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Bill Freehan

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William Ashley Freehan

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Biographical information[edit]

Bill Freehan was one of the top catchers of his era. He played his whole major league career with the Detroit Tigers, excelling in both hitting and fielding. He won five Gold Gloves and was an All-Star eleven times. He was once second in the MVP voting and once third.

Freehan's stats are more impressive than they look, because he played during the second dead-ball era. For instance, in 1968 when the American League hit .230, Freehan's .263 was only eleven points away from the tenth best batter in the league. In 1967, his .282 average was ninth in the AL, and his .300 in 1964 was sixth in the AL.

He was also a master in getting hit by the pitch, leading the league three times.

In terms of similarity scores, none of the most similar players are in the Hall of Fame. The most similar player is Darrell Porter, whose OPS+ at 113 is one point higher than that of Freehan. On the other hand, Porter was clearly not as prominent defensively and was not in as many All-Star games. Also, similarity scores do not adjust for era, which hurts Freehan. He started a total of 324 games with Mickey Lolich as the starting pitcher for the Tigers, which is the highest total for a battery in major league history (Warren Spahn and Del Crandall come second with 316 starts). No other duo even reached 300 starts together until Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina made it with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2021.

He was the head coach at the University of Michigan from 1990 to 1995. He had attended Michigan in 1961, the year that the Tigers signed him. After retirement he served as president of an automobile manufacturers representative agency and was a commentator on Tigers television broadcasts in 1984 and 1985. From 2002 to 2005, he was a coaching instructor in the Tigers' organization. Late in life, he suffered from Alzheimer's disease and passed away from the disease at his cottage in northern Michigan in August 2021, at the age of 79.

Freehan's grandson, Blaise Salter, played in the Tigers’ minor-league system from 2015-2018.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 11-time AL All-Star (1964-1973 & 1975)
  • 5-time AL Gold Glove Winner (1965-1969)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1967, 1968 & 1971)
  • Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1968


Further Reading[edit]

  • Bill Dow: "Detroit Tigers great Bill Freehan dies at age 79 after long battle with dementia", Detroit Free Press, August 19, 2021. [1]
  • Trey Strecker: "Bill Freehan", in Mark Pattison and David Raglin, ed.: Detroit Tigers 1984: What A Start! What A Finish!, SABR Publications, Phoenix, AZ, 2012, pp. 209-212. ISBN 1933599448

Related Sites[edit]