Mickey Tettleton

  • Born: Sept. 16, 1960 in Oklahoma City
  • Height: 6′ 2″ Weight: 200 lb.
  • Acquired: Traded by the Orioles to the Tigers for Jeff Robinson on Jan. 11, 1991.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 4 (1991-94)
  • Uniform Number: 20
  • Stats: .249 avg., 112 HR, 333 RBI, .867 OPS
  • Awards: Silver Slugger (1991, ’92) All Star (1994)

Who didn’t like Mickey Tettleton? He was built like a tank, stood ramrod straight at the plate and could crush the ball from either side of the plate. And, he wasn’t half-bad behind the plate.

Mickey Tettleton.jpgTettleton came to Detroit in a steal of a trade from the Orioles 20 years ago next week, the Tigers sending once-promising righty Jeff Robinson to Baltimore in the deal.

After four nondescript seasons with the A’s in which he never hit more than 10 home runs, Tettleton was released by Oakland and signed by the Orioles at the end of March 1988. That season he hit 11 homers but struck out 117 times in 411 at bats.

In 1989, however, he became a dangerous hitter, clubbing 26 homers and earning an All-Star appearance. And while his strikeouts rose along with his plate appearances, so did his walks. In 1990, he fanned 160 times (a career high) but walked 106.

Why would the Orioles, who weren’t exactly brimming with offensive talent, want to part ways with Tettleton? According to this story, they “did not want to pay him more than $1 million to be backup to Bob Melvin.” Bob Melvin! And shortly thereafter his ticket to Detroit was punched.

“He has good defensive skills and is adept at working with pitchers,” acting Tigers General Manager Joe McDonald said. “In addition, he brings even more punch to our lineup.”

And how.

Tettleton joined a Tigers club that was constructing a roster full of mashers: Cecil Fielder, Rob Deer and Pete Incaviglia.

He averaged 32 homers in his first three years with the Tigers … and 136 strikeouts. But, he also averaged 110 walks over those three seasons including a league-leading 122 in 1992.

Sparky Anderson penciled him in primarily at catcher in 1991 and ’92, with a few dozen starts at designated hitter. In 1993 and ’94, Tettleton began to see more time at first base and the outfield.

But Tettleton was known for his hitting and at Tiger Stadium he was a perfect fit. More than half his homers as a Tiger came at home.

After the strike-shortened 1994 season, he was granted free agency by the Tigers. He signed with the Rangers just before the 1995 season began and played parts of three seasons in Arlington before retiring in July 1997, with 245 career home runs — good for eighth place in major-league history by a switch hitter.

“This wasn’t a roster decision,” said an emotional Tettleton. “This was totally my decision. It was something I had talked about before and it just didn’t happen then. The time is right. Every athlete has the day when they have to come to that decision.”