Willie Horton in . . . the All-Time Franchise All StarsJuly 18, 2008
A couple days ago, after hurling web-scenities at Wade Boggs, I got on an airplane, worrying that bad vibes from the vulgar, spiteful post would cause some sort of Old Testament-style high-altitude smiting. Yesterday in the hippie-thick city where a lot of my family has recently relocated to, I came out of a grocery store and some bearded dude was sitting near the carts and playing a sitar. And I thought to myself, yeah, a sitar, why the hell not? Gotta spread those good cosmic vibes, man. Ain’t no time to hate. (At least until my return flight safely lands.)
So on that note here’s Willie Horton, one of the more beloved figures in baseball history. As I see it, Willie does not quite make the cut for the all-time Tigers team, even if a designated hitter spot is added, because the Tigers have no less than four Hall of Fame outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart, plus one other candidate for the DH position, Norm Cash, whose numbers seem to be a bit better than Horton’s estimable career record.
Cash, by the way, a first baseman who gets sent to the bench by Hank Greenberg, might also have a case for the wild-card position that I have included in these lists as a way of including the one player who can’t find a spot in the starting lineup but who needs to be on the team anyway. I’m no expert on how Tigers fans generally feel about Cash, but he played for the team for a long, long time, and if the incident in which he went to bat carrying a table leg late in a game against an unhittable Nolan Ryan is any guide, his personality was surely the kind that would endear him to the fans.
But I don’t think there’s a statue of Norm Cash at the Tigers’ current ballpark, and there is one of Willie Horton. I hope that some Tigers fans can chime in about this subject, but it seems from my distant viewpoint that Willie was not only a great player for a long time but was also one of those rare players with a special knack for letting the fans know that the love they are showering down is reciprocal. In a way it’s very dumb that we fans put so much emotion into this game, but the truth is, right or wrong, we do. And we want to get the feeling that the players we are cheering for hear us and appreciate it. I think Willie Horton was able to do that.
So he’s a member of the All Time Tiger team to me, in the extremely important wild-card spot. As for the other members of the team, I’m going to leave that open for debate in hopes of encouraging smarter fans than me to chime in with their picks. I’ll eventually add my own ballot and then tally up the results.
And here’s the ballot: