening to score more. Lou Brock was headed home on a single when Horton gunned him down on a one-hopper. The Tigers rallied to win and then took the final two games.
  • In '75, he was selected Designated Hitter of the Year, hitting 25 homers and driving in 92. 
  • The team traded Horton to Texas for pitcher Steve Foucault in April '77 because he didn't help rookie outfielder Steve Kemp, a charge Horton denied. 
  • Again won DH of the Year in '79, along with Comeback Player of the Year, with the Mariners (29 HRs, career-high 106 RBI).
  • Welcomed back to the Tigers family in 2000, when he had his No. 23 retired and a statue built alongside Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg and Hal Newhouser at Comerica Park.
  • Currently a special assistant to GM Dave Dombrowski.

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