George Mullin pitched more innings for the Detroit Tigers than any man in history. He holds the team record for innings pitched in a season and in a career. On top of this, Mullin won a lot of ballgames for Detroit. His emergence helped the Tigers to three consecutive pennants. Mullin was the Tigers’ ace for a decade before the innings caught up with his arm.
The Detroit Tigers and Brooklyn Superbas both signed 20-year-old George Mullin to a contract. The Wabash, Indiana native chose the Tigers because it was closer to home. Teammates dubbed him “Wabash George” for his hometown, but Detroit eventually became his home away from home for twelve seasons.
Mullin debuted in 1902 for a seventh place Tiger squad. He finished under .500 with a 13-16 record. The hurler improved dramatically in 1903 lowering his ERA by nearly a run and a half to 2.25 and winning 19 games. The season marked Mullin’s first 300 inning effort. He threw 320.2 in 1903 and topped the 300 mark six times in his 14 year career. Over the next seven seasons, Mullin tossed 382.1, 347.2, 330, 357.1, 290.2, 303.2, and 289 innings. The 382.1 innings in 1904 is a Tiger record. Overall, the right hander has pitched the first, third, fifth, and ninth highest innings in Tiger history. In total, Mullin’s 3,394 innings are the most for a Tiger career.
The innings led to a high number of decisions for Mullin. He went 209-179 for his Tiger career and won 20 or more games five times. He also won 17 games twice, 18 games in 1911, and 19 in 1903. Mullin enjoyed his finest season in 1909. The Tigers won their third consecutive pennant behind the pitcher’s league leading 29 wins and .784 win percentage. Mullin pitched in 40 games, started 35, completed 29, and posted a 2.22 ERA.
Mullin’s success helped the Tigers to the World Series in 1907, 1908, and 1909. He appeared in seven World Series games in that stretch. The Tiger ace threw six complete games in six starts, posted a 1.86 ERA, and 1.052 WHIP. Despite the solid numbers, Mullin went 3-3 in World Series play. His biggest win came in Game 6 of the 1909 Fall Classic. The Pirates led the Tigers 3 games to 2 in the series and Detroit needed a victory to stave off elimination. Mullin gutted out a 5-4 complete game victory to force Game 7. He allowed 8 hits and 3 earned runs in the victory. However, Detroit lost Game 7 in blowout fashion.
The regular season and postseason innings eventually took its toll. Mullin’s inning totals began to decline after 1909 when he finished his final 300 inning campaign. He also toured Cuba with some of his Tiger teammates after the 1909 World Series adding to the inning totals. From 1910-1913, the pitcher logged 289, 234.1, 226, and 109.2 innings.
The right hander appeared washed up by 1912 and the Tigers cut him loose in 1913. However, he did provide Tiger fans with three wonderful moments in the 1912 season. Mullin started the first ever game at Tiger Stadium. The former ace won the game with a RBI single. Mullin was a good hitter and even pinch hit for Ty Cobb on one occasion. One month later, he won his 200th game defeating Walter Johnson 2-0. Finally, he pitched the first no-hitter in Tiger history on July 4. He finished 1912 with a 12-17 record and elevated 3.54 ERA. Detroit shipped him to Johnson’s Senators after a 1-6 start in 1913. His career ended in the Federal League two seasons later.
If innings pitched denotes value, than George Mullin remains one of the most valuable Tigers ever. Mullin threw more innings than any man in Tiger history. The workhorse helped the team to three pennants in the early 20th century. Although Detroit lost all three World Series, Mullin did his part and pitched well. In the end, George Mullin may very well be one of the most underrated Tigers in history.