For the 19th consecutive year, the Detroit Tigers and the entire state of Michigan are celebrating “Willie Horton Day” on Tuesday, October 18, marking Horton’s 80th birthday and honoring the legend’s baseball career and lifelong commitment to community.
Horton, a hero in Detroit, is known for his strong values and generosity. His work with the Detroit Police Athletic League encouraged more kids from the city of Detroit to learn the game of baseball, with the organization doubling over the years.
The youngest of 21 children, Horton was born on October 18, 1942 in Arno, Virginia. At the age of nine, Horton’s family moved to Detroit. By 13, he was turning the heads of area baseball scouts and on August 6, 1961, he became a member of his hometown team when he signed his first professional contract with the Tigers after an outstanding career at Detroit’s Northwestern High School.
His 18-year big league career included 14 seasons with the Tigers and he was an important part of the 1968 World Championship team. A lifetime .273 hitter, Horton had 1,993 hits, 325 home runs and 1,163 RBI over 2,208 games.
On July 15, 2000, the Detroit Tigers retired Horton’s uniform number 23, and a statue in Horton’s likeness was unveiled in Comerica Park, where it stands today.