Nokes, who had come to the Tigers from the Giants, was asked in 1987 to fill the hole left when slugging catcher Lance Parrish opted for free agency. A lefthanded-hitting rookie who never had more than 14 home runs in a minor league season, Nokes blasted 32, drove in 87 runs, and batted .289 to help spark Detroit to the AL Eastern Division title. He also broke up a Tom Candiotti no-hitter in the eighth inning. His performance gained him selection to the AL All-Star and Silver Slugger teams.
Though manager Sparky Anderson liked his work habits, few could deny Nokes’s shortcomings as a catcher – his inexperience calling games, his erratic arm, and his often too-slow reactions. Mike Heath caught 75 of the Tigers’ games in 1988. AL pitchers got the book on Nokes – throw him breaking stuff – and, without the rabbit ball of 1987, Nokes hit just .251 with 16 HR in 1988. Injuries further slowed him in 1989.
Nokes was traded to the Yankees in the summer of 1990 for Clay Parker and Lance McCullers, and although he never again put up numbers similar to those from his rookie year, he was their everyday catcher for two seasons (1991-92). Then, the injury bug struck again, as each of Nokes’ final three seasons included trips to the DL.