Norm Cash

Cash was the central piece in the best trade in the history of the Detroit Tigers. On April 12, 1960, on the eve of the regular season, the Cleveland Indians sent Cash to the Tigers for Steve Demeter. What made the deal so lopsided in favor of the Tigers? Cash played 15 seasons for Detroit and slugged 373 home runs. Demeter played in four games for the Indians, went 0-for-5, and never played in the majors again. Using WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to evaluate the trade, Cash produced 48 WAR in Detroit, while Demeter came in at -0.2 for his brief stint with the Tribe. From the perspective of the Tigers it stands as one of the best trades in baseball history, for any team.

Cash famously admitted that he used a corked bat during the 1961 season when he led the American League with a .361 average, .487 on-base percentage, and also slugged .662 with 41 homers and a league-best 193 hits. The following season his average sank 118 points to .243 and he never hit higher than .283 again in his career. True, Cash had a sever drop-off in ’62, but it’s important to note that offense in the AL dipped sharply within two years after his huge ’61 season. In 1963 the league average was down to .247 (it had been .255 in ’61). By 1968 – The Year of the Pitcher – the AL average was at a puny .230. So, from 1963-1969, when Cash hit .265, his batting average was actually well above the league norms. Had he played in the 1980s with the same sort of relative performance, Cash (and his contemporaries in the anemic offensive era of the 1960s) would have hit .285-.300 every season. The ’61 season is an aberration, but had the offensive floor not dropped out from under the baseball world in the 1960s, it wouldn’t look quite as out of place on the back of Cash’s baseball cards as it does.

Loved to Face: Norm hit nine homers off Catfish Hunter (.644 SLG against the Hall of Famer), and also slugged nine against Boston’s Bill Monbouquette. But he gave Gene Conley nightmares: in 30 career AB’s against Conley, Cash had 13 hits (.433) with four homers. Stan Bahnsen was also a favorite target (.441 with 26 hits and two homers).

Hated to Face: Against Diego Segui, Cash was 8-for-58 (.138) with two homers and 16 strikeouts. Apparently, Segui’s famous forkball was a big problem for Stormin’ Norman. Lefty Gary Peters also stymied Cash (9-for-60 for .150 and 18 K’s). Peters, Dean Chance, and Luis Tiant struck out Cash the most often: 18 times each.