Willie Horton

A short, squat, but immensely strong righthanded slugger, Horton battled weight problems throughout his ML career but was always one of the AL’s most dangerous long-ball threats, hitting two home runs in a game 30 different times. He was the Tigers left fielder from 1965 to 1974, then became a designated hitter as he added both years and pounds, and in his final four ML seasons he played for six different AL clubs.

Horton stood barely 5’11”, and early in his career he often reported to spring training weighing 220-230 lbs., where he would attempt to shed 20 lbs. to reach his playing weight. He was an All-Star in his first full ML season (1965), hitting .273 with 29 HR and 104 RBI, and hit 27 HR with 100 RBI the following year. An ankle problem hampered him in 1967, but he recovered from off-season surgery to hit .285 with 36 HR in 1968 as the Tigers captured the AL pennant. In the WS, he showed a surprisingly strong throwing arm, nailing Cardinals speedster Lou Brock at home plate on a key play in Game Five on the way to a seven-game Detroit victory. And in 1969 three of his 28 HR were grand lams.

Horton’s home run production tailed off considerably from 1970 to 1974, but he hit .305 in 1970 and a career-high .316 in 1973. Then, in 1975, he became Detroit’s full-time designated hitter and belted 25 HR. The Tigers traded Horton to Texas for Steve Foucault at the beginning of the 1977 season, and the Rangers shipped him to Cleveland with aborted phenom David Clyde for Tom Buskey and John Lowenstein before 1978. Horton was the DH for the Indians, A’s, and Blue Jays at various times in 1978, then signed with the Mariners as a free agent and played all 162 games in 1979, slugging 29 HR with 106 RBI. He retired after the 1980 season, fourth on the Tigers all-time home run list.