Jon Warden, a relief pitcher for the 1968 World Series champion Detroit Tigers, entertained members of the Rotary Club of Archbold July 6 with stories of his first and only year pitching in the major leagues.
That season, he became the only relief pitcher, before or since, to win the first three games in which he pitched. Early in the 1968 season, Warden became the first pitcher in the majors to record three wins.
In a program for the Rotarians arranged by member Jim Wyse, Warden recalled stories playing on a Tiger team that included Denny McClain (and his 31-win season in 1968), Mickey Lolich, Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, Gates Brown, and manager Mayo Smith. Warden said it was an experience for him, a young man four years out of high school who was chosen in the third round of the 1966 baseball draft.
Warden said it was an exciting season, with the 1968 Tigers winning 40 of their 103 victories after trailing or being tied with their opponents in the seventh inning. After the 1968 season, Warden was selected from the Tigers’ roster by the expansion Kansas City Royals. While pitching in the minors, he suffered a rotator cuff injury, ending his baseball career as a player.
A regular at the Tigers Fantasy Baseball Camp every year, Warden is also active in the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. He was recently honored by his hometown, Harrisburg, Ohio, with a village corporation sign noting that it was the “Home of Jon Warden, member of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers.”
When he learned that the town – population about 320 – didn’t have a baseball field, he promised to raise the money to have one built. He told the Rotarians he is half way to the total needed.
Donations for the “Field of Dreams Project” can be sent to the Village of Harrisburg, P.O. Box 98, Harrisburg, Ohio 43126.