Monday, January 11, 2010

1976 Topps #320 - Willie Horton

  • Willie Horton played for six teams from 1963-1980. He spent the bulk of his career with the Detroit Tigers. Willie was the youngest of 21 children. He was on a city-championship high school team (Detroit Northwestern) in 1959 and was signed by the Tigers in 1961. Willie played in the minors in 1962 and 1963 and was given a look-see in September 1963. He hit his first major league home run off of Robin Roberts (a pinch-hit HR in his second at bat). For the season Horton batted .326 in 43 at bats.
  • In 1964 Horton started with the Tigers and was sent to AAA Syracuse in mid May. He batted .288 with 28 HR for Syracuse and was recalled in September. Horton didn't see much action with the Tigers in 1964 and batted .163 in 80 at bats. Horatio Horton June 1964 Baseball Digest.
  • Horton became the starting left fielder for the Tigers in 1965 and had a great season. He was the starting left fielder on the AL All Star team (he was 0 for 3 with a walk) and batted .273 with 29 HR and 104 RBI in 143 games. Willie finished 8th in MVP voting in 1965.
  • Willie's 1966 season was almost as good. He batted .262 with 27 HR and 100 RBI. In 1967 Horton batted .274 with 19 HR and 67 RBI. During the 1967 12th Street riot in Detroit Willie tried to calm the mob by standing on a car in his Tiger uniform and pleading for calm. Unfortunately it didn't work.
  • Horton's best season was probably 1968. In that piching-dominated year Willie was 4th in the AL in batting average (.285) and was 2nd in home runs (36). Horton was the starting left fielder in the All Star Game and was 0 for 2. Willie was 4th in MVP voting behind unanimous selection Denny McLain, teammate Bill Freehan, and Ken Harrelson. Horton batted .304 in 23 at bats in the World Series. Toward the end of the season Tiger manager Mayo Smith employed a creative lineup in order to keep Horton's bat in the lineup. Willie played left field, Mickey Stanley (normally an outfielder) played shortstop, and Jim Northrup played center field. If the Tigers were ahead late in a game, Roy Oyler (the epitome of a good-field/no-hit shortstop) went in at SS, Stanley moved to CF, and Northrup (or Kaline) moved to LF. The Effervescent Tiger - August 1968 Baseball Digest.
  • Willie batted .262 with 28 HR and 91 RBI in 1969. In 1970 Horton was an AL All Star again (he was 2 for 2 and was intentionally walked once). He was on his way to a great season but didn't play after July 24 due to an injury. In 97 games Horton batted .305 with 17 HR and 69 RBI. On June 9, 1970 Willie homered three times against the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Horton was out for a month from late August to late September 1971. He batted .289 with 22 HR and 72 RBI. In 1972 Horton had his poorest season. He batted .231 with 11 HR and 31 RBI in 108 games. He was 1 for 10 in the 1972 ALCS.
  • Willie made his last AL All Star team in '73 (he struck out in a pinch hitting appearance) and batted .316 with 17 HR and 53 RBI. Willie Horton: The Thinking Man's Hitter December 1983 Baseball Digest. In 1974 Horton played in only 72 games and didn't play after July 7. He batted .298 with 15 HR and 47 RBI. On April 14, 1974 he hit a popup that struck and killed a pigeon at Fenway Park.
  • After Kaline's retirement at the end of the 1974 season Horton became the full-time DH. For the remainder of his career he would only play 22 more games in the outfield. Willie was named the AL's Outstanding Designated Hitter in 1975. He batted .275 with 25 HR and 92 RBI in 1975. Horton dropped to .262 with 14 HR and 56 RBI in 1976.
  • Willie played one game for the Tigers in 1977 before being traded to the Texas Rangers for Steve Foucault. Horton batted .289 with 15 HR and 75 RBI in '77. After the 1977 season he was traded with David Clyde to the Cleveland Indians for Tom Buskey and John Lowenstein. After batting .249 with 5 HR and 22 RBI in 50 games Willie was released by the Indians on July 3. On July 13 he was signed by the Oakland A's and he batted .314 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 32 games. Willie was then traded to the Toronto Blue Jays with Phil Huffman for Rico Carty. In 33 games Horton batted .205 with 3 HR and 19 RBI.
  • After the 1978 season Horton became a free agent and signed with the Seattle Mariners. He was named AL Comeback Player of the Year and AL Designated Hitter of the Year after batting .279 with 29 HR and 106 RBI. In 1980 Horton slumped to a .221 average with 8 HR and 36 RBI in 97 games. He was on the shelf for two one-month periods. The Game I'll Never Forget August 1980 Baseball Digest.
  • After the 1980 season Willie was traded to the Rangers as part of a large multi-player trade. He didn't make the club in 1981 and was released in spring training. Willie hooked on with the Pittsburgh Pirates and played for their AAA Portland club in 1981 and 1982 but didn't get back to the majors. In 1983 Horton played in the Mexican League.
  • After his playing career Horton coached for the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. In 2000 a statue of Willie was placed in Comerica Park and his #23 was retired (the only Detroit non-HOFer with that honor). Since 2003 he has been a Special Assistant to Dave Dombrowski (President/CEO/GM for the Tigers).
  • Liked to face: Jesse Jefferson (.458 in 24 AB); Bill Lee (.452 in 42 AB); Clyde Wright (.419 with 9 HR in 43 AB)
  • Hated to face: Lindy McDaniel (.083 in 24 AB); Camilo Pascual (.111 in 27 AB); Al Downing (.125 in 40 AB)

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