The Giants and Tigers: A long time coming

Leon Halip

The Giants and Tigers have been in baseball together since 1901. Why have they never met in the World Series?

The Giants and the Tigers have existed simultaneously for the last 112 years. They've each won several divisions, pennants, and championships. The Giants have 23 former players in the Hall of Fame, and the Tigers have 9, but we'll give them credit for Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell because it's a travesty that they're out. Both franchises have a rich, long history that is … rich and, uh, long.

This will be the Giants' 21st World Series; it will be the Tigers' 11th. The Giants have played in the World Series against teams like the St. Louis Browns, Brooklyn Bridegrooms, and the Washington Senators. They've played best-of-9 and best-of-11 World Series. The Tigers have been around long enough to lose two World Series to the Chicago Cubs.

The Giants and Tigers have never met in the World Series, though. That's not exactly spit-take surprising, but considering the longevity and relative success of both franchises over the years, it's enough to investigate. Here's a chart showing the number of wins both teams per season since the Tigers came into the league in 1901 (click the chart to enlarge):


There have been some really good teams in the histories of both franchises. Just not at the same time. Take a look at the post-Wild Card era, for example. The Giants are up and the Tigers are down. The Giants are up again, the Tigers are even further down. The Tigers started their renaissance just as the Giants were getting awful. It's only been in the last couple of years that they've been good at the same time -- the first dual contention since the '80s.

Or, to put it another way, in those 112 years, this is only the second time the Giants and Tigers have made the playoffs in the same season. The Giants have been knocked out of the playoffs by the Marlins on two separate occasions, for perspective.

Over those 112 years, there have been some close calls, with both teams looking like potential World Series contenders. Here are the seasons in which both teams won at least 90 games, along with the teams or individuals who played spoiler:

1908

Top hitters (WAR):
Matty McIntyre (5.8), Mike Donlin (5.8)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Bill Donovan (4.3), Christy Mathewson (10.7)

Tigers' finish:
90-63, 1st, lost in World Series

Giants' finish:
98-56, 2nd

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Giants

Spoiler: Fred Merkle, a rookie who played for the Giants and is still famous for Merkle's Boner. This is not to be confused with Snodgrass's Muff, which was a different Giants mistake. I'm not sure what was going on last century, really. Maybe in 100 years, "Game 6 comeback" will be some sort of filthy euphemism that involves burros and peach cobbler.

1909

Top hitters (WAR):
Ty Cobb (9.5), Al Bridwell (5.4)

Top pitchers (WAR):
George Mullen (4.2), Christy Mathewson (8.9)

Tigers' finish:
98-54, 1st, lost in World Series

Giants' finish:
92-61, 3rd

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Nope

Spoiler:
The Pirates, who won 110 games in a 152 game season. Sheesh.

1934

Top hitters (WAR):
Charlie Gehringer (8.1), Mel Ott (7.1)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Schoolboy Rowe (5.4), Carl Hubbell (6.9)

Tigers' finish:
101-53, 1st, lost in World Series

Giants' finish:
93-60, 2nd

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Giants

Spoiler:
Cardinals. This will be something of a theme. The Cardinals did not want the Giants to play the Tigers in the World Series.

1935

Top hitters (WAR):
Charlie Gehringer (7.6), Mel Ott (7.0)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Schoolboy Rowe (3.4), Carl Hubbell (4.4)

Tigers' finish:
93-58, 1st, won World Series

Giants' finish:
91-62, 3rd

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Nope

Spoiler:
The 100-win Chicago Cubs

1967

Top hitters (WAR):
Al Kaline (7.2), Jim Ray Hart (5.6)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Mickey Lolich (2.4), Gaylord Perry (5.4)

Tigers' finish:
91-71, 2nd

Giants' finish:
91-71, 2nd

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Tigers, Giants

Spoiler:
Red Sox, Cardinals. Honorable mention goes to Willie Mays who, at 37, had his first non-Mays season since coming back from Korea. His .263/.334/.453 line was good for "only" 4.2 wins above replacement that year.

1969

Top hitters (WAR):
Jim Northup (4.6), Willie McCovey (7.9)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Denny McLain (7.5), Juan Marichal (7.7)

Tigers' finish:
90-72, 2nd

Giants' finish:
90-72, 2nd

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Tigers

Spoiler:
Orioles, Braves

1971

Top hitters (WAR):
Bill Freehan (4.1), Bobby Bonds (6.4)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Mickey Lolich (8.2), John Cumberland (2.6)

Tigers' finish:
91-71, 2nd

Giants' finish:
90-72, 1st, lost in NLCS

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
Tigers

Spoiler:
Orioles, Pirates (in NLCS)

1987

Top hitters (WAR):
Alan Trammell (8.0), Will Clark (4.0)

Top pitchers (WAR):
Jack Morris (4.8), Atlee Hammaker (2.0)

Tigers' finish:
98-64, 1st, lost in the ALCS

Giants' finish:
90-72, 1st, lost in the NLCS

Would either team have qualified for the Wild Card under today's rules?
N/A

Spoiler:
Cardinals, Twins (both in LCS)

The Tigers did their part to meet with the Giants in the first half of the 20th century, but the National League was just too tough. If there were a Wild Card around in the '60s, the Giants would have had all sorts of success in the postseason, I'd reckon. 1967 could have been Marichal against Kaline, Lolich against Mays.

And in 1987, for the first time in their long histories, the Giants and Tigers made the playoffs in the same year. The 85-win Twins stunned the Tigers, and the jerkish Cardinals dispatched the Giants.

That's as close as they've come. But for the second time in 112 years, the Giants and Tigers made the playoffs in the same season, and now they're facing each other in the World Series.

It's about time.

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