Bill Freehan: The Tiger Who Was a Horse

By Steve Kornacki at

Bill Freehan was considered the premier catcher in baseball until Johnny Bench came along and claimed that title.

He began a run of 10 consecutive All-Star Game selections in 1964 — just three years removed from his time as a University of Michigan two-sport standout — and finished third in American League MVP voting in 1967 and second in 1968, when his Detroit Tigers won the World Series.

Freehan would’ve been a back-to-back MVP selection in many seasons. However, Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967, and Tigers teammate Denny McLain won 31 games the next year to claim those awards.

Still, Tigers Hall of Fame right fielder Al Kaline paid Freehan a compliment that very well could top any award.

“Over a long period of time,” Kaline said in a recent phone interview, “Bill was the best player I ever played with on our team. He was such a great leader of our team. He wasn’t (officially) the captain, but he was the captain of our ball club.

“He was truly a great Tiger, and he should have something where people will always remember Bill Freehan as a great Detroit Tiger.”

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