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The Detroit Wolverines were a 19th century baseball team that played in the National League from 1881 to 1888 in the city of Detroit, Michigan. In total, they won 426 games and lost 437 before disbanding, taking their lone pennant in 1887.
Founded at the suggestion of Detroit mayor William G. Thompson, the Wolverines played the first game of major league baseball in Detroit on May 2, 1881, in front of 1,286 fans. Their home field was called Recreation Park, and it consisted of a wooden grandstand located between Brady Street and Willis Avenue. This stadium was demolished in 1894, though its location is indicated by a historical marker in what was once left field.
Though they folded after only eight seasons, the Wolverines occupy an important place in baseball history. In 1885, new owner Frederick Kimball Stearns began spending heavily in an attempt to create a 'super-team' by buying high-priced players. Most notably, he purchased the entire Buffalo Bisons franchise that August, to secure the services of its stars: Dan Brouthers, Jack Rowe, Hardy Richardson, and Deacon White, the so-called "Big Four". This strategy quickly met resistance from his fellow owners, who changed the league's rules governing the splitting of gate receipts, reducing the visiting team's maximum share to $125 per game. The Wolverines' home gate receipts were not sufficient to sustain their payroll, and Stearns was forced to sell his stars to other clubs.
The Wolverines' most successful season came in 1887, when they were crowned as the champion of the National League with a record of 79 wins and 45 losses. After the season, they defeated the St. Louis Browns, champion of the rival American Association, in a series of exhibition matches, winning ten of the fifteen games played. These games were a predecessor to the modern World Series, which did not begin until 1903.
- Charlie Bennett
- Dan Brouthers
- Fred Dunlap
- Ned Hanlon
- Deacon McGuire
- Hardy Richardson
- Jack Rowe
- Billy Shindle
- Sam Thompson
- Deacon White
- Chief Zimmer
Brouthers, Hanlon, and Thompson are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.