Roscoe Miller (23–13) led the team in wins and was the Tigers' first 20-game winner. His performance headlined a strong pitching staff that had the third lowest ERA (3.30) in the American League. Joe Yeager had an ERA of 2.61, for the second best Adjusted ERA+ in the AL, behind Cy Young. The offense was not as strong however, scoring 741 runs – fifth among the eight teams in the league. The team's best hitters were shortstop Kid Elberfeld (.308 average) and center fielder Jimmy Barrett (.293 average; 110 runs).
The Tigers had played their games at Bennett Park since 1896, but the graduation to a major league meant that there would now be games scheduled on Sundays, which was forbidden by Detroit's blue laws. In order to avoid running afoul of this stricture, owner James D. Burns built a ballpark on his own property in Springwells Township, Michigan just outside the Detroit city limits. Named Burns Park, the Tigers would play their Sunday home games there for the 1901 and 1902 seasons.
The following were key dates in the pre-season leading up to the Tigers' inaugural season:
12/17/1900. The "Detroit Base Ball and Amusement Company" was incorporated for the term of 10 years, articles being filed with the county clerk on this date. The stated purposes of the new company were "the owning and improving of grounds and parks for base ball, foot ball, field-day sports, picnics and other forms of recreation and amusement." The capital stock was $50,000 in 2000 shares issued to James D. Burns (900 shares), George Stallings (900 shares), Kathleen Burns (30 shares), Belle Stallings (30 shares), and attorney James McNamara (40 shares). These five also composed the board of directors.
1/28/01. The composition of the American League circuit was confirmed as follows: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit. "Ten years' agreement signed and ground leases placed in Ban Johnson's hands."
Pop Dillon with the Detroit Tigers, pictured here in 1903.
The following were key dates in the regular season of the Tigers' inaugural season:
4/24/01. After years in the Western League, the Tigers were scheduled to take the field for their first official American League game on April 24, 1901. A standing room only crowd was anticipated at Bennett Park, but the Tigers' inaugural American League game was postponed due to weather.
4/25/01. In their first major league game, the Tigers played in front of 10,023 fans in Detroit. Detroit entered the ninth inning trailing the Milwaukee Brewers 13–4, but scored 10 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game, 14–13. Third basemen Doc Casey started the ninth-inning rally with a ground rule double. The Tigers continued the rally to eventually reduce their deficit to one run. Now only down one run, 13–12, with two runners on base and two out, Tiger Frank "Pop" Dillon hit a two-run double against reliever Bert Husting to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 14–13.
4/25-28/01. Detroit opened the season with a four-game series against Milwaukee. The Tigers scored 45 runs on 61 hits and 81 bases. "Each contest was one by the Tigers in their last at bat, they securing 10, 2 and 4 runs in the ninth and 5 runs in the eighth."
4/29/01. Detroit won its fifth consecutive game to open the season, defeating Chicago 3 to 2. All three Detroit runs were scored on home runs in the sixth inning by Pop Dillon and Kid Elberfeld.
5/2/01. Detroit scored five runs in the ninth inning to take a 7 to 5 lead over Chicago. The game was declared a forfeit due to Chicago's dilatory tactics. "The Chicagos, of the American League, tried to delay the game and forfeited to the Detroits. Crowd rushed for Umpire, who took refuge in players' cage."
5/17/01. Detroit defeated Cleveland 6 to 4. The Tigers were in first place with a record of 16–5 after 21 games.
5/20/01. Detroit defeated Cleveland 13 to 1. The Tigers scored eight runs in the ninth inning off Bill Hart.
5/23/01. The Tigers lost to Cleveland and fell out of first place for the first time. After a hot start, the Tigers lost five out of six games between May 22 and 30.
5/31/01. Detroit won by forfeit against Baltimore. Ducky Holmes hit a home run in the ninth inning to tie the score. The Orioles forfeit in an argument over Holmes' home run. "Baltimore forfeited to the Detroits after a squabble. Catcher Wilson, of the Montreal team of the Eastern League, assaulted Umpire Hunt."
6/30/01. Detroit attracted a crowd of 12,500, the largest of the season in Detroit.
7/3/01. Detroit defeated Milwaukee, 7 to 5, in 16 innings. Roscoe Miller pitched a complete game for the Tigers.
8/21/01. Detroit declared the winner by forfeit after Baltimore pitcher Joe McGinnity stepped on the feet and spat in the face of umpire Connolly. McGinnity was suspended until September 3rd.
8/27/01. Detroit lost to Boston, 2 to 1, in 15 innings.
9/12/01. Detroit defeated Cleveland, 5 to 4, with two runs in the ninth inning.
9/15/01. Detroit defeated Cleveland 21 to 0 in the most one-sided game in the American League during the 1901 season.