Photo credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

Bill Freehan

William Ashley Freehan
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 2015
Connection to Michigan: University of Michigan, Detroit Tigers
Primary position: Catcher

Born in Detroit and raised in Royal Oak, Bill Freehan was initially a Little League shortstop until his team’s catcher was unable to attend a game. Moving behind the plate, Freehan became a sandlot star. He led the Michigan Wolverines to the 1961 Big Ten Championship, setting a team record with a .446 batting average during the season as well as a Big Ten record with a .585 batting average in conference play. As a result, at age 19, he was named an ABCA 1st Team All-American and selected to the All-Big Ten First Team.

Their attention piqued, the Detroit Tigers came calling, signing the teenager to a professional contract. By season’s end, he had played four games in the Majors. After spending 1962 with the Double-A Denver Bears, Freehan joined Detroit for good in 1963 and became the American League’s top player at his position.

Called “a thinking man’s catcher” by freelance sportswriter Arnold Hano, Freehan was named to the American League All-Star Team 11 times, including each season from 1964-1973. His defense was superb, gaining him the Gold Glove award five consecutive seasons, 1965-1969. When he retired following the 1976 season, he owned the Major League records for catchers in fielding percentage, total chances and putouts.

From 1990-1995, he returned to his alma mater, serving as head baseball coach for the University of Michigan. Four years later, in 1999, he was voted starting catcher on the All-Time Tiger Team.

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