Top Tigers Countdown #14: Norm Cash

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"Stormin' Norman" was a vital part of the Tigers' success in the 1960s and early '70s, and is now the #14 player on our countdown.

Norm Cash was one of the most underrated hitters in a pitcher-friendly era, putting up an .865 OPS in 15 seasons for the Tigers from 1960 to 1974. He was part of the 1968 juggernaut that won 103 games en route to the franchise's third World Series championship, and put up offensive numbers that rivaled those of Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Roberto Clemente, and Carl Yastrzemski. Stormin' Norman's feats were not missed by our readers, however, and Cash landed at the #14 spot in our countdown.

Year PA HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
1958* 8 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .225 35 0.0
1959* 130 4 16 1 .240 .372 .375 .336 109 0.4
1960 428 18 63 4 .286 .402 .501 .401 141 3.0
1961 672 41 132 11 .361 .487 .662 .488 194 10.2
1962 629 39 89 6 .243 .382 .513 .389 135 4.3
1963 593 26 79 2 .270 .386 .471 .379 138 4.4
1964 559 23 83 2 .257 .351 .453 .354 119 2.9
1965 553 30 82 6 .266 .371 .512 .388 148 5.2
1966 679 32 93 2 .279 .351 .478 .364 137 4.0
1967 577 22 72 3 .242 .352 .430 .351 129 3.8
1968 458 25 63 1 .263 .329 .487 .368 144 3.5
1969 556 22 74 2 .280 .368 .464 .374 131 3.2
1970 452 15 53 0 .259 .383 .441 .368 125 2.4
1971 523 32 91 1 .283 .372 .531 .402 152 3.8
1972 501 22 61 0 .259 .338 .445 .350 128 1.7
1973 420 19 40 1 .262 .357 .471 .369 128 1.9
1974 172 7 12 1 .228 .327 .416 .340 109 0.1
Career 7910 377 1103 43 .271 .374 .488 .382 139 54.6

*Played for the Chicago White Sox from 1958 to 1959.

Norm Cash was born on November 10, 1934 in Justiceburg, Texas. He played football and baseball at Sul Ross State University, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears out of college, but declined their offer to focus on baseball instead. Cash signed with the Chicago White Sox in 1955 and spent two years in the minor leagues before missing the 1957 season due to military service. He debuted with the Sox in 1958 and hit .241/.365/.366 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 138 plate appearances across the 1958 and '59 seasons.

Cash was traded to the Cleveland Indians in December of 1959, but was flipped to the Tigers for infielder Steve Demeter before he even played a game in an Indians uniform. The trade would turn out to be one of the most lopsided in MLB history as Demeter went hitless in five career plate appearances for the Indians.

Meanwhile, Cash immediately blossomed into an excellent hitter, putting up a .401 wOBA and 141 wRC+ in his first year with the Tigers. He followed that up by hitting .361/.487/.662 with 41 home runs and 132 RBI in 1961. He finished fourth in the MVP voting that year despite finishing second in the league with 10.2 fWAR. It was the only time Cash hit above .300 and, fittingly, the only batting title of his career. He would later admit to using a corked bat during the '61 season, but also defended his lack of a high average by saying that [former Tigers GM] "Jim Campbell pays me to hit home runs."

Cash would continue to hit for plenty of power, topping the 20-homer mark in ten of the next 11 seasons. He hit 30 homers or more in five seasons, including 39 in 1962 despite a .243 batting average. Cash demonstrated excellent patience at the plate as well, walking in 13.2% of his 7910 career plate appearances. He nearly drew as many walks as strikeouts in his career, and was intentionally walked 109 times as a Tiger.

A fan-favorite, Cash was also known for his sense of humor while playing the game. He once took a table leg from the Tigers' clubhouse to the plate against Nolan Ryan. After being ordered to use a regulation bat, Cash defended his decision by saying "I won't hit him anyway."

Antics aside, Cash was one of the best hitters in Tigers history despite playing in the pitcher-friendly 1960s and '70s. He ranks ninth in team history with 54.3 fWAR, sixth in wRC+, seventh in RBI, and second to only Al Kaline with 373 home runs as a Tiger. He also finished his career with a higher wOBA than each of the Hall of Famers mentioned above. When he retired in 1974, his 377 career home runs were fourth in American League history among left-handed hitters.

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