Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has won the 2011 King Tiger Award, an award given each year by the Mayo Smith Society. The award is the second in three years for Verlander, having also earned the honor in 2009. Voting for the award, which takes into account each player’s on-field accomplishments and off-field endeavors, was conducted by Mayo Smith Society members over a month-long period during the offseason.
Verlander’s on-field accomplishments earned him both the American League Cy Young Award and the American League Most Valuable Player, becoming the first pitcher to win both awards since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starting pitcher to win both awards since Boston’s Roger Clemens in 1986. He is the seventh player in franchise history to win the Most Valuable Player. He is the fourth Tigers pitcher to earn the award, joining Guillermo Hernandez (1984), Denny McLain (1968) and Hal Newhouser (1944, 1945). Hank Greenberg (1935, 1940), Charlie Gehringer (1937) and Mickey Cochrane (1934) also won Most Valuable Player with the Tigers.
Verlander led the American League with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts in 2011 to become just the second pitcher in franchise history to lead all three categories in a single season, joining Hal Newhouser, who accomplished the feat in 1945. He became the first American League pitcher to win the triple crown since Minnesota’s Johan Santana did so in 2006. In addition to leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, Verlander also topped all league pitchers with an .828 winning percentage, 251.0 innings pitched, a .192 batting average against, 6.24 hits per nine innings and 8.39 baserunners per nine innings.
Verlander further etched his name into the record books on May 7 at Toronto when he tossed the second no-hitter of his career, allowing just one walk in a 9-0 victory over the Blue Jays. He became the second pitcher in franchise history to toss two career no-hitters, joining Virgil Trucks who fired two no-hitters during the 1952 season. According to STATS, LLC, he is the 27th pitcher to record two career no-hitters in the American or National League.
Off the field, Verlander instituted “Verlander’s Victory for Veterans.” For each of his home starts, he hosted veterans from the John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System who had sustained injuries or illness serving either in Iraq or Afghanistan. The vets and their families saw the games from Verlander’s personal luxury suite at Comerica Park. All veterans and their guests received a Verlander’s Victory for Veterans T-shirt and were welcomed on the video board during the game, while also receiving a personalized welcome letter from Verlander.
“Justin Verlander's excellence on the diamond and commitment to the community make him most worthy of the King Tiger Award for the second time in three years,” said Mayo Smith Society administrator Todd Miller. “It is rare to find a professional athlete who uses his celebrity for helping others to the extent that Justin does. Regardless of how Justin's career progresses, we can be proud that he wears a Tigers uniform.”
The Mayo Smith Society, founded in 1983 and named for the manager of the Tigers’ 1968 World Series championship club, is a nationwide organization of Tigers fans. Since 2004, the society has voted on King Tiger winners based on players’ on-field and off-field endeavors, picking up a tradition from 1964-80 when the presidents of individual Tigers’ fan clubs had voted for their own King Tiger awardees. Mayo Smith Society representatives plan to make the King Tiger presentation to Verlander during the organization’s annual trip to Lakeland, Florida, for Spring Training.
Past King Tiger winners as voted on by the Mayo Smith Society:
2010: Miguel Cabrera
2009: Justin Verlander
2008: Miguel Cabrera
2007: Magglio Ordonez
2006: Kenny Rogers
2005: Placido Polanco
2004: Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez (tie)