On June 18, 1975, Boston Red Sox rookie Fred Lynn put together an excellent month. It might have been the greatest one game offensive performance by an opponent in Tiger history. Overall,the centerfielder finished 5-fo-6 with four runs scored in the game against the Tigers. More impressively, Lynn belted three home runs, knocked in 10, and accumulated 16 total bases in in Boston’s 15-1 shellacking of Detroit.
The 1975 Tigers lost 102 including 19 in a row to finish 37 1/2 games behind Boston in the American League East. Only four other Detroit squads lost more games than the 1975 crew. They entered the June 18 game against Boston with a 25-32 record and trailed by 8 1/2 games. Despite Detroit’s foibles, a respectable 13,029 attended the Wednesday night match up. The game was never close.
Detroit started former 20-game winner Joe Coleman against Red Sox ace Luis Tiant. Coleman struggled as Boston scored four times in the first. With one out, Rick Burleson tripled, Carl Yastrzemski doubled in a run, and then Lynn launched a two-run shot. The Sox added a fourth score on Rico Petrocelli’s RBI single. The Tigers managed a run in the bottom of the first and never scored again.
Boston led 4-1 in the top of the second when they struck again. Coleman got the first two hitters out before the floodgates opened. Burleson and Yastrzemski singled back-to-back bringing Lynn back to the plate. Once again, Lynn touched Coleman for a big fly. This time, three Red Sox scored to up the lead to 7-1.
Lynn’s heroics continued in the third inning. Detroit manager Ralph Houk replaced Coleman with Lerrin LaGrow, but it made little difference. Petrocelli singled, Denny Doyle walked, and then a double play grounder seemed to end the rally. Unfortunately for the Tigers, LaGrow did not have it that night. Juan Beniquez singled in Petrocelli, Rick Burleson walked, and Bob Reynolds entered the game to pitch. The pitching change did not help. Yastrzemski singled in a run, Lynn launched a booming fly to left, and two more runners scored on the triple. Next, Jim Rice reached on an error allowing Lynn to score.
Boston held the 12-1 run into the ninth. In between, Lynn lined out to second base. Years later, Lynn told the Boston Herald that the catch saved a double and prevented him from hitting for the cycle. In the eighth, new Tiger hurler Tom Walker surrendered an infield single to Lynn. Walker continued into the ninth inning where he surrendered a pair of singles to bring Boston’s super rookie to bat with one out. Lynn deposited the pitch into the upper desk for a 15-1 Boston lead. According to Lynn, it was the first time he hit three homers in a game since Little League.
The Red Sox went on to an easy 15-1 victory. Lynn went 5-for-6 with three home runs, a triple, 10 RBI, and 16 total bases. He finished one RBI short of Tony Lazzeri’s 1936 record and two short of Jim Bottomley’s 1924 Major League record. The 16 total bases tied Ty Cobb’s American League record. In 2012, Texas Rangers superstar Josh Hamilton broke the mark when he totaled 18.
Lynn was an easy choice for American League player of the week and player of the month for June. The Red Sox advanced to the World Series before losing a seven game heart breaker to the Big Red Machine. Meanwhile, Lynn won the MVP, Rookie of the Year, and the Gold Glove Award. His best season came in 1979 with a batting title (.333), 39 home runs, 122 RBI, and 1.059 OPS. In 1983, he became the first player to hit a grand slam in an All Star Game when he connected off Atlee Hammaker. Five years later, he joined the Tigers for the stretch run and remained in Detroit for the 1989 campaign. He retired after playing for the Padres in 1990.