Bill Freehan's 1968 Glove
Detroit Tiger Bill Freehan, the best catcher
in the American League during his prime, accomplished
a great deal on the diamond from 1961 until he
retired after the 1976 season. He was an 11-time
All-Star, 1964-1973 and 1975; five-time Gold Glove
winner, 1965-1969; tied with Elston Howard for
highest-ever fielding average for a catcher, .993;
slugged 200 home runs and batted .262 lifetime.
He was 2nd in the voting for the A.L. MVP in 1968
and 3rd in 1967.
This glove was used by Freehan in the 1968 World
Series to tag out Cardinal Lou Brock at home plate
in the 5th inning of Game 5, turning the Series
around. (The Cards were up in the Series, three
games to one, until this play, when the Tigers
stormed back to take the next three games and
the Championship). On the glove, in his hand is
written “Free 11.” (He wore #11.)
In later years, he signed it and wrote his date
of birth on it.
Freehan's greatest strengths did not show up
on the stat sheets. A thinking man's catcher,
he proved himself an excellent handler of young
and veteran pitchers, including Jim Bunning, Mickey
Lolich, Denny McLain, Earl Wilson, Joe Sparma
and John Hiller. During his playing days, Freehan
dominated the tough catching position in his league
just as his counterpart in the National League
at that time, Johnny Bench, did, which is why
I know he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.