Former Tigers pitcher Willie Hernández, who won the 1984 Cy Young and MVP awards, dead at 69

Former Detroit Tigers Cy Young winner Willie Hernández died Monday. He was 69.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame confirmed the news Tuesday, paying homage to Hernández in a tweet.

Hernández played for three teams in his 13-year MLB career. He came up with the Chicago Cubs and spent his first six-and-a-half years with the club. Hernández was mostly used as a relief pitcher, though he did have a few opportunities to start in Chicago. He posted a 3.81 ERA with the team, 7% better than the league average at the time.

Hernández's tenure with the club ended in 1983, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies midseason. He performed well with the Phillies in 1983, posting a 3.29 ERA and saving seven games over 95 2/3 innings.

Willie Hernández blossomed into a star with the Tigers

Just before the start of the 1984 season, Hernández was shipped to the Tigers in a trade. The team installed him into the closer role and watched him develop into a superstar. After saving 27 total games over his first seven seasons in the majors, Hernández saved 32 with the Tigers in 1984. He posted a 1.92 ERA and led baseball in both games pitched and games finished, and his performance earned him both the MVP and Cy Young awards in 1984.

Willie Hernández posted a 1.92 ERA with the Tigers in 1984. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Willie Hernández posted a 1.92 ERA with the Tigers in 1984. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The Tigers finished the regular season in first place in the AL East, with a 104-58 record. The team relied heavily on Hernández during the postseason, using him six times. He was excellent, posting a 1.93 ERA over 9 1/3 innings and racking up three saves en route to the Tigers winning it all. Hernández finished the final game of the World Series, allowing a run over two innings pitched in an 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres.

Hernández was named to the All-Star team in his first three seasons with the Tigers. He remained with the team through 1989, though he missed a portion of the season due to elbow issues. In six seasons with the Tigers, Hernández posted a 2.98 ERA, 35% better than league average.

Hernández attempted two comebacks — one of which came with the New York Yankees when he was 40 — but never reached the majors again. He appearance at the Tigers' home opener in 2019 and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.