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Bobby Higginson: 1996

Bobby Higginson had a fine career with a lousy Tiger team.
Bobby Higginson had a fine career with a lousy Tiger team.Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Detroit drafted Bobby Higginson in the 12th round of the 1992 draft. The outfielder had college experience and made the big league club in three years. He enjoyed a respectable rookie campaign and became an All-Star quality player for the rest of the decade. Higginson’s best overall season came in 2000 when the Tigers moved to Comerica Park and signed Juan Gonzalez. However, his 1996 season comes close to the success he achieved in 2000. In 1996, Higginson set career bests in multiple offensive categories for a lousy Tiger team.

The Tigers struggled in the Higginson decade. The poor play began before the native Philadelphian finished college. Detroit collapsed in 1989 and finished above .500 in just two seasons before Higginson’s debut. Meanwhile, the outfielder attended Temple University and was drafted in June 1992. He spent three seasons in the minor leagues while the Tigers completed the collapse.

Higginson joined the Tigers in April 1995. Major League Baseball was returning from a work stoppage that prematurely ended the 1994 campaign and cancelled the World Series. Detroit manager Sparky Anderson sided with the players and refused to manage replacements. His stance led to his removal at season’s end and the owners seemingly blackballed him from ever managing again. Meanwhile, Higginson went about his business and put together a respectable rookie campaign. Although he only hit .224, the first year player hit 14 home runs, knocked in 43, and posted a .721 OPS in 131 games.

Sparky Anderson left the Tigers after 1995 and was replaced by Buddy Bell. Higginson returned and did real damage to American League pitching. He batted a career best .320 with 26 home runs, 81 RBI, 35 doubles, and walked (65) nearly as often as he struck out (66). Higgy set career highs in average, OBP (.404), slugging (.577), and OPS (.982). He only had 440 at bats, so had the Tiger batted another 100 times or so, he would have topped 100 RBI and 30 home runs.

Higginson displayed amazing progress between 1995 and 1996. He batted just 30 more times in his sophomore season, but scored 14 more runs, had 49 more hits, 18 more doubles, 12 more home runs, 38 more RBI, struck out 41 fewer times, and raised his average almost 100 points. On top of this, Higginson’s OBP increased 85 points, he slugged nearly 200 points higher, and his OPS skyrocketed from .721 to .982.

The Tiger continued to enjoy a solid career until injuries slowed him. From 1997-2002, he hit .299, .284, .239, .300, .277, and .282. He topped 20 home runs three times in that stretch and 100 RBI twice. Higginson won Tiger of the Year twice and hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats during a stretch in 1997. The veteran broke up Roy Halladay’s no-hit bid in 1998 with a long ball. On top of this, he was one of the league’s top defenders in the outfield and routinely appeared on the defensive leader board. Unfortunately, Detroit did not enjoy a single winning season during the Higginson Era. He retired in 2005 and the Tigers won the pennant the following campaign.

Bobby Higginson was a top notch outfielder and tough as nails. After his rookie campaign, he became a Tiger star for several seasons. In 1996, he was one of the few bright spots in a 109-loss campaign. Higginson set career bests in many categories and provided the anemic Tigers some punch. In the end, he had a solid big league career during Detroit’s darkest days.