Tommy Bridges was listed at just 5'10", 155 pounds, but he pitched much bigger for the Tigers during the team's "glory days" in the 1930s and '40s. Famous for an excellent curveball, Bridges spent his entire 16 year career in Detroit. He won two championships with the team, including the 1945 World Series shortly after he returned from military service in World War II. A six-time All-Star, Bridges survived a close vote to become the #19 player in our countdown.
Thomas Jefferson Davis bridges was born on December 28th, 1906 in Gordonsville, Tennessee. He attended the University of Tennessee before signing with the Wheeling Stogies in 1929. He spent two years in the minor leagues before joining the Tigers late in 1930. After a pair of scoreless relief outings to begin his career, Bridges walked 12 batters in his first start, a 7-5 victory over the St. Louis Browns. Overall, he walked 131 batters to just 122 strikeouts in 210 2/3 innings during his first two seasons.
Bridges' struggles didn't last long, however. He put together back-to-back 14-12 seasons with a combined 3.21 ERA in 1932 and 1933, though he still walked more batters than he struck out. Starting in 1934, Bridges made the All-Star team in six of the next seven seasons, amassing a 228-212 record and 3.72 ERA. He won a league-high 23 games in 1936 and led the league in strikeouts in 1935 and '36.
Like many others on this list, Bridges' best years coincided with a championship. He started Games 2 and 6 of the 1935 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, tossing a pair of complete game victories. In Game 6, Bridges allowed a leadoff triple in the ninth inning with the score tied, but stranded Cubs third baseman Stan Hack at third by retiring the next three hitters. After the game, player/manager Mickey Cochrane referred to Bridges as "a hundred and fifty pounds of courage."
Bridges pitched well for the Tigers late into his 30s. He logged 1305 1/3 innings and won 87 games after his 30th birthday until he was drafted for military service in 1943. He returned briefly in 1945 and 1946, but only played a small role in the 1945 club's championship run. He allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings in his lone appearance in the '45 World Series.
Despite being one of the best pitchers in franchise history, Bridges might be the most obscure name on our countdown so far. He pitched in the shadow of Hal Newhouser for part of his career, and Bridges' reign as the franchise's strikeout king only lasted for ten years, when Newhouser broke his record. Among Tigers starting pitchers, Bridges ranks third in fWAR, second in rWAR, third in ERA+, sixth in wins, and fourth in strikeouts. He also ranks sixth in runs scored and seventh in RBI, an impressive feat given his career 20 wRC+.
After his playing days, Bridges became a scout after a brief battle with alcoholism. He worked for several teams, including the Tigers, before his death in 1968.