Former Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Guillermo “Willie” Hernández, who won the American League MVP Award, AL Cy Young Award and World Series championship in 1984 during his 13-year career in the MLB, died Monday evening.
He was 69 years old.
Hernández, who suffered from heart problems after his playing career, died at his home in Sebring, Florida, according to a report from La Primera Hora. The funeral is expected to take place in Aguada, Puerto Rico, where Hernández was born in 1954.
“The Tigers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Willie Hernández,” the Tigers said in a statement Tuesday. “Our thoughts are with the Hernández family, his friends and his teammates.”
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Only three players have won the MVP, Cy Young and World Series in the same season: Sandy Koufax in 1963, Denny McLain in 1968 and Hernández in 1984.
Hernández is one of 10 players to win the MVP and Cy Young awards in the same season, along with Don Newcombe in 1956, Koufax in 1963, McLain in 1968, Bob Gibson in 1968, Rollie Fingers in 1981, Roger Clemens in 1986, Dennis Eckersley. in 1992, Justin Verlander in 2011 and Clayton Kershaw in 2014.
Three of those players – Fingers, Hernández and Eckersley – worked as relievers. Fingers and Eckersley were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
“Willie Hernández was a great teammate and I am terribly sorry to hear the news of his passing,” Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, who played for the Tigers from 1977 to 1996, said Tuesday. “I will never forget our team’s celebration on the mound after he recorded the final out of the 1984 World Series. He will always be remembered as a World Series champion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
During the 1984 season, Hernández posted a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves in 140⅓ innings in 80 games out of the bullpen. Of those 80 matches, 68 of them were completed. He appeared in six additional games during the postseason, including three games, 5⅓ innings and two saves in the World Series.
Hernández, a left-hander, pitched the final two innings of the 1984 World Series. He faced eight batters and got the save to secure an 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres in Game 5 at Tiger Stadium.
He also made the save in Game 3 of the World Series.
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The Tigers acquired Hernández (and Dave Bergman) from the Philadelphia Phillies in March 1984, trading Glenn Wilson and John Wockenfuss. Before the trade, Hernández played for the Chicago Cubs (1977-83) and Phillies (1983).
Hernández spent his final six seasons, from 1984 to 1989, as a member of the Tigres. He made the AL All-Star team in 1984, 1986 and 1987, recording a 2.60 ERA and 87 saves in 335⅔ innings in 218 games during a three-year period.
During his 13-year MLB career, Hernández had a 3.38 ERA with 147 saves and 778 strikeouts in 1,044⅔ innings in 744 games. He posted a 1.32 ERA with three saves and seven strikeouts in 13⅔ innings in 10 postseason games.
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