Inducted in 1999
World Series champion - Detroit Tigers
American League East Division, champion - Detroit Tigers
Major-league record, saves by a relief pitcher (38)
Sporting News American League Fireman of the Year
American League Comeback Player of the Year
Major-league record, wins by a relief pitcher (17)
For most baseball players, a long and successful career in the big leagues would be glory enough. But John Hiller will always be remembered for the remarkable fortitude he showed off the field in battling back from illness as much he will be for the records he set on it. A left-handed pitcher, Hiller graduated from Toronto's East York Minor Baseball Association to craft a successful 15-year major-league career spent entirely with the Detroit Tigers. He began as a starting pitcher and in 1968 was a member of the Tigers' World Series-winning team. On August 6, 1968, he set a modern major-league record by striking out the first six batters in a game against the Cleveland Indians. Hiller had already begun pitching out of the bullpen when his career was derailed. He suffered a massive heart attack on January 11, 1971, and missed the entire 1971 season. While he attended spring training with the Tigers in 1972, he began the season as the batting-practice pitcher and it was not until July of that year that he resumed his playing career. He was the winning pitcher in game four of that season's American League Championship Series. Hiller ensured his remarkable comeback was a success by becoming one of the dominant relievers in the American League. In fact, in 1973 he had the best season of his career. His 10-5 record included a sparkling 1.44 ERA and a league-leading 65 appearances. Most impressively, he set a major-league record with 38 saves, a mark that stood for a decade. For his achievements, he was named the American League Fireman of the Year, awarded to the league's top relief pitcher. He also finished fourth in voting for the Cy Young Award. Hiller's perseverance was also rewarded with the Hutch Award and Comeback Player of the Year Award. He followed up this success in 1974 by being named to his first All-Star team and setting a record for wins by a reliever, which has never been bettered. In all, Hiller pitched in 545 games between 1965 and 1980, a franchise-record for the century-old Tigers franchise. He compiled a record of 87 wins and 76 losses with an outstanding 2.83 earned run average. His 125 saves were, at the time of his retirement, the fourth-highest total in American League history. Hiller was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.