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Detroit Tigers great Bill Freehan, an 11-time All-Star, dies at 79

Tigers catcher Bill Freehan talks to a few fans during spring training in Lakeland, Fla., on March 16, 1973.

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Tigers catcher Bill Freehan talks to a few fans during spring training in Lakeland, Fla., on March 16, 1973. Dfp 0612 Freehan 2 1 1 27b26jk5 L626714218

Detroit Tigers great Bill Freehan, an 11-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove catcher, died Thursday at 79.

The 1968 World Series champion passed away after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease.

Freehan played all 15 of his seasons with the Tigers (1961, 1963-76) and batted .262 with 200 homers and 758 RBIs in 1,774 games.

He was the runner-up in the 1968 American League Most Valuable Player voting after hitting .263 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs in 155 games. His teammate, Denny McLain, won the MVP award to culminate a season in which he went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA over 336 innings with 28 complete games.

Detroit won 103 games that season, claimed their first pennant since 1945 and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the World Series. Freehan caught Tim McCarver’s foul pop-up for the final out of the series.

Born in Detroit in 1941, Freeman starred collegiately at Michigan — batting .585 in 1961 — before signing with his hometown Tigers for a $125,000 bonus. He made his MLB debut as a 19-year-old on Sept. 26, 1961.

“It’s with a heavy heart that all of us with the Detroit Tigers extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Freehan,” the Tigers said in a statement.

“… Off the diamond, Freehan made a positive impact in the southeast Michigan community, including as a player and then coach at the University of Michigan, where he changed the lives of many for the better. Our thoughts are with Bill’s wife, Pat, and the entire Freehan family.”

Freehan, who coached the Wolverines’ baseball team from 1989-95, was a member of the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor’s inaugural class in 1978.

–Field Level Media