Former Detroit Tigers and Michigan Wolverines catcher Bill Freehan has died at the age of 79, it was announced on Thursday. Freehan had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for many years and spent the last few years in hospice care in his home.
An 11-time All-Star and 5-time Gold Glove winner, Freehan was a tremendous cacher best remembered for his role on Detroit’s 1968 World Series team. He finished the season as the runner-up for American League MVP honors with 25 home runs, 84 RBI and 73 runs scored.
Freehan played tight end for the Michigan football program, but baseball was always his calling. He had 10 home runs and hit .446 during a Big Ten Championship season in 1961, which was a single-season record at U-M. He hit .585 in conference play, which is a Big Ten record that is still active. It was his only collegiate season playing baseball before being offered a big contract by the Tigers. He was given a $100,00 bonus that his father kept until Freehan got his degree in history in 1966. Freehan would later go on to coach the Michigan baseball team for six seasons during his post-playing career.
“Bill Freehan was one of the greatest men I’ve ever played alongside or had the pleasure of knowing,” Tigers legend Willie Horton said in a statement. ”I’ll always cherish our childhood memories together and our journey from sandlot baseball to Tiger Stadium. His entire major league career was committed to the Tigers and the city of Detroit, and he was one of the most respected and talented members of the organization through some difficult yet important times throughout the 1960s and 70s. You’d be hard-pressed to find another athlete that had a bigger impact on his community over the course of his life than Bill, who will be sorely missed in Detroit and beyond.”
Freehan is survived by his wife, Pat, three children (Corey, Kelley and Cathy) and their spouses and grandkids.