Born in Virginia but raised in Detroit, Willie Horton was the hometown kid who made good. Signed by the Tigers in 1961, Willie became one of the finest sluggers in Tigers history. A four-time All-Star, Horton had six years in which he eclipsed 20 homers for his hometown team.
Willie made his debut with the Tigers in 1963 as a 20-year-old but wasn’t given an everyday assignment until 1965. In his full Major League season, Horton was named to the AL All-Star team while leading junior circuit left fielders in homeruns (29) and RBI (104). He followed up his breakout ’65 season with another 100 RBI campaign in 1966. That year Willie was the lone American League left fielder to reach 100 RBI and he led his position peers in slugging average as well.
Horton had his finest slugging season in 1968 when he finished second in the league in homeruns. The brawny basher slugged at a .545 clip while leading the Tigers to an AL pennant. The Tigers captured the World Series title that year with Horton hitting .304 with six runs scored during the Fall Classic. For his amazing season, the slugger who slapped out 36 long balls finished fourth in MVP voting.
Willie clubbed 28 homeruns in 1969 with 91 RBI but an injury cut short his 1970 season. During that injury shortened season, Willie was hitting at a .300 clip and made his third All-Star team, but the injury bug bit and he was limited to just 96 games. He bounced back to post another 20 homerun season in 1971 while leading American League left fielders in slugging average.
Horton made his fourth and final All-Star appearance in 1973 when he had his highwater mark for batting average with a robust .316 average. Again, the big basher from Motown led AL left fielders with a .501 slugging average. Limited to 72 games in 1974, when he came back to the fold he was used primarily as a designated hitter. In his first year used strictly as a DH, 1975, Willie led all designated hitters in hits, homeruns and RBI.
After Willie’s numbers fell off in 1976, the Tigers dealt their hometown hero to the Texas Rangers early in the 1977 season for Steve Foucault. The ’78 season was an interesting one for Willie. Used as a slugger for hire, Horton had to keep his bags packed–spending time with three teams during the regular season. He signed with the Mariners as a free agent after the season and had his last great year in 1979. For Seattle, Willie finished second to Don Baylor in homeruns (29) and RBI (106) among designated hitters. He ended his career with two years as a member of the PCL’s Portland Beavers.
G 2,028/R 873/H 1,993/2B 284/HR 325/RBI 1,163/BB 620/SO 1,313/BA .273/SA .457