Milt Wilcox played for three teams over six seasons from 1970-76. In 1977, he moved to Detroit and found a home. Wilcox provided the Tigers with a reliable third starter for nearly a decade. He won more than 10 games seven times and had several career highlights. During his tenure, Wilcox almost threw a perfect game, pitched the greatest postseason game in Tiger history, and won 97 contests before injuries ended his career.
20-year-old Milt Wilcox appeared in the 1970 postseason posting a win against Pittsburgh and a loss to Baltimore. The Reds dispatched him to Cleveland after 1971 and the tribe shipped him to the Cubs in 1975. The Tigers purchased Wilcox from the Cubs in 1976. At the time, the pitcher’s lifetime record stood at 22-30.
The right-hander joined the Tiger starting rotation in 1977. He went 6-2 in 13 starts with a 3.64 ERA for the season. He remained in the Tiger rotation until 1985. From 1978 to 1984, Wilcox won 13, 12, 13, 12, 12, 11, and 17 games.
Wilcox was normally around .500 for his career, but gave the team innings and stability. During the period from 1978-84, he pitched at least 186 innings every season except the strike year. The 1981 players’ strike interrupted Wilcox’s best season to that point. He finished 1981 with a 12-9 record, 3.03 ERA, 8 complete games, and one shutout in 24 starts. He probably missed 6-8 starts that season.
The Tiger righty was rarely dominant. However, he had his moments. Wilcox tossed 10 shutouts over 16 seasons. In 1983, he came within one out of a perfect game. On April 15, 1983, he retired the first 26 Chicago White Sox in order when Jerry Hairston singled with two out in the ninth. Wilcox finished with a one hit shutout.
The following season, Wilcox began the season 6-0 as Detroit roared to a 35-5 start. In 2007, Jeremy Bonderman was the next Tiger starter to accomplish a 6-0 start. Wilcox finished 1984 with a career best 17 wins. Overall, he threw 193.2 innings, started 33 games, walked 66, struckout 119, and posted a 4.00 ERA.
Wilcox did not complete any games in 1984, but came close. In the American League Championship Series, he dominated the Kansas City Royals allowing 2 hits in 8 innings. He walked 2 and struckout 8. It was his most dominate start since the near perfect game in 1983. The right-hander was not as sharp in the World Series, but gutted out a win against the Padres in the pivotal Game 3. Wilcox finished with an overall 3-1 postseason record with a 1.42 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
After eight years, injuries limited the pitcher’s effectiveness in 1985. Wilcox managed to appear in only eight games. Batters hit him hard and he finished 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.667 WHIP. He moved to Seattle in 1986 and retired after a painful 0-8 season. After his 17-8 campaign in 1984, Wilcox’s final two seasons led to a 1-11 mark.
Every team needs a Milt Wilcox. He provided a veteran presence, ate innings, and complimented the big dogs at the front of the rotation. The righty could be dominant as he nearly no-hit the White Sox in 1983 and completely shut down the Royals in the 1984 ALCS. In the end, he helped the Tigers win the World Series and remains in the Detroit area to this day.