Considered a one-year wonder by many folks, Cash had a season players only dream about in 1961. He posted numbers so lofty that Edmund Hillary would have been adverse to climbing them. But Cash was more than just a man of one season: he was a consistent power threat who coupled solid on-base percentages with high slugging averages.
Originally property of the Chicago White Sox, Norm was blocked at the Major League level by the underrated Earl Torgeson. Although The Earl of Snohomish was an aging veteran when Norm was called up, the Sox opted to deal Cash for Minnie Minoso and solid little relief pitcher Don Ferrarese. Cash didn’t last long under the rule of the Indians and was traded in a steal to Detroit before the 1960 season began. The Tigers inserted Cash as their regular first baseman and the kid slugged .501 with more walks than strikeouts.
The Tigers harvested the full crop of their trade for Cash in 1961 when the left-handed hitting slugger set the American League ablaze. This was, as I’m sure you remember, the year that Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record, but Cash topped the AL with 193 hits, a whopping .487 on-base percentage and won the batting title with a .361 mark. Although Maris and Mantle got all the headlines with their long ball swatting, Cash put together a season that can be seen as more remarkable than the New York boys.
Of course, trying to repeat a season that monstrous was too much to ask for. His batting average fell sharply but he still had the stuff that made balls fly – swatting 39 homeruns (2nd in the American League). Cash also finished fourth in the league with 104 walks and he was the only AL first baseman to slug over .500. He elevated his batting average to .270 in 1963 and led all first basemen in walks while punching 26 homeruns.
Cash slugged over .500 again in 1965 when he blasted 30 homeruns (2nd in the AL) while leading AL first basemen in walks and runs scored. His ability to take a walk – something lost on too many modern day mashers – allowed him to post an on-base percentage above .370 in ’65 (he had eight such seasons, while Andres Galarraga had three such seasons).
In 1968 Norm led AL first basemen in base hits while leading Detroit to an AL pennant. Cash had a terrific season in the heart of the pitching era, slugging 32 homeruns and driving home 93 runs for the Tigers. Packing his big bat for the World Series, Norm hit St. Louis pitchers at a .385 clip while driving in five runs in a Fall Classic victory over the Cardinals.
Raising his batting average to .280 in 1969, Norm swatted 22 long balls and had an on-base plus slugging of .831. After a down year in 1970, the aging Cash, at the age of 36, rebounded nicely in 1971 when he finished second in the AL with 32 homeruns. The veteran first baseman hit .283 on the season while driving in 91 of his mates.
Norm made his last All-Star appearance in 1972, leading Detroit to an AL East title but his club fell victim to the strong Oakland A’s attack and Norm was denied his third trip to the World Series. He played two final years in Detroit – a fixture in Motown much like Al Kaline – before ending his career.
G 2,089/R 1,046/H 1,820/2B 241/HR 377/RBI 1,103/BB 1,043/SO 1,091/BA .271/SA .488