Bill Freehan, the 11-time All-Star catcher and one of the mainstays of the Detroit Tigers team that won the 1968 World Series, has died. He was 79 years old.
“With great regret that all of us at the Detroit Tigers extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Freehan,” the team said Thursday.
The cause of death was not disclosed. But family members had said in recent years that Freehan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Freehan spent his entire career with the Tigers, from 1961 to 1976. Apart from his appearances in the All-Star Game – he played all 15 innings of the 1967 classic – he was awarded the Gold Glove five times.
“He was the best catcher I ever had … Nobody beat him,” said Denny McLain, the pitcher who won 31 games for the Tigers in 1968.
In Game 5 of the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Freehan blocked the plate on a crucial play and threw out Lou Brock. Detroit won the game and the series – a result that was engraved with the famous photo of pitcher Mickey Lolich leaping to hug his jubilant catcher at the end of Game 7.
Joe Maddon, the current manager of the Los Angeles Angels and in Detroit this week for a four-game series against the Tigers, described Freehan as a “great” receiver. He was a St. Louis fan as a teenager and remembered the play at the plate in the World Series.
“Brock didn’t slide,” Maddon wailed.
Willie Horton, the outfielder who made the throw to put Brock out, said Freehan was one of his best teammates.
“He spent his entire major league career with the Tigers and the city of Detroit, and was one of the organization’s most respected and talented members at some of the most tumultuous but important times in the 1960s and ’70s,” Horton said.
Freehan served as a baseball coach at the University of Michigan and Detroit’s minor league system.
Freehan’s family suspects that Alzheimer’s disease had something to do with the shocks he suffered in his years as a player. A grandson, Blaise Salter, resigned from the minor leagues in 2018 after two concussions in eight months. (AFP).