Detroit Wolverines

First Game Played May 2, 1881 Last Game Played October 10, 1885

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1881: Founded at the suggestion of Mayor William G. Thompson, the Detroit Wolverines played their first game on May 2nd in front of a crowd of 1,286 in the wooden stands at Recreation Park located between Brady Street and Willis Avenue. Managed by Frank Bancroft the Wolverines would lose their opener 6-5 to the Buffalo Bisons. Most of the Wolverines roster came from the Cincinnati Reds, who went a hiatus following the 1880 season, before joining the American Association in 1882. The top players on Detroit included Catcher Charlie Bennett, who had seven home runs, while driving in 64 runs both of which ranked second in the National League. The Wolverines leading pitcher was George Derby, who posted a record of 29-26. The Wolverines would finish their first season in fourth place with a record of 41-43.

1882: The Detroit Wolverines are the league’s most power packed team, as George Wood leads the league with seven home runs, while Ned Hanlon and Charlie Bennett each hit five in a time in which round trippers are rare in baseball. Stump Weidman was the Wolverines leading pitcher with a record of 25-20 as they finished in fifth place with a record of 42-41.

1883: The Detroit Wolverines take a step backward in their third season, as they struggle most of the year and finish in seventh place with a disappointing record of 40-58. Among the most frustrating games is a 26-6 September 6th loss to the Chicago White Stockings that saw them give up a record 18 runs in one inning.

1884: The Detroit Wolverines continue to struggle and endure their worst season to date, finishing dead last with a record of 28-84.

1885: The struggles continued for the Detroit Wolverines, who had a new Owner in Frederick Kimball Stearns. Looking to create a “Super Team” Stearns would purchase the Buffalo Bisons and turn them into a minor league club. The move was made to get four stars Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson, and Deacon White on to Detroit’s roster. This strategy quickly met resistance from his fellow owners, who changed the league’s rules governing the splitting of gate receipts, reducing the visiting team’s maximum share to $125 per game. The Wolverines would finish the season with a record of 41-67, finishing sixth in the National League.

1886: The moves to make the Detroit Wolverines a “Super Team” pays off as they quickly rise to the top of the National League. Dan Brouthers and Hardy Richardson each have big seasons with 11 home runs to lead the National League. Brouthers batted .370 good for third in the National League, while Richardson had a solid .351 average. However, the Wolverines would fall just short of winning the pennant as they settled for second place with a record of 87-36 just two and half games behind the Chicago White Stockings.

1887: There would be no denying the Detroit Wolverines in their second season with their loaded “Super Team” roster as they captured their first pennant with a record of 79-45. While the Big Four players aquired from the Bisons played a big role, the Wolverines unquestioned star was Sam Thompson who had one of the greatest seasons recorded during the 19th Century. Thompson led the National League with a .372 batting average and drove in 166 runs. The 166 RBI would stand as the record for 40 years before it was topped by Lou Gehrig in 1927. Thompson had ten home runs, which was only topped by Dan Brouthers who had 12. On the mound Charlies “Pretzles” Getzien led the way with a record of 29-13, while Stump Weidman and Larry Baldwin each won 13 games. The Wolverines would play the American Association Champion St. Louis Brown Stockings in the 19th Century version of the World Series. The series would consist of 15 games with the Wolverines, winning ten games. The series would feature the two teams touring other cities, as the World Series in those days was more of an exhibition than an official championship between the two rival leagues. Sam Thompson was the star of the series, with a .362 average.

1888: Despite the success on the field, the Detroit Wolverines were in dire straits financially. The cost of building the super team had taken a toll on Owner Frederick Kimball Stearns, as gate sales were not enough to cover the teams high priced salaries. The Wolverines were forced to sell off their best players. The Wolverines would go on to finish the season with a record of 68-63, finishing in fifth place. The Wolverines would fold following the season with their final game on October 13th a 7-4 win on the road against the Washington Nationals. Detroit would not get another Major League team until 1901, when the American League debut with the Tigers as one of the charter franchises.

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Page created on January 17, 2016. Last updated on January 17, 2016 at 1:45 am ET.