The world of baseball is mourning the loss of Willie Hernández, who passed away at the age of 69. Hernández, a left-handed relief pitcher, had a storied career that spanned over two decades.
Hernández began his professional career as an amateur free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1973. He quickly rose through the ranks and reached Triple-A before being selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft in 1976. Despite initial success, Hernandez was traded back to the Phillies in 1983 and then shipped to the Detroit Tigers in a four-player swap. It was this trade that marked the beginning of Hernandez’s best season, both personally and for his team.
In 1984, Hernandez led the Tigers to their first World Series title since 1908. He appeared in 80 games out of the bullpen during that season, going 9-3 with 32 saves in just 33 chances. His statistics were nothing short of impressive – a 1.92 ERA, a WHIP of just .94, and an astounding total of 140 innings pitched with only two walks allowed against him. These numbers earned him an astounding amount of accolades – he was named to his first All-Star Game and won both AL Cy Young and MVP awards for that year alone.
Hernandez’s legacy will be remembered as one of incredible success and dominance on the mound during that magical season for the Tigers. His final appearance on that World Series stage will forever be etched into history – he closed down game seven with a two-inning save that sealed victory for Detroit. After undergoing heart surgery to install a pacemaker in 2009, Hernandez said: “I passed away putting a pacemaker into my heart and I wake up later on…Because God’s got my heart so nobody is going to bother my heart.”